Five minutes, huh?

“The doctors are coming for a round in five minutes. You will have to leave when they come. They won’t like it when the ICU is crowded.”  The guard told me before ushering me inside. So yes, I have been allotted five minutes with you. What can a person say to another person in five minutes?

I always thought it would take me a lifetime to say the things that I want to tell to you. Sometimes I feel that you know of these things. These things that I couldn’t say. These things that I wanted to hide but bare out too. It is funny, isn’t it? How we invite conflict? How we wish for things that are in fierce contradiction with each other? How we love but want to hide it. And how we hide but want to show it. And how we show it in our own little, weird ways.

Okay, I will hold your hand now.

Look at us. The pair of us must look ridiculous to the onlookers. You, draped and entangled in swathes of white garment, and tubes and needles, and surrounded by these complicated highbrow machines (hell, you have started to look like a machine yourself), there is even a pipe sticking out of your throat,  and exhausted, and staring right at the ceiling as if you have finally seen the light there. Me, holding your hand, awkwardly that too, muttering words that are bound to get lost amid this cacophony of beeps and alarms before they reach your ears, words that contain declarations of love and longing and regret, words that need a lifetime to be told but only got five minutes. Look at us.

Bijay Upadhyaya

You had once told me about blackholes, remember? You had told me how time slows down in the vicinity of a blackhole. How a minute there could be ages here. And how nothing, not even light can escape a blackhole. (You’d stressed the ‘Not even light’ part a tad more than required I think and it had made me laugh). Do you remember?

I feel  this place is a blackhole too. This ICU.  I am afraid now that you have entered inside you may not exit. Like you told, not even light. Not even you. And has time slowed here too?  When the doorman offered me five minutes was he offering me scores and scores of lifetimes? Have I got what I wanted? But it doesn’t feel like time has slowed down, does it?  If anything, it feels like I am running out of time. Good because that means that this place is not a blackhole. That means you will not stay here forever. That means you will get your exit.

Okay, I will stop talking astrophysics. I must hurry. I think the nurse in the green scrub is already eyeing me with suspicion. And I don’t want to create a scene.

Don’t die, okay. You once told me how life is all about finding someone who is going to save us from death, do you remember? Whatever you meant by that, but that thought has stayed with me. I don’t know if I will ever find someone who is going to save me from death, but I sure want to become one. I want to save you from death. Here, in this ICU, where everything is a function of either living or dying, I want to bring in some saving too. And when the ropes are pulled, it will not just be the pair of life and death pulling the tugs but salvation also. And when people will talk about the affairs that happen in this ICU, they will not just say ‘He lived’ or ‘He died’. They will also say, ‘He was saved’.

But how do I do that? How do I save you?

Maybe I should pray for you. But you don’t believe in prayers, do you? You son of a bitch. You are a pain in the ass sometimes, do you know that? But listen, keep aside your pride for this one time, will you? I am not good in praying but I will try. If some help arrives just accept it, okay? Don’t start on how absurd and illogical and useless praying is with whoever brings the help. Ours is a very precarious situation. So  let’s remain open for any kind of comfort and counsel, god-sent or not. Deal?

Okay here it goes.

Listen, God, I don’t know how this works but I will come straight to the point. Can we trade off lives? How about you cut some years from mine and add those to his. ‘But what’s in it for me?’ is that what you are asking? Okay I will turn around his atheist ass and change him into a believer. How cool will that be? You’d surely want a former-atheist-now-returning-to-faith in your squad. You know to brag around. To tell how your grace touches heretics too. Let’s do this.

Okay this sounds lame even inside my head. Let me try something else.

One time, out of the blue, when we were reading a book together, this guy says to me,

“Listen I don’t think I will live long. I feel I am here for a very short tenure.”


“I feel I was not meant to be sent here. I think I am here to just observe and not participate.”


“And I will be made known when my time is up.”


“I will be made known when the observation has to stop and the going has to start. I just hope I will be able to make peace with this arrangement when the time comes for me to go.”

He told all this in a breath and dug his nose back into the book. He didn’t even wait for my response. Do you know what I felt when he told me that. I thought he was a hypocrite. How come you call yourself an atheist but also say stuff like I was sent here to do this and not do that? Who exactly sent you? Who made that arrangement? You fucking hypocrite. Yeah, that’s what I wanted to scream on his face.

I also thought how unfair the scheme was, if there was one. To bring someone to life but to also imbue them with feelings of detachment from it. It’s like inviting someone over to a party but refraining them from the dance and the drinks. Looks like even your lot loves contradiction. And if this scheme, this arrangement, exists, as he says it exists, then it needs to be fixed. And that whoever prepared the scheme is obliged to repent and mend it. You are obliged to do the repair and the remorse. Do you hear me god? Yes you. You have to fix it. How about you start the fixing by saving his ass?

That was my prayer. Pathetic, right? Like I said I am not very good at it.

Okay, another nurse has joined the nurse in the green gown and both of them are looking at us. What do they think I am doing? I know it must look creepy from out there, with all the hand holding and muttering going on. Do they think these are incantations? Do they think I am doing some kind of black magic drill on you? Listen you idiots, this guy over here, with a pipe poking out of his throat, is the last person on earth who would believe in magic, black or white or green or blue. And though I flirt with faith once in a while, I just ruined the most important prayer of my life by managing to convict god for whatever has befallen upon this guy and trying to argue how it was a moral imperative, on god’s side, that this guy be saved. Black magic, nice thinking!

But I have to rush now.

You know that I love you, right? If you don’t, know this. I have always loved you. My love is timid, my love is clumsy, my love hides in a closet most of the times, my love likes to pretend that it is not love, my love makes me say things in a room which is already echoing with foreboding beeps and earnest calls, my love makes me hold hands in a twisted fashion, my love invites suspicion and irritation, my love looks like witchcraft from six feet,  my love clutches on to hasty prayers as the final recourse, my love takes a lifetime to bury itself but doesn’t protest when it is given five minutes to be unearthed. But it is genuine. And it is pure. And it hopes to become your salvation too. You know that, right?

Damn it, the tears.

You always made fun of me when I cried. You once took a drop of my tears and actually tasted it. ‘Too much salt.’ You said.  ‘Maybe I should take you to the hospital. You know, to get the salt restored.’ And together, just like that, we erupted in a hysteric laugh and I thought at that time if someone sees me laughing madly like this, will they believe if I told them that I was bawling my eyes out just ten seconds ago. And this guy did something gross and now I cannot stop laughing. It is funny isn’t it, that you have ended up in a hospital, not me and it is your salt getting restored, not mine. Talk of irony, huh.

I just smiled. The memory brought a smile on my face. I wish you could see that. I wish you could taste my smiling lips and tell me how much sugar you could trace on them.

Okay I will stop the melodrama now. It is getting very embarrassing actually. And sexual too.

My only regret is that I couldn’t tell you all this when you were not dying. Something always stopped me. I think I built a wall between us. I also put a door on it. I locked it from inside and buried the key where I’d buried my love. And like an idiot, I knocked on it. You heard the knocks but you thought ‘surely the person who has locked the door and who is equipped with the key doesn’t knock on it, they will push the door open.’ You dismissed the knocks as illusions. You thought the knocks were not there and whatever you were hearing were something else.

But the knocks were real, you idiot. And yes, it doesn’t make sense to knock on a door when one already has the key. I know but I knocked all the same. I knocked hoping you would listen. Hoping you would remind me I had the key. I knocked hoping you’d say that you want the door open as much as I wanted it.

But like I said, I think you knew. I think you have always known. I think you knew that it was me who was knocking. I think though you enjoyed this peccadillo for a while, you grew tired of it overtime. I think you stopped caring about the knocks because you were irked by my little games. I am sorry if that was the case. But I can never explain how much I wanted you to take a step and wake me from my fancy. How much I wanted you to open the damn door though it was me who had closed it. Though it was me who had the key.

Did I tell you that I did my own research the day you told me about blackholes. Gosh, I just remembered. Guess what, few things can actually escape blackholes. Radiations of some kind can actually egress from these monstrous pits. Listen, I don’t know if this place is a blackhole. But even if it is, looks like it is not completely inescapable. You will try, won’t you?

But go if you have to. And if you are actually going, I want you to go knowing that you were loved. You were loved passionately, ferociously, and unconditionally. If you are actually going I want you to go knowing that you actually found someone who in her own weird, absurd way tried to save you from death. I don’t want you to rest in peace. I want you to go in peace. To wherever you thought you were meant to go.

Okay, I think the five minutes are over. I am not going to fall on the feet of these nurses and doctors and plead with them for few more minutes. You know that’s not my cup of tea. I want to go as soberly as I had come. No theatrics.

I will take my leave now. I don’t have any special sentence to say as my parting note. Except that if you decide on not going know that I am here. Outside. I will be waiting for you with thousands of five minutes at my disposal. Just knock, okay? And I will open the door.