It has been a while since I’ve had guests over. I cannot remember the last time someone visited me. It comes with being old I guess, this ostracism. But Cyrus; good old Cyrus; he is different. For a while there, he had me scared not having called on this old man in a while. I almost thought he was avoiding me, like the others. Like them, he too, wanted nothing to do with the lonely man. Zahra’s death hit me hard. I don’t meet people anymore. Strangers; they scare me. I cherish the few friends I have, strive to keep them close. I fear abandonment.
Cyrus is staying over again tonight. Hes been here a while now. Dinner time was always his favourite. I smile at him, beckoning to help himself with the lavish spread I’ve laid out. Clumsy old Cyrus, he has a piece of paper stuck to his lip. Tch. How did he not realise it? Must be the age getting to his head. I lean across the table and gently flick it off. Old age, you sly bastard. You get us all don’t you.
Surprisingly, Cyrus is awfully quiet tonight. A jovial old fellow, this man’s roar could be heard all across the hallway in our college dorms. I try making conversation but I think he doesn’t feel up to it. He’s barely eating too. I remember how he once hogged an entire four course meal without even so much as a burp.
I sometimes feel like quite a bore, ranting on and on about the old days and Zahra but that is all I have left; memories and a resounding emptiness in my life. I cling on to whatever I can get. My eyes moisten, thinking about my beautiful wife and how she would hate the loner I’ve become, when suddenly the sound of shattering glass brings me back.
Poor Cyrus, he dropped his bowl of potatoes on the floor. He is weak, probably sick tonight. He wants me to feed him, the pitiful soul. Times like these are probably the ones I live for, making me feel useful and indispensable. I like being there for this weak little creature that was my friend. No no, don’t get me wrong. He still is my best friend. He listens to me talk about Zahra all day long. We talk of days gone by and times that will never come back. Oh yes, we spend plenty of hours sitting here, reminiscing. Occasionally, he chides me for living in the past displaying remnants of his old boisterous self. I chuckle to myself at these times. Oh how the mighty fall. My dear old Cyrus used to be the boss everywhere. Whatever we did, whatever happened, he decided. Now he’s weak, crippled by the wrath of time.I have to care for him; decide for him; nurse him. I’m glad he came back to me. He couldn’t have gone long without having someone there for him. Even now he can’t give in without a protest here and there. But my best friend Cyrus learned to live with me, under my rules.
Sometimes he acts like a child refusing to finish his meals and now he wants a cricket bat to play with. This man is losing his marbles, I say. I struggle to make him finish his meal and he gives in. Once again, the flash of the dominating Parsi he once was, comes and goes. I pity him some of the times. At others I feel glad he has me. Ah, the clumsy old geezer fell asleep in his chair. Looks like I have to carry him to the bedroom and tuck the poor thing in. This is what has become of Cyrus Irani, the dreaded proud Parsi who refused to acknowledge anyone superior. I looked at his face, calm and expressionless. Sleep my friend, its the only respite from life.
There, you got him too. Old age, you sly bastard.
I stared across the table at the heaving, gyrating mass of flesh that had once been my friend. Rostam stood a good six-feet tall about two feet away from me. The smile on his face was that of a man satisfied with the way things had panned out for him.
Even as I struggled to break free of the roped binding my limbs together and tear through the tape stretched out across my face, I couldn’t help but think if “friendship” was too generous a term to describe whatever little contact Rostam and me had shared over the last few years. It wasn’t any particular incident I could tell you, no falling out of any kind. With time, as it is with any set of friends, me and Rostam had grown apart.
The giant of an old man leaned over me and put his hand to my face. As his fingers casually stroked the skin under my nose I felt shivers run down my spine, engulfing my body in chills and quivers.
He pulled at the edge of the tape, his cold hands making their way under the stickiness of the adhesive. In a cold, brutal pull, he tore the tape of my face, stealing away a considerable amount of tiny white hair that covered my upper lip, the sign of a respectable, ageing gentleman.
It isn’t impossible to breathe through your nose, but after hours of having nothing but my nostrils to provide air for every part of my body, feeling the air brush across the inside of my mouth felt like a luxury no less than feeling the finest wine at our ancestral home smoothly making its way down my throat.
Luxury is relative, I suppose. Maybe, at the end of the day, the poorest people are the happiest.
I’d scream with the pain of the tape stripping my face of all its hairy glory, but I’m exhausted from an entire day of writhing and shaking, trying to break free of this prison, with no food or water to ease my suffering. I was simply too tired to try and live. Up to this point, he had captured my person, disabled my physical being. He hadn’t broken my spirit.
Now that I’d given up, he’d imprisoned my soul.
He filled a spoon with the most foul-smelling pile of potatoes I had ever encountered and reached his old, shaking hand out to my face, pushing me to put that vile excuse for food in my mouth. Had my father known of my eating rejectamenta unfit for even the foulest of beasts, he’d have beaten my arse silly for not having protested this treatment, in captivity or otherwise. The Iranis were better than that. We were a nobler breed of Parsi. We ate only the finest food, drank only the finest wines and walked on only the finest marbles. I suppose with a rope the width of a small snake tightened around your limbs, you’re only as noble as your captor enables you to be.
I opened my mouth reluctantly and felt a lump form in my throat. Cyrus Irani was about to shed tears. I bit down on the spoon, more to stop the crying than anything else, and swallowed the entire bite of potatoes, gulping it down with ferocity.
Before I knew it, Rostam had another spoonful at the ready, with a distinct gleam of insanity in his eye.
I don’t know why I did it; I don’t know what pushed me to it, but I swung my head around like a madman, hitting Rostam’s hand as i did so, spilling potatoes all over his floor.
The next thing I knew, something hit me right across the face. It must have been the bowl. I fell to the floor, shaking in unbelievable pain. Soon, the pain in my face was replaced by the one in my ribs from Rostam kicking them repeatedly.
“You think I WANT this?”, he screamed, “You think I WANT to hurt you?”
I think, or would like to, that somewhere in my head I chuckled, because all I could think was “Yes, Rostam, I do believe you’re enjoying yourself just a little bit there”.
I didn’t realise, in my brief moment of dark hilarity, when Rostam brought the cricket bat to his aid. As he brought it down on the side of my arm, I felt my skin breaking under the pressure, warm blood soaking the gleaming white of my shirt.
The blows kept on coming, one after another, till I was too used to the pain to care anymore. Rostam pulled my frail, lifeless figure and dragged it along the floor, shoved me onto a chair.
I felt the blood dripping off the edges of my skin onto the floor. It warmed my skin, though it made me a little colder with every passing drop.
Soon it would be over, soon all the life would be drained out of me, and I would no longer be a slave to his demands, neither body nor soul.
As the lifeblood poured out of my being to the floor, I felt myself going dizzy. The world seemed to fade to black, the voices around me seemed to buzz into silence and nothingness.
It was almost as if I was drifting off to sleep. At my age, I realised, it was pretty hard to tell the difference. Old age, you sly bastard.