It seems when you are dying, your entire life plays back in your mind. From the number of nostalgic posts that seem to appear here, I wonder...
But lets not get morbid and get on to the facts.
A friend from a frigid country wondered in the course of a chat if we see snow where I live. I said that I am not sorry we don't, for I have seen enough snow in two years that would last me this lifetime and next. And then the concentric circles started spinning in my minds eye, taking me to the mid-years of the previous decade.
I was a not-yet-disillusioned, young, enthusiastic, unattached girl, spending days and nights at the lab, returning home for cooking, sleeping and sanitation purposes. As a general rule, I would catch the 11.50 PM bus back to Vincent Apartments, after setting up my experiments or working up the results or flinging the precipitate into the sink with frustrations of not getting the elusive -21 hydride signal in the proton NMR. I would reach home around midnight, have my dinner of honey nut cheerios in Vit D milk while gossipping with roommate Anjana, and sink into my cozy bed with the cozier comforter and Wodehouse for company.
One Feb night. 11.45 PM. Lock up the lab and come out to see a blazing snowstorm. Never mind. The bus would be here in five minutes and I will be back into the warm abode before the snowstorm gets any worse. I wait at the bus stop, with Shonty, who lives in the adjacent set of apartments to mine. 11.50 - no bus. 11.55 - no bus, 00.00, no bus, but a good Samaritan tells us that the bus has been cancelled. Oh hell, I tell Shonty. Thats ok. I have a toothbrush in my bag. I can just sleep in the lab.
But no. Shonty disagrees. Says he knows a shortcut to our apartments behind his department. I am skeptical, because physics department is further down from chemistry. But he tempts me with hot tea and I agree to go with him. So, like Mary's little lamb, I faithfully follow him. He goes behind his department and steps into... the cemetery. Well, Shonty knows best.
By now the snow storm is so bad that I can only see a silhouette of Shonty standing half a meter away from me. The icy wind is howling. The entire cemetery has an eerie glow from the snow, with tombstones jutting out. Shonty points out to one tombstone and says the epitaph there is "here lies Syracuse" and laughs. I find nothing funny. Then he says "somedays I can hear hyenas here". Yeah, sure Shonty. I want to know more.
And then, I feel it. Icy water leaking into my snow boots and wetting my socks. Great. That's all I need. Within a matter of seconds my feet go numb with cold and I can't feel my toes anymore. I decide that they fell off (I had read that frost bite can make toes fall off) and I hope they are safe inside my shoe until I can take it to the surgeon to sew it back on. And for no reason at all, I suddenly remember every scene from "Pet Sematary" that I had made RamP and the gang watch instead of the porn they were planning to watch Saturday night. Why? Oh Why? I ask myself aloud.
Shonty realizes finally that all is not well at my end. I tell him of the scene from Pet Sematary when the cat comes back to haunt the house. Shonty gives me a crazy grin and says - "how do you know I really AM Shonty"? My heart stops for a moment. I try to reason within me that American ghosts found in American cemeteries would not speak English with a Bihari accent. I try to look for fangs on his face but can't see too well with watering eyes.
We walk on for what seems like eternity. And then he points out and says "there is the apartment". I see in the direction and only find buckets and buckets of snow falling. I am resigned to my fate. I would die anyway, whether it is of cold or fang bites is only a matter of discovery. I wonder what God I should pray to.
And a few minutes later, I see the outline of a building. I wonder if it is the pearly gate. But it seems it IS Shonty's apartment. The rest of the travel is a blur. I only remember sipping a steaming cup of chai and wearing Shonty's socks. I guess Shonty must have dropped me off at my own apartment, Anjana should know.
If someone knows one Shantenu Jha, please give me his coordinates. I need to tell him that the route through the cemetery is NOT a short cut to Vincent apartments.