Updated: Sep 9
Bhargav is trying to hurt his ex-girlfriend, unable to live with the fact that their relationship no longer exists. He, however, learns from his mistake & realises his shortcomings.
“Absolution” by Harsha Modukuri shows the journey of a boy fighting his inner demons before winning his life back. However, not in time.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
Bhargav was going to do awful things that night and the worst among them was not just killing himself. He carefully planned them, leaving nothing to chance. It took a lot of guts to even consider suicide, but Bhargav was going through a rough patch since last year, and all it took was a breakup. The breakup was also not unexpected; both of them had been thinking about it for a year or so, but neither of them was ready to let their emotions take precedence. Giving priority to emotions and letting them run the show, they believed, was not something they could do freely. There had been many misunderstandings and fights, but the emotional drama had devoured him up from the inside out. He wished he could get out of this relationship, but he was afraid he’d be left with no will to live because there wasn’t anyone worth living for. Everything started while they were at school like the typical stories seen in films. However, this was unusual in a way, because they both saw the relationship as an outlet for their emotions and desires. Bhargav was sitting on his bed, while on the television, the newsreader diligently parroted the news. He tried to remember the first time they tried to get physical. It was more of a need than love for each other. He knew it, yet he was ashamed to admit it. Years later, when he would look back at those memories, he’d remember nothing except the passion they had for each other’s skin. Skin, more than heart, played an important role in bringing them together. Now, on this very day, when Bhargav decided to do whatever horrible acts that he believed were required, he tried to rack his brains to remember every last bit of it. The first time they went out, Lalitha said, she was not sure of a relationship. She was attracted to him and she knew that he was madly attracted to her, but there were many other things that were off for her when she tried to check the compatibility and she said that she couldn’t look past them. For one, she never approved of Bhargav’s opinions about life and responsibility. And he was rigid when it came to choices and she wanted a bit of flexibility. So, when she let him put his hand on her buttocks, she said that it was going to be casual, a one-time thing, and if either of them felt uncomfortable continuing these things, the other should not object, and there would always be a chance of reconciliation because they were never in love in the first place. A couple of weeks and she allowed him to touch her breasts. They never stopped kissing whenever they got time and she never let his hand on the insides of her thighs. A month later they did it and they both admitted that it wasn’t that great. Smooching was more fun. Bhargav thought it was more passionate when she restricted his advances. Lalitha believed they could always spice things up and when they experimented they found out sex wasn’t as bad as they thought it to be. He proposed to her in the final year and she said no. “It works for me and I don’t see why you want more emotional drama.” was her answer. But he did persist with his ideas and finally she said, “An open ended relationship. We can still see other people if we want to, and we can always take the route of commitment. I want absolute freedom and I hope you want to see other girls too.” But he never wanted to see other girls. They were attractive, few of them more attractive than Lalitha, but he never understood the point of dating multiple people when they could have the world for only two of them. He also harbored this illusion that one day she would come to her senses. His imaginations and thoughts did annoy him a lot. Whenever they were together, she used to talk about other men she was with, and this got on his nerves. An open relationship meant many things and Bhargav was not prepared to accept that. He couldn’t even express his dissatisfaction because he knew she would leave him if he tried to control her. Still, he clung to the belief that she would come around and see his worth. One day, he dreamt of Lalitha having sex with other men while he was tied to a chair and forced to watch. She looked happy and the other men, whom he couldn’t recognize, threw jeering looks at him. This dream haunted him for days and one day he finally asked her, “How was it like with two men?” “What?” “I thought you’re too open and easy for things like that.” “Things like what?” Her face was crimson red and he could see her suppressing anger. Later he understood that something had changed in her. It started the day he asked her those questions. Something new had happened and he was at a loss to comprehend it. She did not show any interest or had no excitement to meet him anymore. Still he liked to imagine that their love for each other was strong enough to bring them together once more, but he knew it was just one of his lies he invented to soothe himself. Later, she made it clear that she was going to get married to one of those guys she met casually, and when she was leaving he asked her why it wasn’t him and why didn’t she find anything in him even after spending years with him. She said she had no time for all of that and emotions were never really what they both agreed upon and suggested they could still remain friends. That was when Bhargav decided he should do something. He walked home that evening with a heavy heart, or rather, he convinced himself that he had a wounded heart that needed something done to heal it. Yet, he could not forget the love and warmth of the times they spent together, the sacredness of losing himself in her arms, waking up next to her. Everything was as rich as the sunrise. But even sunrise wouldn’t save the day from succumbing into the night.
“Revenge? How can you even think of something like that?”
“I have to do something or I will go mad. I can’t just see her get away like this. After everything that has happened between us, she went for a guy whom she met a month ago. How can this be justice? Is this how she rewards my love?”
“Are you sure it is love? Because you’re just thinking about hurting her and taking revenge because she is marrying someone she loves. I am sorry that someone isn’t you, but you both started this as a casual thing, right?”
“Still, my feelings are valid. I know I loved her and I know she was happy with me.”
“She was happy with you and you say you love her, aren’t they different? Sex and love can have different meanings and I am sure yours is different from her. Sure, your feelings are valid brother, but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want to extinguish the flames by doing something bad to her.”
“You’re not the one who is hurt.”
“Revenge porn? What is it?”
A friend of mine replied, “You have a video of her, or a video of you together while you’re at it?
“Yes, but it isn’t much.”
“Whatever it is, there are people out there who pay money to watch them. There is this site and you can schedule an upload.”
“And can they know it was me? Can they trace it back to me?”
“Usually, yes, but trust me, they won’t go to great trouble when it comes to these things. After all, there are thousands of such videos.”
Bhargav knew what he was going to do. Although he had been in a dilemma about hurting her, he convinced himself to see the justice in it. She said it was casual, very casual and he was wronged. How many other men were suffering like this? How many other men wanted to do something to her but could not bring themselves to it? How could one not see the sacrifice he was to make for the good of the world? He talked himself out of any sanity and carefully drowned himself in the illusions. Illusions of justice and a passionate hatred for her were the only things that drove him to action.
He missed lunch and breakfast that day. Yet he could not feel the hunger. It was a different kind of hunger, a hunger that can never be satiated and a hunger that called, for one thing, something most men wouldn’t dream of doing.
He set up everything that is required for the upload. And when it was done, he’d get a text message. Then, he’d swallow that poison he bought yesterday. That would give him an hour or so. He’d be dead on the road in some busy street soon, and his plan to hurt her badly would be finished by then. There would be no more guilt, no more explanations, he thought. But every now and then, there was a pang of pain, a pinprick he couldn’t deny, trying to rationalize things. But those moments were fleeting and would do little to change his corrupted mind. The heart wants what it wants, he said to himself.
He went for a walk that evening. He scheduled an upload and decided that he’d take the poison as soon as he was out on the road and far from home, because that’d ensure that the thing would go fine even if he changed his mind. He couldn’t believe how his mind came up with one excuse after another to justify his proclivity for evil.
He got out of his apartment and went into the next alley. He stopped talking to himself loudly, the silence he craved, the inner silence he wanted, evaded him. The air reeked of traffic and chemicals, and a tangible pressure of his thoughts bombarded him from all the sounds. He looked at the moving vehicles and found them to be his thought threads, none of them incoherent and none of them going anywhere he wanted. Crushed by the weight of his thoughts and the unending questions, he decided to take a drink. Drink? What good will it do? Will it make me see things that I don’t see now, and even force me to stop all of this? No! Drinking will only amplify my feelings and bring them to the forefront. The drink will not numb; rather, it will remove the shield I have now, the shield against the phoney morality and righteousness that ignores my feelings.
While he was at this self-talk, something flashed into his mind. Something odd and normal. Anything would seem normal if you were going to betray someone you loved because she chose a different person. What if I wanted just sex all along? How different would it be if I sleep with someone? Is it because Lalitha started seeing other people that made me an option for her? If I sleep with someone and get over her, won’t Lalitha be an option for me? He knew the answer to these questions or at least he knew how to find out the answers. There was this infamous street his friends always talked about. Women were good there and easy. Easy because they get paid for what they offered and they never demanded any loyalty or affection. What if we were just prostitutes for each other who never took the money? He was walking down the road and he knew the addresses of the houses he’d be going into. This was going to be his last act on this earth, he said to himself. Last act? What if I find some companionship after spending time with a girl here and Lalitha becomes an option? Am I still going to hurt her? He had no answers to these questions and he didn’t dare to waste time on them.
When he was just about to go into a house, he found someone on the other end of the street. There were three of them, two boys and a girl, he could see that much. The girl was trying to run towards this end and the boys were after her. This unsettled him. He walked towards her and she was half conscious and trying to walk. The boys seemed young, teenagers or so and as soon as they saw him they ran. The girl fell down on the road and Bhargav approached her. She stank of alcohol and it looked like they had drugged her and tried to take advantage of her. He tried to wake her up. He asked her to take some water and helped her sit straight. The girl was out of her mind and she was babbling, babbling nonsense. For all his previous ideas he felt pity for her. He shook her again and spoke loudly, “What is your name? Why are you here?”
“Friends, we were having a party.”
“Where do you live? I can take you home if you want.”
“No, no. Stay with me for five minutes and I should be fine.”
Bhargav looked at her again, her nose was black and her lips had some cracks and they were bleeding. Her eyes seemed shallow and it was clear that she was high.
“Will you take me to the other end?” She asked him.
“Yes, I can. Here hold my hand.”
They both walked to the other end, where she said that she was fine and that all she needed was some money. Bhargav gave her whatever he had and said his goodbyes. He also gave her his phone number and told her to call him if she needed anything. While he stood at the alley’s entrance, the girl crossed the street and walked towards the bus stop. Bhargav returned to the establishment. He wasn’t sure if he should continue to partake. It seemed pointless and foolish. This girl’s condition was no different than the girl he was going to now. Sure, there was money and pleasure for both parties, but what distinguished him from the abusers?
His final act on this planet, was it going to be wasted on carnal desires or worse for hurting someone he loved for years? What was this if not a direction from a higher power? He thought he should immediately go home and stop the whole thing. Lalitha knew what she wanted from the very beginning, it was he who built false hopes. It was his fault all along, or at least his inability to draw the boundaries. When she meant only sex, she was not after love nor any affection. She met a lot of people and finally found someone who was perfect for her, or at least she believed so.
Why should I be jealous now? Was it not my glaring inability to love someone else? I’m sure I can find love again, but if I ruin her life now, can she ever recover?
He walked back to his apartment and deleted the files. He stopped the upload, and deleted everything that was too personal. He shut the laptop and collapsed on the couch. Now everything was undone, he thought.
That was when the poison started working on his body. He looked through the window and the light was barely visible. The night was falling and everyone else was going home to find some peace and solace. The vehicles did not honk, the pedestrians did not laugh, and the ambulances did not make any sound. All he could hear was his slowing heartbeat. He thought that his indifference to his own life, his lack of care, brought his doom. He walked slowly and sat beside the window. The buildings, the hoardings, the vehicles and the people - he thought of them and they all looked vibrant and beautiful, each serving their own purpose, but the human tendency to hurt their loved ones, there was no dignity in that. He wanted that dignity, the dignity he thought he had lost. But he knew Lalitha would not remember him as someone who spoiled her life. That was dignity, that felt enough for him.
This short story is available in paperback & ebook.