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The Pumpkin Face

The Pumpkin Face

14 mins 23.9K 14 mins 23.9K

You look like a soaked sponge. Is it raining outside? I hate rain, especially the gloom that it brings with it. I like it sunny with a few clouds strewn about, like one of those Bob Ross paintings: a fluffy cloud sits here, a mountain sits there, foothills, and a tiny little house ensconced in the beauty, you know what I mean? That’s the kind of day that gets me going; I can feel the energy coursing through my veins, memories come rushing back and I become all nostalgic. Do you write about that kind of stuff in your fancy magazine? I bet not. You like to sensationalize things, and you like all the macabre and gory stuff. As the things stand between us, I don’t think we can be friends; I would hate to be even acquainted with the likes of you. There’s so much beauty all about you and yet you choose to turn a blind eye. What’s so amusing? Social decorum keeps me from knocking your teeth out you know! I would suggest you don’t stretch it too far. Anyway I made some coffee in the morning, would you like some? I need some time to put things in order inside my head. Just let me be myself for some time, would you mind? I will give you a story, that’s what you are here for.

You are back! So soon! I thought you were gone for good. Are you sure you don’t want any coffee? You are not very patient, are you? Alright, I have worked out the details in my head; I know exactly what to tell you and how to tell you. Let us start with the mundane things, the boring yet necessary details. I went to a famous school in Pittsburgh – the name is not important but you can dig it up – to study cognitive science in the department of human computer interaction. Huh, looks can be deceptive! Don’t ever let a mass of hair fool you again; what’s within that matters, my dear! I had a scholarship to pay for my tuition but I was barely able to make ends meet; I was just subsisting. It might be hard for you to believe it now but I was a handsome man. I had a few things going for me. I had the most colorful person in the world as my girlfriend – and again the name is not important. She was perhaps the only reason for whatever social life that I had. She was proud. She broke up with me once for pulling a chair out for her. Not many good things come to my mind when I think of her, and yet she is buried deep, like a pleasant sensation, within my heart. Her memory is one of those things best left undisturbed; I wouldn’t uncover it for the fear of desecrating a shrine. Huh, and here I sit probing my heart and spilling it all in front of a complete stranger! Why, do you ask? I couldn’t tell. I don’t know. She died a few years ago; she was speeding on a motorbike and crashed it on a tree. Not the best way to die I suppose. The tree never moved an inch in its entire existence and yet, on that fateful day, killed her with its inertia, its mobile oppressor. If I were to give an advice at this point, I would say don’t let things sit still; they gain mass, gobble you up and destroy your very being; destroy them in their infancy instead, uproot them, toss them, kick them around.

It was Jenny who… SCRATCH THAT PLEASE! I don’t want it. She wouldn’t want it. Thank you. She took me to her friend Andy’s place. They played music, she liked to sing and I liked to watch. I distinctly remember looking at him, in the center, from my corner. I have never been much of a drinker, so to speak, and I pass my time looking at people, their idiosyncrasies. People have always been like apes in a zoo for me; I can make sense out of their actions but never out of them. Someone like you, in my shoes, would probably say that he finds people stupid and silly; but I am not like you, I am better than you. If you ask me what, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but there was something deeply unsettling about him. To this day I do not even know his name; not that I haven’t come across it – he was practically all over my space – I have just pushed it out every time it tried to make its way in my head. Worst of all, he had a pumpkin face and that’s what I called him, Pump. I will be honest with you, the reason I don’t like you is your zucchini face; I hate vegetable faces; I hated my father, till he was alive, for his gourd face. I know he loved me, but I couldn’t help it. One of the reasons I could live with myself, other than I am smart, is my pear face; Also I had a girlfriend with a mango face. Do you get my drift? I don’t blame you if you don’t. I can see it written all over your face that you don’t get it. Just forget it! But you know what’s worse than a vegetable face, a vegetable face in money. My eyes followed him as he moved around with fluidity; money propelled him, or so I thought. He had expensive clothes on, the kind I could only dream of. The apes seemed to like this ugly alpha ape. Another thing that bugged me that day was his railing laughter, like Ah heenheenheen with a ball of spit rolling in his throat you know what I mean? It rasped against my brain. I did not blame Jenny for liking him; she wasn’t exactly an ape but wasn’t the brightest either, much she would have thought otherwise. She went back in his circle like a boomerang every time I took her aside. I am sure she slept with him. I really did not blame her though!

Have you read about cannibalism? Not the Hannibal type, I am talking about real savagery here. Queequeg, Moby Dick, does it ring a bell? Yes, that’s right, so you know what they are all about! They impale the man, their food in this case, and roast him while he is still alive. Hot spike, up through the tunnel of love HAHAHA…humpf. Pardon me! Haha…huh. That’s pretty much what I wanted to do to him, only I would have fed him to his tormented dog. I love dogs more than people but I could never afford one. Now let’s get back to civilization. Perhaps it was pre-ordained that I had to suffer him before my deliverance. Think about it, there are thirty six departments in the university; there are one hundred and fifty courses, on an average, offered by every department and there are ten thousand students taking those courses, according to their specialized needs. How likely do you think it was that he would be sitting next to me, in a class of five, nodding his head in understanding and scribbling on his pad? Very unlikely indeed! But there he was, all over me, nodding his head in understanding and scribbling on his god forsaken pad! Now think again, there are almost five thousand houses all around the campus. How likely do you think that he would be living at Fifth and Bellfonte, a block away from me? Very unlikely, right? But there he was, all around me, living at Fifth and Bellfonte, a FUCKING BLOCK AWAY FROM ME! Excuse me please! I usually don’t swear. I saw him everywhere, on the bus, at the supermarket, at the hair dresser’s place, everywhere; nothing was proof from him; in fact, more than once I found myself staring at him while Professor Dunn recited his lullaby and he nodded his head in understanding, scribbling on his pad. I remember he tried speaking with me once; I had to run for my life, so to speak.

You should get some coffee. You don’t really look well to me. Do you want me to continue? Okay, if you insist. But before that, could you scratch my nose for me? Really! It gets itchy… Thanks! I appreciate it! Maybe we could be acquaintances. Where were we? Yes, in the class. I looked down on him in the class and he never looked at me. I believe he thought I was a nutjob, which I wasn’t. I had a scholarship. What did he have to be there? Money, or so I thought. I knew I could do better than that privileged kid; I deserved better. I consider myself a paragon of intellect; you may choose to differ now as you look at me but I don’t care. A fear that he would do better than me had always resided in some corner of my mind, even though I was always sure of my footing. Have you heard of something that we jokingly refer to as Murphy’s Law? Well! My worst fear wasn’t founded on nothing after all. He did better than me. I may look fine now but back then I was broken, shattered into pieces. The only thing that could have given me a respite at that juncture was now gone, up in the air! I felt nauseated as I made my way back home from Professor Dunn’s class. It may sound clichéd, but the world did seem to spin around me; there was a knot in my stomach; it pained, and pained a lot. His pumpkin face with its bared even teeth circled around me. I could sense derision in his spit-ball laughter, in his twinkling eyes, in the mole on his left cheek and in the very air I was breathing. The air was hot and burned my lungs as I stumbled to my apartment. The rill of tears cut through my skin as it made its way to the hard earth. I knocked myself against the door, and then against the bureau as I walked to my study. I could not get myself to turn the lights on. I lit a cigarette; Tendrils of smoke sparkled in the pulsating orange glow.  I was getting my bearings back. I got up to get the jug of milk; I wanted milk. I fell limp in my chair with legs spread out, milk in one hand and cigarette in the other, and stared at the void in front of me, without blinking. The experience was surreal; I saw pieces of my life lying about, broken and tainted. His life had to end.

You are sweating, perhaps it is too much for you to take in. I could stop if you want. You don’t have to do this you know! If you say so. I went out into the cold December night with a knife in my pocket and a fire burning within. Now that I think of it, it was the new found zeal that sustained me that night; I would have frozen to death if not for it. There were too many things racing around in my head. You see, murder is something that you commit with calm nerves; deeds done in passion go bad and go wrong. I took a slight detour in order to affect this calm. There is a place at Walnut, ironically called Walnut Café, which serves lousy burgers at dirt cheap prices. Walnut Street is opulent and was out of my means otherwise. I had two cheese burgers and a milkshake. I was left with just enough money to leave a lousy tip for my lousy food. I shouldn’t have eaten so much, but there was a manic frenzy to douse. I resumed my journey after the repast. On my way, I saw an old woman dragged by her two massive wolves of dogs. It was cold outside and I felt pity for the poor dogs. It was a mistake to leave my jacket home. I caught a chill in my lower back that I am yet to get rid of. Now you know why I say that deeds done in passion often go wrong; getting out without my jacket was one such passionate blunder.

Shivering and folded arms I was finally at Bellfonte, standing in front of his house; it was a big house and he lived there all by himself. I knew exactly where he lived; I had followed him several times, unnoticed. Breaking into someone’s house is not an easy thing to do. Calm nerves. There was a small exhaust window, big enough for a slender man to pass, on one side of the house; it was a kitchen wall. People usually forget to lock their exhaust windows. There was nothing to be seen but baying of a large mastiff could be heard on closer inspection. Giving the dog a slip was a bigger challenge. The beast, unlike humans, has much keener senses, much harder to fool. There was a dumpster sitting around the corner; I had noticed it on my way to Bellfonte. You know about dumpster diving, do you? That’s what I did and found a big and juicy hunk of steak. It wasn’t just a piece of steak; it was a trigger that sent me down the self-realization path. The piece lay flat on my palm as I stared and wondered; I couldn’t have possibly paid for it without skipping a couple of meals. I stood motionless for a few minutes outside the open window. The resolve was giving way to reason. But then his deriding face showed up again. Quietly through the window I landed on something squishy over the floor. I started. It was dark. It was only a wet rug I realized. There was water all over the floor. Busted plumbing, I smiled to myself. It took me some time before my eyes got used to the dark, before I could see anything. Slowly and steadily I felt my way to the living room and there he was, sitting in a corner, whining, not barking at the stranger.

He did not even touch it; he just kept moving from side to side in the corner, pinned ears, tail hanging low; poor boy was distressed. My eyes by then could see properly. I looked around. The bare walls made the room immense in appearance. There were no signs of fortune. The wallpaper was coming off showing sickly patches underneath. The air was stale and the floor was flooded. At the center was a single chair for furniture. Its fixity moved me. Face to face we stared at each other. It asked me to turn around and go back; I declined. I had dropped my caution in this ruin and decay. He was certainly home, only not in sight. The water seeped through my shoes. It was chilly inside. Busted heating, I smiled to myself. I walked over the flood to his study. The door gave way to the slightest push. No sign of him still. There was not much to be seen in the simple and unclean room. It reeked of alcohol. A solitary moth was beating itself against the lit table lamp. An empty bottle of rum, a broken cup, an open book and a fallen chair; there was no suggestion of anything unusual. Things lay frozen, undisturbed. I heard a faucet pouring water somewhere; it was the bathroom. I had found him!

You haven’t taken notes for some time now. You don’t believe any of it, do you? Truth always lends certain incredulity to a story, that’s why it’s stranger than fiction, huh. Anyway, I will go ahead. With the knife in my hand I moved towards the bathroom. The door wasn’t locked. A sheet of light escaped from the crack. I pushed the door open. He was lying flat in the tub, faucet pouring water, and head above it. The light and the steam blinded me for a moment but I was ready to strike, ready to stab him to death. There was no need I guess. The steam rose up and clung to the mirrors and I did not see my reflection. But I saw him going to sleep, slowly, wrists slit; life was oozing out, was getting diluted, and was falling to the floor. I put the knife back in my pocket and sat beside him on the floor, with my arms wrapped around my knees. There was nothing in his eyes; they were blank. The spit-ball still rolled in his throat as I looked at his chest heave ever so slowly. Then he closed his eyes; I knew he was gone. There was nothing left for me to do. I got up, spat in the basin and came out. I got the dog by his collar and walked back home, crimson, without shivering, but feeling the cold sink in, every minute, every second. A few days later they were on my door steps with blaring sirens. I had imagined they would put me in the slammer, huh, instead they got me here. It’s not that bad if you think of it. The apes are more interesting; I have made quite a few friends.

Why? I have no idea. All I know is that he wasn’t rich. I don’t know what went through his head. It only takes so much to break the spirit you know! It’s time for you to go. Won’t you take a picture? Oh! Okay. Can I ask you for a favor? Would you send me a copy of it? Never mind! I wouldn’t read it. Thanks for stopping by. Take care!


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