This is how it happens. I choose not to know anything. I try my best to avoid any familiarity with him. Don’t tell me his name. Yes, this is what I tell them. Because it starts with the name, and if you allow some liberty, if you loosen up even for a moment, then it starts housing in you, in one of the many unvisited rooms contained within you, and it remains there forever. The white of his cloth clung to his sweaty back, his hairy hands shivering, the unkempt beard, and his eyes, always the eyes. I dare not look into them. But he looks at you. He always does. And oftentimes your glances meet. No sir, I don’t want to remember that.
He has the most unsatisfied shit that day. Not the kind that thaws his heart. A good, smooth shit can make you feel elated, the jailor once told me, but they never shit properly on their last day, they can’t. That’s the jailor’s theory. It is a curious thing to observe, but there you go. So when he stands near me, his heart almost racing, I wrap his head with a dark cloth, and the jailor, standing in the other direction, admires his sorry body about to swing helplessly and winks at me because I am supposed to respond to our little in-joke about the shit. It is difficult to smile then but I do. Don’t tell me what he has done and I will smile as much as you want.
It’s been more than three decades now. Earlier I used to remember his face, not without feeling glum or guilty. He used to torture me in dreams. Torture me when I was awake. Pull the lever and squeeze every ounce of life... out of all the possible things that you could do, how did you end up doing this? Then one night when he reappeared, I made peace with him. I took his face, his sweaty cloths, his name, the sound of his hasty heartbeats, that chilling gaze – a device he used to scare me, and threw everything in a deep well and closed the lid tight.
Even today, when he stands near me, his hands tied from behind, he wants me to recognize him. Wants me to know that he’ll be back. It starts the moment I tie a rope around his neck. He starts pushing that lid. He starts coming out of the deep well with enormous might. It tightens my chest. It gets tougher with every passing second. Inside that black mask, I can almost see him grinning. Restless, almost panicky, my nose of no great use, I have to take big scoops of air with my mouth. I feel as if I might pass out, once and for all. That is when I pull the lever… and things get back to normal.