I could glimpse the stiletto of his figure swaying against the sun. You could smell the remains of chaos and blood miles before you reach him. I held his foot so that he would stop swaying, but I couldn’t bring myself to look up to his face. The horror of what just happened had still not washed over me. The only thing I could understand was that I killed him; I paraded him across the village, horrendously beat him up and killed him. I ripped him apart in front of his family and killed him. I murdered Zoheb.
Zoheb and I were born in the same neighbourhood and were destined to be friends. We attended the same school, the same drama classes, the same football team, the same college and aspired for the same things in life. With trembling hands, I tried to work on the knot that was fastened at the nape of his neck. I had to keep rubbing my eyes to keep the tears away. I had half a mind to ask him to help me and it broke my heart every time I realised that he would never be there to help me. He would never be there at all.
Zoheb found himself a girl during our final semester in college. She was nice, kind and friendly, but she took him away from me. Suddenly I found myself walking down the corridors alone and spending more time at home. It only took me a few days into their relationship to realise that I didn’t even want anybody else’s company. I had a bunch of guys I could hang out with, but I wanted Zoheb. I missed him like I was missing a limp and it killed me that he probably didn’t even realise that there was anything to miss. It killed me that he forgot all about our plans for the future within seconds of finding her. I missed him so terribly that my happiness knew no bounds when I saw him open the gate to my home and reach for the door. I jumped out of the room in the middle of a pooja and ran to him. “Wanna hang?” he asked and we went upstairs to my room. Over snacks and TV he blabbered “It’s just hard for me to come to terms with the fact that we have grown up and I am scared that I am moving too quickly. I wish we could go back in time and hang out with each other under our tree and never grow up!” “Me too!” I sighed. My heart had never felt heavier and I made a decision in that moment to tell him how I feel about him before it’s really too late. And so I did, in the best way possible, “Remember when we made plans for our future together?” he laughed nodding yes, so I continued, “I never quite moved ahead from those plans. Actually, I am still hoping for those to be true. You and me, a place for us, following our passion and facing all of life’s challenges together”. He smiled and looked at me and then I saw his smile fading, probably because he saw the look on my face and understood that I was quite serious. I shook my head and attempted to explain, “I didn’t know. I would have told you if I had known how I felt. I am sorry, but I can’t help it.” He was silent, then he turned to me and said, “Thank you for telling me! Really! But I love her man, you know that right? I am so sorry man! But you are my best friend, always!” he said. Maybe he didn’t realise it, but he was killing me. I nodded my head and hurried to change the topic.
I couldn’t sleep that day, or for several days after that. I don’t remember when my grief turned into rage and the only thing I cared about was causing him pain. Zoheb and I had met for dinner earlier that day and we spent the time talking about our jobs. He said he was moving out of India soon, and instead a pang of pain, his news only added to my rage. After dinner, he went home while I went to the office of the local political leader. “I need to report something to you” I announced as I entered his office. He looked up to my face and I informed him, “The boy who lives in house number 12 in sector 6, I heard he is marrying a Hindu girl. I also saw him consuming beef today while mocking it’s representation as our mother”. The leader looked up at me confused and asked, “are you sure or are you making it up?” “You can ask the waiter at this restaurant” I said handing the name over to him. We waited while he got a conformation over the phone. “You are coming with us” he informed me as he walked to his vehicle. I gave them the directions and waited outside the house as one of them asked for Zoheb.
Zoheb came out and looked at the people standing in front of him. His face relaxed to a smile when he saw me. “We heard that you consumed beef today. Is that true?” asked the leader. The confusion on Zoheb’s face was unmistakable, so was the fear, grief, disappointment and rage when he looked onto my face and realised what was happening. I don’t know if it was his way of protesting or if it was to hurt me, but Zoheb refused to speak. He was beaten mercilessly, his family was shoved out of the way and he was dragged across the streets, but he didn’t speak. He screamed out over the pain and anger that I caused him by breaking his trust. I remember his eyes searching around and finally settling on my face while they prepared for his final punishment. Not once did his eyes seem to plead for mercy, not once did he ask for help. They just stared pointedly at my face, until they forced the tears out of my eyes. I had lost my voice, my strength and my very being when I saw life leaving his body behind to sway under that tree, our tree.
I still can’t remember how I reached Zoheb’s house, but that is where I found myself after leaving the tree. I wished his family would beat me up and leave me hanging somewhere like Zoheb. But they just wailed and wailed until I left the house. I walked back to the tree, to the only person who would understand me. I managed to free his neck from the noose and he fell on the ground with a loud thud. I let out a loud cry at the sound of his body and fell down with him, unable to stop the agony and pain that shot through my body. So I stayed there on the ground, held him close and howled out in anguish hoping that they would go away.