"Hey!", i shouted
He looked equally happy.
"Hi da. Long time no see", his face broke into a weak smile as if he was forcing it.
"yeah...been kind of busy. Too much work at college", i obviously had to lie
"Hmm...so where are you headed?"
"Railway station. My sister is coming from bombay..well..actually from the US"
"Oh..so how have you been", he didnt seem to be in a hurry and no bus was in sight.
"Well, pretty great actually. you know there - "
He sighed. I stopped and looked at him. He looked forlorn.
"Whats the matter?"
He looked at me and shook his head.
"The last two months have been very bad for me"
"Why what happened?"
"Well, its my..", he stopped himself. He couldnt bring himself to say it,"..err..its Stephanie..she was dying and so i sold her off"
I looked at him shock. Stephanie was his dog - a beautiful black doberman. The
last time i saw her she looked pretty healthy.
"You sold her", i sputtered.
"Yeah. the guy who bought her had no clue that something was wrong with her..you know..she looks pretty good"
I cannot blame the guy. Even i did not know something was wrong. she had been active, healthy and well fed. Well, one never knows.
"What was wrong with her?"
"She just got old. thats all. You know its a wonder she managed to run this long...i maintained her well...but lately she hasnt been that responsive", he said proudly.
"yeah that happens with age", i said sagely, "but poor girl...i liked her a lot"
"Yeah me too", he said with nostalgia, "How many hours of pure pleasure"
I stopped and looked at him. I knew these guys were weird and so let the statement be. Still, pleasure? What the hell did he do with his dog anyway? I didnt ask him that directly and so veiled my question.
"Guess you guys were pretty close. You played around a lot with her", i said.
"Yes. I had got carried away at times and banged her around. And last week...", his eyes misted up but he quickly recovered and smiled.
My eyes fell out of the socket and my face bore a disgusting look. Now i was looking for the bus. I didnt want to be around this sick kid.
"Its ok", i said trying to change the subject, "so hows everyone at home"
He looked at me with sadness again.
Again tears sprang in them."My b..", he stopped as if he didnt want to say that and then smiled a little as he said, "You have met Roger right?"
I nodded thankful that the conversation was moving away from some sick man and dog coupling.
"yeah, a couple of times", i said. Roger was his younger brother. Roger was in class 10. I always had the feeling that he was slightly retarted bacause of the way he used to act around me. He just didnt behave like a tenth standard kid.
"He was becoming a huge pain...you know...acting restless and whiny"
I knew it! I had a knack for people. I smelled a rat with that guy long before their family themselves had any clue.
"So", gary continued, "We took him to the doctor. And he said..", he was giving a sly grin,"...said..roger needs some action...you know what i mean"
My mouth was agape. "But but..",words just wouldnt come out
"I know", gary nodded sagely, "its so unreal...and u know my dad was there when the doctor said that..and... it was so uncomfortable"
I would bet my ass it was uncomfortable. What kind of sick doctor advised sex for a restless 10th standard kid?
"and now i have to look around for some bitch who would do it", he continued.
I just stared. By now my head was swimming. I saw a bus approaching from far away and heaved a sigh of relief. Gary saw it too.
"Good. the bus is coming", he said
I remained silent praying that he wasnt headed in the same direction as me. But it was one of those days and as it happened gary was sitting next to me on the bus.
"It really has been a hard month for you", i mused wondering if he was just making this all up just to freak me out as the bus rolled away.
"And you havent even heard the worst man", he said and his eyes welled up with tears.
I suddenly became sympathetic. "What happened?"
Its about Ralph. I was pissed. So much of tears for that!? For a rickety old car. This guy was unbearable. "what about Ralph?", i asked unable to hide the sarcasm in my voice.
"He met with an accident", he sobbed.
"Oh my god!", i was genuinely shocked, "What happened? Who was driving?"
All of us were there but no one else was hurt.
No one else? Except Ralph of course. The stupid car.
"What happened to the car?", i asked
gary stopped sobbing and looked at me with venom.
"The car!? is that what matters to you?", his voice sounded ominously hostile
I was beyond care now. This had gone way past the line and i was going to give a piece of my mind,
"Frankly, i dont give a shit about your stupid car or for that matter about your sex starved kid brother nor the old dying dog you sold. You know why? Coz your family is just a freakshow. You guys should put a tent and run a little circus with your stunts. These are not even real problems and you are sobbing about it? you know what people around you are facing? Do you even have any idea? Do you know how many people are dying of hunger everyday and you are crying about ramming your stupid car somewhere in which no one was even hurt. Do you know how many children are being orphaned every minute and you are worried about finding some 'bitch' whom your brother can bang! I am so disgusted with you gary!", that was perhaps the longest speech i had ever given.
Gary stared at me in shock and then walked over to another empty seat and sat there. I felt free at last. He deserved it. All these people living in their own small world, thinking that they had all the problems. And more importantly i was disgusted to be his friend anymore.
We never talked after that. I would see him a few times in some places but we would just give each other the cold stare or turn our heads away. Then i stopped seeing him around at all. Someone later told me that they had shifted out of town. I didnt hear about him for several years after that when we friends decided to get together after a long time. Gary was not there - not that i cared, though. After a couple of rounds of beer some one thought about Gary.
"The poor guy", vignesh mused
I sat there still feeling the hatred i felt several years before on that bus ride.
"What now? Is he humping gorillas?", i asked with a chuckle.
Everyone stopped and stared at me.
"What?", Kartik asked
"You guys dunno? He used to hump his dog man. He is one sick son of a bitch!", i was drunk and i hated him.
"What da hell are you talking about! He is one of the most pious christians i've ever see", mused Kartik
I looked at him patronisingly. He obviously didnt know Gary's true colours.
"Its a shame that such a big tragedy befell their family", Arun said
"What tragedy?", i was getting sober by the moment.
"You dont know?!! Ralph's death?"
Some thing akin to a bolt of lightning passed through me
"What? Ralph?", i tried jogging my memory to action, "his car?"
"No you idiot", it was vignesh, "Ralph was his brother. He was in the ICU for an year and then died. They shifted after that."
"No!", i just couldnt accept this. They were wrong,"You losers! Roger was his brother"
"Roger was his dog u ass", kartik shouted
"Wasnt his dog Stephanie?", i was sounding milder by the moment
"No that was what that guy named his stupid car"
, kartik laughed...
I wasnt laughing.
I remembered the day clearly. Me screaming at Gary. He walking away and then getting down a couple of stops before the railway station. I remembered looking out of the window and staring at the huge white building on the other side of the road which read "Apollo hospitals". Then the bus had moved on. I never did see Gary walk into the building to visit his brother who was in a coma.
Tears welled up in my eyes.