The killing kissAfter Dr Thapa followed his heart and failed miserably, he couldn’t help but feel like a criminal.
Dr Thapa slouched on his swivel chair. His eyes were closed, but his mind was agitated. It had just been a fortnight since nurse Tulaja Shrestha joined the department. She, however, had not reported to the office for the last two days, and his trying to locate her social media accounts had been an utter failure. “I shouldn’t have rushed. I should have taken some time to build a bond first by getting to know her better,” he murmured to himself. He was achingly ashamed of being a moronic intruder into her life, and all he wanted now was to ask for forgiveness.
A grey telephone sat idly on Dr Thapa’s table. Any distress call was imminent. Yet, there had not been one today. Yesterday, he received three calls from young men living in Kathmandu, all sadly wanting to commit suicide. One had failed in love, the second in his career, and the third had lost his family to an accident. Dr Thapa, who was 35 and single, was responsible for answering the suicide prevention helpline number in the outpatient psychiatry department of a reputed hospital. He knew it was a noble job, but not enough, given his ambitions. Having grown up in an orphanage, he never knew who his birth parents were. Yet, he used to be cheerful. He used to believe that things would fall into place. However, the belief has changed now, especially after his heart rushed desperately for love and failed miserably. Every single moment, he felt like a criminal, minutes away from an inevitable arrest.
The telephone’s ringing jerked Dr Thapa back to reality. He opened his eyes and gazed at the telephone with his flat and dead eyes. He drew a few deep breaths to freshen up and extended his right arm to reach the handset.
“Hello, Dr Thapa speaking. It’s a mental health helpline number, and I am here to help you,” he said and hoped the caller would confirm that they had contacted the right place.
There was a brief moment of silence on the other side, and then a soft-spoken male spoke from the other end. “I guess you are a good man, doctor, as I am. It’s already past your duty time, but you still chose to answer. I appreciate that.”
“Thank you,” said Dr Thapa as he peeked at the wall clock, which showed 5:05pm. Caught up in dead rumination, Dr Thapa had completely lost track of time.
“But doctor, when good men, like you and me, make mistakes, we make dreadful ones,” the man said with an air of melancholy.
Dr Thapa felt a quick, anxious rush of cortisol in his veins. He knew he had made a mistake but hadn’t yet measured its magnitude. He was a professional and spoke in a warm and kind tone, “Everybody makes mistakes, sir. Rather than dwelling on the ceaseless dungeon of guilt and pity, we are supposed to learn from them. Let’s not worry. I feel you are a very good man.”
“I am a good man, doctor. I really am. In fact, I believe there are no bad men. There are only good men who make bad decisions simply because they have no other choices.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Dr Thapa said, “Goodness has brought our civilisation here. See, the world is a beautiful place, and when everything around is so majestic, how can we not expect to stumble a few times?”
“By the way, what is your name?”
“My name is Jaya Prakash Shrestha, doctor.”
“Oh, what a coincidence! We have a common name,” Dr Thapa said gleefully. The man laughed softly at the other end. “Now, please, speak your heart out to me Mr Jaya Prakash. I am here to help you.”
Dr Thapa heard the caller take a long breath.
“I am in a huge dilemma, doctor,” the man said, “What do you think? Should I kill myself?”
“Absolutely not!” Dr Thapa responded immediately.
“But I have to kill one, doctor. If not for me, it has to be someone else,” the man said with a mellow, ominous tone.
“That’s a terrific dilemma, sir. But why would you want to do that?” asked Dr Thapa.
“I don’t, doctor. The goddess wants.”
“Taleju Bhawani, doctor.”
Cultural rhetoric had been set such that any common man feels some power in the name ‘Taleju Bhawani’ itself. Her temples are only open for one day a year. Dr Thapa had heard about the power the goddess held amongst kings, and the brutal sacrifices she demanded. Kings who worshipped and heeded her had strengthened and expanded their kingdoms, and those who disrespected her had crumbled and collapsed.
“Why would the goddess want a human sacrifice?” asked a concerned Dr Thapa.
“I do not know, doctor. She just asked.”
“Can you tell me how exactly she asked?”
“Yes, doctor. I opened up my soul to the goddess while my body slumbered, and she spoke to me in my visions. She isn’t happy with 54 male goats and 54 male buffaloes she was offered during Kalaratri Puja at the midnight of Ashoj Shukla Asthami. I reckon she needs some premium stuff now. And, what could be better than man’s, who has almost tasted every flesh, sometimes obscenely,” the man said, the last two words with a slow, husky, and dreadful tone.
Somewhere in the dubious corners of his heart, Dr Thapa began to feel that the man could be dangerous. If the prospective patient depicts any real probability of violence to oneself or others, then Dr Thapa was trained to inform the police immediately. However, the truth was not yet established, so he thought it reasonable to wait and watch.
“But sir, why would Taleju Bhawani want to drink the blood of a random innocent man?” asked Dr Thapa.
“Not a random person, doctor. She specifically wants a man who goes by the name of the last Malla king of Kathmandu, the king who grossly tried to seduce her one night while secretly playing tripasa with her,” the man said.
“So, instead of searching for the man and taking his innocent life, you are considering committing suicide to free yourself from the goddess’ expectations?” asked Dr Thapa.
“No, doctor. I have already found the man.”
“Oh, have you?” asked Dr Thapa worriedly.
The man gave a soft dramatic laugh and said, “Doctor, I didn’t expect you to be a bad student of history. Now just tell me, should I kill myself, or should I kill YOU?”
“What?” Dr Thapa got thunderstruck. He hastily Googled the name of the last Malla king and found it was Jaya Prakash Malla.
“You freaking stupid religious fanatic,” Dr Jaya Prakash Thapa reproached the man with disdain, anger, and anguish. His heart had already developed some cracks, and with this ignition, it burst like an enormously compressed pressure vessel.
“Who the hell are you?”
The man let out a dreadful laugh and roared, “You think I am some stupid, ensorcelled man? I was just fooling around, old boy. Save yourself. I am coming for you. I am the husband of nurse Tulaja Shrestha, the woman you attempted to kill.”
Dr Thapa immediately hung up the phone. He had simple fears, like a ruined friendship with Tulaja or, at worst, Tulaja making a police case against him. This fear, however, was new. It was the fear of the unknown that rippled his cells straight away.
He anxiously entered the washroom, turned on the faucet, splashed his face, and rested his hands over the granite-topped vanity sink. He looked at the mirror and watched his white eyeballs bulge between his temples as water dripped down his demented face. “I am a stupid human being messed up with foolish desires and distant hopes. Now, my mere existence hangs at a wretched precipice. Will I only wake up after a fall?” Dr Thapa murmured and slapped his face multiple times.
With each slap, guilt began to melt, and his mind flooded with questions.
Is it so punishable to love someone without knowing anything but their beauty?
I didn’t know she was married. Why did she agree to go for dinner with me?
Why didn’t she protest when I pulled my chair closer to her?
Why didn’t it feel like a normal glance when she looked into my eyes?
When she spoke, why did it feel like a song, a poem, a whisper of an angel pulling me deeper and deeper into her soul?
And, how am I supposed to enter the soul? Isn’t it through the lips?
The answers to these questions will remain as elusive as ever.