Like every disaster to ever leave a mark on the human race, it began in the blink of an eye. One would say it was an overreaction to compare this event to a tsunami or volcanic eruption but to the young man hiding in the shadows as he stared into the endless expanse of dark, mysterious water, the comparisons were an even match. The din of traffic and fear of robbers could not distract him from his brooding. He laughed as passersby stared at him suspiciously, probably thinking about how they’d brag to colleagues tomorrow that they had passed by the man who embraced the water last night, moments before the deed was done. His laughter spurred them to walk faster and he couldn’t blame them. He sounded mad even to himself and in truth, had considered finding out if the water was as harsh a mistress as Terese looked.
His mind returned to his thoughts — ‘Terese’. The name was like a sigh at the back of his mind yet a scream that threatened to erase all rational thought. “The pleasure is all mine”, if only he’d known she meant to make her statement about their meeting so true, perhaps he would have walked away and never looked back. But like a child entranced with a lethal toy he considered exotic, he had danced to the hangman’s noose and leapt off the chair himself. They had met at the supermarket as each tried to convince the other to forgo the last box of special edition multicoloured Cheerios and influenced by too many hours spent on the entertainment industry, he went ahead to shoot his shot. After all, it wasn’t every day a lady let you have the last box of Cheerios, she had to be THE ONE.
In that seemingly harmless and promising moment where names and phone numbers were exchanged, he had begun his end. Terese was everything he could have imagined if he were to create his ‘ideal woman’. They loved the same authors and cereal and were both proponents of physical fitness. They clicked on every level imaginable and he could swear the chemistry was what inspired ‘Ochei’. Granted, things went a lot faster than he’d normally allow but it was Terese after all; beautiful, sassy, soft-spoken Terese who would never hurt a fly – or so he’d thought. After three weeks of buttering him up and an extremely romantic weekend tryst, she had finally gone in for the kill. How he’d signed those papers, till date he could not explain. But somehow he had, somehow. She had convinced him to secure a loan from his bank for her for an investment she swore would bring triple the capital, while using his property in addition to hers as collateral as she didn’t have enough to make it fly. He didn’t even need retrospect to know it was a terrible idea. Even as he made the arrangements days later and signed the papers, he knew he was courting destruction but he reasoned that it was Terese and nothing could go wrong. She was going to be his wife and mother of his children, he could not not help her. He should have known it was the other head and greed thinking and making decisions instead of his head.
6 days was all it took for her to fix the final nails to his coffin. “6days for 6ft under”, he mused. It could not be a coincidence. Within 6 days, she had pulled a vanishing act the great Houdini would kill to know — dropping off the surface of the earth. Even her property for which ‘legal’ documents had been provided was proven to belong to someone else upon recent investigations by the bank and the documents exposed as fakes. True, he should have crosschecked but how could he hope to build a relationship without trust? This had led to him not just losing his possessions and source of livelihood, but also experiencing firsthand the charms of the infamous Kirikiri prison as it had taken a while to convince the bank of his innocence. Now he stood, penniless and with no iota of dignity to face his peers and family, squatting in the backroom of a guy who owed him one and even that favour, he knew would run out soon.
Picking his way through the traffic now in one of its numerous standstills, his mind wandered to the bottle of pills he’d hidden beneath his duffel bag about 12 nights ago in the little corner he slept in. “Maybe I’ll finally end it tonight”, he reasoned. It would be child’s play to get alcohol from his benefactor now he hadn’t yet overstayed his welcome – if he was meeting the end he’d make sure he took one for the road. As he sat on the floor of the dimly lit room, staring at the assortment of drugs, a bottle of beer in one hand and two more bottles at his feet, he realized that the 13th time wasn’t the charm; he still couldn’t do it. This time though, he didn’t drink himself to oblivion. He curled up for the first time in the 3 months of hell he’d been going through since Terese vanished and cried – the tears of torture didn’t count; they were for a different pain. This time he cried for every piece of his soul she had scarred and every part of his spirit she had broken. And as the tears fell freely with not a sound proceeding from his mouth, he felt that first brush of hope and thought “maybe it isn’t the end, maybe” and at that moment, it was enough.