Nishant Mittal: A Story to Write (Short Story)
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
“I can’t…orchestrate…” cried Neel, brooding on the table. He was a writer who was failing to pay bills since quite sometime. A creative slowdown colloquially referred to as the 'Writer’s Block' was eating him slowly and mercilessly. He leaned back on the chair and stared at the tabletop, which had nothing but bare essentials – a lamp, fan, paper and a pen. As always. He glanced through some lines he had scribbled in desperation and disappointment soon moved his eyes away. As he paused, his vision was transfixed on a painting he had acquired many years ago. The work was a masterpiece, and back then, Neel was sure that he’ll someday have a wall which deserves it. The art had served him as a much needed source of inspiration for a long time. But since his downfall, it only made him feel inadequate. It didn’t deserve to be on that cheap, tasteless wall. Just as he didn’t deserve to be in that cheap, tasteless place he had to call home. Credit, or blame – it belonged to him.
Phone beeps: 1 New Message!
“They need a story in two days, or they don’t need you”
It was his agent. He was being pressed by the newspaper guys for a story Neel needed to deliver.
“Convey my thanks to them for being so patient and understanding” he replied, inches away from losing his calm.
Phone beeps: 1 New Message!
“I miss your touch! Come around? XOXO”
It was Sheena – a woman Neel met a month ago at a networking meet-up. The purpose of that event was to help folks create connections, and it seemed like it was served well as both of them connected well enough to rush to a bed soon after. The rendezvous repeated itself a couple of times, and Neel soon found himself on the edge of a breakdown.
He was a married man. His wife was a beautiful lady who picked him up at his lows, put him off when he got cocky, and also worked as a professor. If angels turned real, they’d dream of being half as good as Nivedita, so thought Neel. While his love for her was insurmountable, he had slipped, and that was that. He wasn't just a bad writer anymore, he was a bad husband, too. This wasn't something he was taught to handle. Guilt superseded everything.
I fucked up. She deserves to know. How could I get myself into this!
He stood up and threw his chair across the room. A bout of anger camouflaged his despair ridden heart.
“Sorry! I can’t do this anymore. I’m married...you know it! I’m sorry!” he texted Sheena as a teardrop rolled down his cheek.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, consciously trying to calm down. Following the process of rehabilitation, he picked up and placed the chair appropriately. His breathing had normalized. He thought he was calm again.
Nivedita was back.
Neel opened the door and greeted his wife, while his heart thumped erratically. She was a statuesque lady with a childlike skin. Dressed in traditional Salwar Kameez, she looked like his idea of beauty and grace. He thanked god every time she smiled at him, and this wasn’t any different. But it soon dawned on him that this was the last time she’d smile at him, and hence the last time he’d thank god. He couldn’t help but silently stare at her, losing track of time. It was final.
“How was your day, baby?” she said with a tranquilizing, innocent smile, while putting her stuff down.
“Uh, it was…I need to tell you something…” he said while his heart didn’t stop racing. He went to the refrigerator and brought her some water.
So this is where it ends, Neel. You should have known better.
“Neel! Are you listening to me? What!” she snapped at him, losing patience.
“It’s okay! Tell me”
“Yeah! I had an idea for a story, actually. I needed your help. Just like always…” he said and slowly looked her in the eyes.
Neel always shared his stories with her before forging them into his craft. Her intelligence, wit, and childlike curiosity always gave him the necessary flux. She sometimes brought brilliant angles to his plots and helped him sail, and sometimes told him that the idea was weak. She was honest, and unmerciful.
Oh, fuck! What the hell did I just say?
“Sure! Go on”
"Okay” said Neel with a shaking voice, “There’s this writer who’s failing to pay bills since quite sometime…A creative slowdown…a 'writer’s block' is chewing him down to bits…He’s losing relevance in the market and is not being able to pick himself up” he took a long pause.
“Now this guy is involved in a very happy & beautiful...relationship. Something like a marriage…but he slips – gets into a fling…His love for her is insurmountable, but he…you know....this is something he’s not able to handle. He’s being a bad writer, a bad professional, and now – a bad...boyfriend. He’s drowning with guilt.”
He stopped for a second to drink some water with hands shaking terribly, avoiding any possibility of eye contact.
“So he thinks of telling her the truth…because he believes she deserves to know! And he-“
“Look at me” said Nivedita, snapping at him.
“Uh…what?” said Neel and obeyed.
“You could add something to this story. It goes like this: His wife...or girlfriend, while always having great love for him, also made a mistake. She also slipped, just like him. She could never gather enough courage to tell him, cause she knew it’d hurt him. And just before she plans a confrontation, he comes up with tells this story. It feels strange. But life is stranger than fiction sometimes“
Neel stood in silence, as if hit by a bolt of lightning.
“Yeah! And you know what she says after listening to him?” she continued.
“You got a story to write now” she says with a confusing, mild smile.
Oh my god. Oh my god! No!
Neel faced an incredible rush of emotions he had never felt before. He had planned a confession, but thrown a parable. What she said was a parable, which seemed like a confession. She always did this to his stories – throwing intelligent ideas like an innocent child. But this seemed more than an idea – it seemed too real.
What if it’s true? What if it’s a confession?
Since everything was concealed in the disguise of his story, Neel couldn’t cry in front of her. But he couldn't stop either. He immediately turned away, and moved towards his chair. Picking up his pen, he started beating its tip on the paper.
“What are you going to do?” she asked like nothing happened.
“Well", he paused and took a breath. "I got a story to write” he said as tears rolled down his cheek.
“I guess, this will be the one I’ll be remembered for. Thanks, Niv” he mumbled faintly.
Maybe it’s just a story. Maybe...
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