One more person had died that day. And a lot of people were dying that month. It was a depressing time in general; the economy was going down, government’s policies were fucked up and the working class was overworked. When I inquired further, the gatekeeper said, “He was young”.
“How young?” “Late twenties. Maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Doesn’t matter now. Does it? He is dead. He will always be dead.” “But wait … ” I said, “that’s just … and … so … we don’t know how he died?” “We do, we do. And listen to this, it was a suicide. How often do you hear about such a thing?” “Not that often and that’s horrific.” “Indeed! He was a business consultant, quite like yourself. And they found a ligature and a stool in his apartment next to his hanging corpse. I think he was a failure. Classic suicide story. Right?” “Man! How the fuck do you know all this?” “Well, sometimes they have to give out the details of the deceased to the authorities here before they are allowed to bury the body. Like, they need to fill up a yellow form, a death certificate, if you will. And sometimes I overhear things in the assemblage, from the family members or the friends … whoever stands closer to me. I overheard about this one. I think it was his brother who was talking to a relative. Lighter?” “Huh?” “Cigarette lighter. You have one?” “Ah. Of course.”
Then I came back to my workstation. I pulled the curtain sideways. I had a very morbid view of the cemetery on my left. And on my right, people had buried themselves voluntarily. Their faces were too close to their computers and desk files.
I looked at Shreya, 27 and thought, well, she looks like she will never die. She loves her life; always laughs loudly, in fact, laughs at the wrong jokes or before the punchline and puts no amount of effort in her conversational skills. These are hard things to overlook for a normal person. To be frank, she is dumb. Dumb people have it easy. They live a very long stress-free life. In fact, if stress has an arch nemesis, then it’s dumbness.
There was Shiva too, quite younger than all of us, 25 I think. He will die early. He works hard, comes early, leaves late and never smiles. If you told him a joke, his responses were at best, a nod. Like he understood the joke, but he had better things to do. His life span would be very less, say, 45 years. Five years give or take.
Then there was everyone: Abhilash, 30, right next to my cubicle, already had two kids and a perpetual tensed forehead. The longer he lives, the more miserable he will be.
Neeti, 33, pregnant for the first time now, but what a hateful bitch! Hateful people shouldn’t be allowed to give birth and pass on their genes. (If Hitler had ten kids, I bet one of them would have turned out to be just like him.) She should die sooner than everyone else, I thought. It was not even a fair judgment of her age-stress balance. I just hated her.
Three hours later, one more dead body had arrived to the cemetery and I was out for another smoke with the gatekeeper.
“Lighter?” “Yeah! And what happened to this one?” “He was your age, they are saying … 35… but the cause of death is depression? How’s that possible?” “It’s possible. And 35 is slightly older than me, but that’s still very young. Don’t you think?” “Depends.” “On what?” “If you think 35 is young, then it is.” “Come on!” “It’s true. Hear me out, people drop dead all the time. Have you not noticed it? Some are dead while they are alive … you know what I mean? They give up, lose passion and purpose.” “That’s true.” “Not everyone has a job and health like you. You know? You could be 50 and full of life. Or you could be 27, and be miserable for three years and give up by the time you are 30. It depends on who you are. My job as a gatekeeper sucks. But I have a great family. So one balances the other.” “True.”
I was back to my workstation again. It was late but not entirely unusual for any of us at the office. People typed incessantly on their laptops and overanalyzed charts and numbers.
They should have been home by now, I thought, I should have been home by now. Should have been on a treadmill or in a park, jogging, or surrounded with the loved ones. But yet, there I was, with the cry of printers and conference call auto-tones, and the mildly exhilarating smell of colorful markers.
My coffee had turned cold and my laptop’s lid was fragile and shaky. At an angle, I could see my own dark reflection, shake in it. The whole background shook with me; the co-workers, the floor and the objects. There must have been at least a dozen files open on the screen, mounting my face; excel sheets, powerpoint slides and a series of intranet tabs, you know, those sort of dead things; they had also buried my face into a fix of non-existence.