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“You’ve never experienced what a roller coaster ride is?”
“No, sir.” He corrected. “Not even travelled through a plane you say?”
“Sir no, sir.”
“This is gonna be fun.” Then Kane turned his back & everyone laughed.
‘That’s where it started?’ She asks me. The noise of her pen running against the paper is audible even when she’s across the room, sitting in front of me. There’s a scar on her index finger, probably a burn. By the look of it, one can wager it is old- Yes, a good decade or so.
‘Are you with me, Mr. Heinz?’ The name makes me recoil.
‘Call me Diablo, please. I hate those 5 letters together. H-E-I-N-Z!’ It’s rude! No, I should apologize.
‘Sorry.’ I whisper & chew on the dead skin near my nail.
‘It’s okay, Diablo. Let this be. I’m bored, you want to play?’ She points her gaze towards my gaming console. I feel my cheeks redden. No one has ever been to my house since I’ve started working at the grocery store. The pay isn’t best, but I could at least afford the rent this apartment. Living on their own isn’t easy for a –
‘Is it okay if we play-‘
‘Yes.’ I jump to my feet, remove the second remote control from the sealed packing. Never had anyone to play, not once.
‘Are you going to charge my parents for this too, Dr. Zhang? I’ve heard your fees are high.’ She’s looking at me with a tilted head.
‘Oh no, no I won’t. I’m paid for consulting my patients, Diablo. This would be free.’ She gives a warm smile & sits beside me.
‘What games do you have?’
‘Name one.’ I gloat.
‘FIFA?’ She says after a pause.
‘Saw that coming.’ I laugh & switch the TV on. ‘Have you heard of any other games?’
‘No.’ She admits & opens the top button of her shirt. I notice another scar, similar to the burn on her finger. I involuntarily pull the sleeve down my right hand.
‘So, how long have you been living here?’ She asks after losing for the second time.
‘Would it concern my treatment?’ I frown at her. Her sweet tone unaffected, ‘We’re not a doctor-patient for now, Diablo. Anyway, I need something to drink.’
I return with a bottle & take my seat.
‘Another round of losing to me?’
‘Since how long are you living here?’ She asks, again.
‘Only a year ago.’
She looks around my one bedroom-kitchen house, tidy is something my house would never be. The curtains are drawn, blocking out the afternoon summer sun. On my balcony I can hear pigeons, they always keep coming back to lay eggs. They’re the only company I have.
‘It’s a great place.’
‘Who are you kidding?’ I hate fake people.
‘I wasn’t lying, you know. Well let’s start from where we left.’
Ugh! Should had seen this coming. I want to scream at her, but the sharp steely eyes of her blunt face seem to possibly penetrate my thoughts. I feel naked, but from how much I’ve known her since the last hour I’m sure she’ll wait for me to speak out even if she could read it. And I decide to spill it out, afterall that’s the reason why my parents have sent her here.
‘You want to know? Okay. What I told you about Kane was a lie. There was no person called Kane in my high school, nor in my life. I lied to you because-‘ Think. Fast. Or else she won’t believe me.
‘Because that’s what I do. Lie to everyone, about everything. Didn’t my parents tell you? Or did they just say “Go fix our mentally ill son.”‘
‘Calm down, Diablo. You’re not mentally ill. No one says that. But your lack of socialization is their concern. They’re worried for you.’ Her palm is rubbing mine, human touch is a funny concept. But I like it. When was the last time I touched someone? Or even talked for more than 10 minutes? Maybe I should tell her. Her touch is calming me down, the way ice melts.
‘Okay. What I told you before is what happened to me because of the first day of high school. I was all excited to start, just like everyone else. But it was me, the unluckiest person to bump into Kane’s girlfriend in the hallway. It wasn’t even my fault. It wasn’t even hers. I said sorry, she did too. Then he came & saw her helping me pick my stuff.
That’s where it all went wrong. When I was in the cafeteria, Kane & other seniors sat on my table. I thought they’ll wanna be- friends.’ It’s difficult to even pronounce the word, now. ‘So we were sitting together for a minute now & no one talked. So I decided to try to be an extrovert. I said, “Hey. Are you guys in my year?” And then Kane smashed his hand on the table. Everybody looked at us. Like a cobra he circled me & said, “I’m in senior year. I’m the guy whose girlfriend you bumped into this morning. I’m the guy who’s going to ruin your year.”
I watched a few students walk away, as if they knew what will happen. But many others looked up. Nothing attracts humans more than tragedies. Nothing.’ I look at her to check if she’s listening, she gives a slight nod so I continue.
‘Then he asks me where I am from. But I say that I apologized to his girlfriend, I can apologize to him, too. I don’t want trouble. I didn’t. He started laughing, like a maniac. Then he said he was just scaring me & then everyone else gave disappointed sighs. He said it’s all cool & I can go. Funny how he came to my seat but told me to go. I didn’t argue though. Also, I completed my lunch. So I left.’ I realize I’ve been talking too long but Dr. Zhang is listening to me & I feel good, somehow.
‘It was the next day itself, that I knew he wasn’t joking with me. I saw posters on walls, edited photos of my face on the body of a baby. Below it printed in bold “HEINZ NEEDS WALKING GUIDELINES” It was helluva embarrassing, I took down the few I could but they were everywhere. I felt terrified. In every class I went students looked at me, recognizing me as the guy from the posters. Little did I know it was only the start.
Day by day they kept passively torturing me. Once, my bike was missing a whole tyre. I complained to the faculties, increasing security around the parking lot was all they did. Then came this day, I was sitting in the cafeteria, alone. No one talked to me for all the 7 months of school, since jokes were being played on me. They’ll be embarrassed to be seen with me. Worst case scenario, they’ll be in trouble.
When I was half way done, Kane sat next to me. He said he’s heard that I’m afraid of heights. I said no. So he screamed that I’m lying, and I shouldn’t. I timidly looked around, they were shooting us & I knew it’s serious trouble. Then he asked me have I went to a roller coaster or an aeroplane or dived from the high dive-board. When I disagreed he took me by my collar, dragged me all the way in his sedan. I didn’t know the name of those who were holding me while he drove to his home. In the car, they stripped me.
They drew some things on my body that I couldn’t see yet. Tied a ribbon around my crotch & painted my face. When we reached his home, a huge mansion. They pulled me out, a guy was shooting me. I was stark naked only the ribbon on me covered whatever it could. There were black stains all over my body, but I still couldn’t see what they’ve done. I screamed for help but there wasn’t anyone. We came in the backyard and I swear I had a panic attack. There was swimming pool with a diving board. As high as 2 storeys. My legs turned lead. They still dragged me to the top. I was sticking to the board afraid to fall. Then he brought a dog. Tied him to the railing, blocking my way down. All of them were shooting me. Screaming “Jump!” I tried running down but the dog bit me.
“STAY STIFF AND JUMP OFF, HEINZ!” Kane screamed but that’s not what I did. I slipped while escaping another bite from his dog. I fell straight, luckily. It took me forever to hit the water. I was hospitalized, the water rubbed the stains off my body. I had a scar on my forearm. I was terrified, shook till the weak heart of mine. They told the doctors that we were partying when his dog accidentally bit me and I slipped in the pool & passed out. I stayed home for the next 2 weeks. My parents believed them, I didn’t tell anyone what the truth was. They uploaded the video, blurred my face, it went viral. What a bummer, didn’t I say humans are most attracted by tragedies? When I was home, I plotted revenge. Something painful, more painful than what I faced. Something they won’t get away with. Against all the three of them, I plotted revenge.’ I say with a triumph smile.
‘And did you have your revenge, Diablo?’ She asks, her tone even.
I laugh. ‘Kane died 6 months ago. Jumped off a building.’
End of part one.
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