Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Only!!

I reached the college auditorium, just in time to sign up for the final registrations. I was auditioning for the debating society a.k.a DebSoc . It was my freshman year and I really wanted to hit it with the DebSoc. I was pretty active in the school debating events but for a rookie from a small town school, the scale of change to the college life at a metropolis was enormous enough to leave her intimidated. I realised that the sweat from my palms had dampened the registration slip in my hands. I went to the ladies room and splashed some water onto my face. Another girl entered the washroom – one of the seniors from my Department and also the President of the DebSoc. Trisha placed her bright red tote next to my backpack and started blending her bronze eye shadow with newly applied green one. Then she took out the mascara from her pouch which had a clutter of creams, lip balms, a lip gloss, a few capsules and an inhaler. I could not help but notice the yellowish margins of her teeth as she applied the gloss.To my embarrassment, I realised that she had noticed me staring at her. Before she could give me a piece of her mind, I uttered “Sorry” and took a quick exit from there to evade the awkward situation. The episode added to the nervousness.
 Suddenly, I felt someone tap on my shoulder. It was Trisha. I went numb and in my mind I could already hear myself being christened “shithead”, “weirdo” or "Miss wannabe". “My college years are doomed already” – I thought.  My futuristic vision abruptly ended when I felt the tapping grow vigorous.
“Are you okay?”- She said… I struggled with “Yes..yeah and yeps”!” and the next moment, before I knew it, she had pulled me backstage. She pulled out a cigarette from the front pouch of her tote and lit it. After a drag or two, she offered it to me.  I stammered -“I do not..I do not” without trying to sound rude about it. Before she could say anything else, I heard the emcee announce my name to come up for the debate trial. I auditioned fine but did not rank high enough to get in the society. I was quite upset and did not feel like attending the rest of the classes for the day. I started walking back towards my hostel. At the college gate, I had another encounter with Trisha. She was en route home too with a couple of her friends. She called out – “Heya.. why are you so flushed… stop being so hard on your self…you can always give it a try next year.” I looked at her and smiled…. with some effort though. She lighted another smoke and kept me company, telling me about the popular hangouts nearby. She coughed a lot, during the conversation and the tissue she threw was red. I vaguely paid any attention to this as I was constantly thinking about the unsuccessful audition.  Suddenly I looked at her and said – “can I borrow a smoke?” She lighted another one and gave it to me along with a few tips on the protocols of smoking. It was a regular brand and the packet had a black and white close up image of a grotesque looking person. The text beside the picture read – “SMOKING KILLS”. In my mind I said –“whatever..!”and took a drag. ….

……I started coughing hoarsely. My throat went dry and I felt a squelching pain in my chest. I opened my eyes and saw that I had fallen asleep on the doctor’s reports itself. I held them in my hand helplessly and wished for the reports to be wronged. It was my lung biopsy report which read “POSITIVE FOR LUNG CANCER.” I walked across the room towards the mirror. My room was dotted with cigarette stubs and packets. I had grown a chain smoker over the years. I looked at my reflection and I could see the grotesque man from the cigarette packet in it. I was shattered….I wished I had not been foolish enough to ignore the warning signs before I asked for my first cigarette from Trisha. 
 (photo credits -

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