So many times I watched in movies, policemen chasing the hero and the hero jumps over the bridge and escapes. But this is not a movie and even if it were… I am not a hero.
By Ameer Salim
It’s a long endless road. I don’t know where is it taking me but I am running along with it. I am not running because I want to but because I have to. It’s been a long run and I am worn out, still I have to run.
This is New York. The city of high-rises, proud and loud, big and brash. I arrived here a few days ago, as an illegal immigrant. There was no legal way out, I am sorry for that. I desperately wanted to come here; I wanted my dreams to come true. I brought my dreams with me into another dream… New York. It was my dream.
After arriving here I had nowhere to go. I looked around in complete bemusement and concluded that I was a misfit here. But soon this notion died away as I looked up in the sky. The clouds… yes. The clouds, they were the same as I left them in my country. They are same everywhere. That’s why I was no foreigner to them, they were my clouds.
So it was no problem now, wherever the clouds were, the place was mine. I started wandering in the streets. While roving around, somewhere in the middle of the Big Apple, in abandoned streets, I could see the flipside of the dazzling picture of the metropolis. It was all dark; it was all full of drug-addicts and unofficially declared insignificant old people waiting for no one but the angel of bereavement.
I didn’t dream my dream to be like this so I left the place. I went to Downtown and that was the first mistake I made. I was too busy flying in Manhattan with my delusions that I forgot Interpol. They were after me ever since I landed here; after all I was a prohibited migrant.
For a split second I thought I should let them know why I had to come here, so that they would let me subsist here. I wanted to tell them that I am here just to make some money, the legal way. I wanted to earn a lot of money and then I would go back to my roots. I’ll go back to where money matters. Where men matter only when they’ve got money. If I get the money, I’ll matter too. But of course they wouldn’t pay attention. Why should they let me take their riches? It’s their country.
I was walking offhandedly in a busy street when I felt someone staring at me. I looked at him and he started looking somewhere else. Interpol. I slipped into the crowd and vanished. That was the second mistake I made. I made them suspicious of me. But I was frightened; I didn’t know what to do. For next two days I went on hiding. And then I made the final mistake. I met a fellow countryman of mine rather he met me. He told me he could get me a job. I was running low on cash so I quickly said yes… and then slowly said no. He wanted me to deal in drugs. I couldn’t do that. I wanted to earn money the legal way. I told him and said no. He vanished.
When I turned around, I saw the same Interpol man looking at me, standing in the corner of the street. Before I could take my first step, he disappeared behind the wall and then I didn’t take my first step. I just stood there. It wasn’t good. They must have thought I have joined them. But they don’t know it. They must be thinking I am one of them, they are thinking wrong. That’s what happened to me all my life and now they. I must tell them I am not what they think I am.
“You there, come out and talk to me, God damn you, I am standing here. You wanna know who I am, all right you come here and I tell you who I am. Come out if you have the heart to listen, I’ll tell you how it feels to say no to money. You cowards, what you know how it feels to say no to your dreams. You don’t have a dream, you lifeless creatures. And if you don’t have one, then why you take them away from others. Tell me, I am standing here, you rats…”
There was no one listening.
Night has fallen. It never gets dark in night in New York. There are lights everywhere. I am standing in the middle of a bridge, looking at the skyscrapers. Looking at those tall structures seems like millions of fireflies are stuck into those buildings. They are all illuminated and so is the river water. There are dark clouds in the sky and it may rain any time. It’s all so beautiful, so peaceful, and so dreamy. We are all together, my clouds, my dreams and I. Life looks perfect. But not seeing a problem doesn’t mean not having a problem.
On my left, on the corner of the bridge, there is someone to shatter my dreams. He is the same one and this time he is not alone. He knew it was not that easy to snatch away my dreams alone. They are coming to me, but this time I am not willing to talk. They want to send me back. I don’t want to go back without money, I want to matter.
So I run. I run to the other corner of the bridge. They run after me. I don’t look back at them and keep on running. It’s a God damned long bridge. So many times I watched in movies, policemen chasing the hero and the hero jumps over the bridge and escapes. But this is not a movie and even if it were… I am not a hero. So I keep on running. I cross the bridge and run along the road. I keep on running and they keep on chasing me. I turned into so many streets, tried to dodge them but they were quick. They have been following me for quite some time now.
It has started raining. I have no problem running in rain. I have done that before, don’t you remember. That time I was running for her love and this time I am running for my life.
May be that’s why I don’t want to run any more, I am running for myself. It makes no difference to no one if I don’t run but just me. All right then, I am going to stop. I’ll talk to them. I slow down. They turn into this street. I am about to stop when I hear a gun shot. It would have been nothing if I hadn’t fallen down. They have shot me in my leg. I turn around and try to get up. They shoot again, this time on my chest near the heart. I fall down again.
It is dark in New York. I can’t see the clouds in the dark but I know they are up there looking at me. It seems they are shedding their tears on my pain. They don’t have to cry for me. But I think they care about me, after all they are my clouds. Due to pain, tears come out of my eyes and so my dreams. They were since long in my heart. My heart kept them with love but it can’t hold them any more because it is too hurt now. My heart cared about everyone, it just couldn’t take care of itself.
I am feeling like a total loser. I have nothing left with me but pain. I am leaving the clouds and all my dreams here. Before closing my eyes forever, I look down to my heart, it’s my dreams; I look up in the sky, it’s my clouds; and then I look around… it’s your world.
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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