The night of discoveryA little over a month after Ramesh’s wife went missing, he finally knew what had happened to her.
The only visible thing from Ramesh’s balcony was the spot underneath the street lamp. Ramesh’s eyes were fixed on that spot as he drank his whisky. He was lost in his thoughts. His mind was drifting from one possibility to another, and he couldn’t figure out which possibility led to the truth. Thoughts crept up his mind every other second, and they never seemed to stop. The absence of your loved ones can make you question your existence, and Ramesh was going through the same. His wife had been missing for a month now.
His head was swarmed with many theories: sometimes, he thought she had been murdered, and sometimes he wondered if she had eloped. Whatever the case, Ramesh would feel depleted when he discovered the truth. The police had assured him they would find his wife soon. But as time passed, the police shifted its focus to some other cases. With no further improvement in the case, the police were on the verge of calling it a cold case.
Had there been children in the home, their presence would have lifted Ramesh’s spirit. Rita’s inability to bear children had never bothered Ramesh, but now he felt the need to have children by his side. “Don’t worry, baba. Mummy will be alright,” the children would say, and he would nod his head, believing that his wife was alright and she would come home soon.
Altogether, Ramesh and Rita were happy until the morning Rita went missing. After she went missing, Ramesh didn’t step outside the house for a week. He stayed home all day, doing nothing but drinking himself to numbness. He received so many phone calls from relatives and friends that he grew tired of repeating Rita’s disappearance story to everyone. Some close relatives stopped by to check on Ramesh. They asked if he was finding it difficult to stay alone, but he told them that he was alright. One day, a distant relative appeared at Ramesh’s home and invited him to come over for a few days.
“Stay at our place until we figure out Rita’s whereabouts. You’ll feel better there. What will you do alone?” the relative had proposed.
Ramesh thanked him but declined the offer.
When he rejoined work, he didn’t tell his colleagues of his wife’s disappearance for a few days. But then he changed his mind and decided it was better they hear the news from him than from other sources. The soft-spoken boss suggested Ramesh take a week off from work, and he agreed to it.
But at home, all Ramesh could do was think about his wife. Loneliness consumed him, and he kept thinking of his time with Rita. Memories of her made his heart heavy. He was relieved to be finally resuming work tomorrow.
He reached for his whisky glass lying on the floor. It was dark, so when he was about to hold the glass, it almost tossed onto the floor. Fortunately, he held it tight and brought it close to his mouth. After taking a swig of whisky, he slipped his hands into his pocket and took out his mobile phone. It was 11:30 pm. It was cold. Ramesh’s thin sweater did little to avert the chill, so he decided to head downstairs to his room. Once in his room, he rummaged through the piles of clothes to find himself a warm jacket. After putting on a jacket, Ramesh headed upstairs with a small bottle of whisky. He refilled his glass and downed a small peg. Then Ramesh set down the glass on the floor and stood leisurely. He was conscious of his actions but wondered why he had been so reckless since his wife went missing. These days all he did was drink and stay home all the time.
In his mind, he was thinking of the activities he would do tomorrow before heading to the office. He would wake up early in the morning, make breakfast, devour it as quickly as possible, and then head to the office. But the thought of having to deal with his colleagues made him anxious. He knew that his colleagues would show sympathy, but it was the last thing he needed.
After consuming the whole bottle, Ramesh’s body swayed like tree leaves in the breeze. His walk had become clumsy, and he kept bumping into the walls as he tried to make his way to his room. He was not in the condition to realise the physical pain. He decided it would be better to lie on the floor than walk downstairs. So he sat on the cold floor with his back leaned against the wall. Sitting there, he could hear the sounds of dogs barking from far away. His mind had become light after the drinks, and he was feeling sleepy. He felt a sudden urge to sing and started humming an old Hindi song in his raspy voice. Humming a song, he rose to his feet. Just when he stood from the floor, he saw a van in the distance. He had never seen any van being parked on that spot. He got curious and narrowed his eyes to get a better view of the van. A few minutes later, he saw a silhouette moving around in a hurry. The movement of the shadow seemed familiar to him, but who could it be? Before Ramesh could give it a second thought, another figure emerged from the van to assist the previous one, and soon they were carrying a sack to the van. Ramesh couldn’t believe his eyes. His mouth parched, and his whole body shook out of fear. Ramesh recalled his wife’s statement. He remembered that his wife had seen the same thing the night before she went missing. He thought he must make the right move, so he headed downstairs to call the police. But what he saw as he reached the hallway made him question if he was hallucinating. His wife was washing something bloody in the bathroom sink. He realised that the familiar shadow he’d seen earlier was his wife’s shadow. Now he knew what was going to happen. “Crap,” he muttered as his wife stared at him.
Gautam is an IT student at GMMC, Pokhara.