The Burden – A Story by Arsh Sharma
“Don’t jump,” Ritesh opened his eyes to see a teenage girl wearing a brown leather jacket by his side.
“It’s a 20 story building, you may or may not die,” she looked down and then glanced at him. Ritesh was sitting on the parapet wall of the terrace of a 20 story building. He had given up on his life and today he finally mustered up all his courage to climb up the stairs from his office which was on the 14th floor of the same building. The presence of a child in this high-rise building made him forget his purpose of coming there.
“Who are you and what are you doing here,” Ritesh nearly choked on his tears. “Go, your parents might be looking for you.” He suggested to the girl. Being a parent he could understand the feeling parents go through when their kids go missing.
“Don’t worry about me, I come here often.” She replied.
“I work in this building, kids aren’t allowed on the top terrace, how did you manage to come?” He questioned her again. He didn’t believe the girl. He suddenly became more worried about her.
“Gimme your number, I will call your parents,” he told the girl and started fishing for his phone in his pocket only to realize that he had turned off his phone and left it in his bag in his office. “Seems like I have forgotten my phone in my office. You have to leave; I have something important to do here.
“What do you want to do here?” The teenage girl asked him. “I see no laptop with you. It means you don’t have any official work to do,” she continued. The girl looked at him while tapping her index finger on her cheek. She looked like a cute little kid who was pretending to be in deep thought. Ritesh reluctantly wanted to smile at her cuteness.
“I will do whatever I have to do, you go downstairs, otherwise I will call the security.” He warned.
“But how? You don’t have your phone with you? The girl volleyed back.
“I will go downstairs and call security if I have to. I can’t allow you to be here.” Ritesh was getting upset with every moment that passed. He had put a lot of thought before he came up here, if he had to go down to call security, there would be a good chance he would not be able to gather the courage to come here again. He could not leave the girl there either. One negligence in his life had turned his life upside down. From a happy life, he had reached this point where he wanted to end his life.
“You going downstairs to call the security?” The girl interrupted his train of thoughts.
“Why are you getting on my nerves, just go downstairs and let me finish my work here.” Ritesh felt agitated.
“I can’t leave you to die here.”
Ritesh went numb. He couldn’t fathom that the young girl was privy to his inner mind that he was going to kill himself today.
“What rubbish? What are you talking about?” Ritesh denied the allegations.
“You know that I am right.” The girl said softly while keeping her eyes on Ritesh. “I have been at your place, so I know what you are thinking. I just want to tell you that you need not do it.”
“You don’t know anything about me.” Ritesh crumbled to his knees. “I am a murderer,” he broke down.
“Then go to the police and turn yourself in, why do you want to end your life?” Said the girl in a stern voice.
“My negligence killed a girl, police won’t consider it as murder and I won’t be charged. It has made my life miserable and I want to end this miserable life”
“Take a deep breath and tell me your story. I am sure you have never talked to anyone about it,” her words were drawing Ritesh towards her. Ritesh got up and looked at the traffic on the busy street of the city.
“I work on the 14th floor of this building,” Ritesh cleared his throat and started narrating his story.
“Around a year back, on 14th March, I saw a girl in the lift. She was in her teens, her eyes looked tired as if she had been crying. I remember the date as it was my daughter’s birthday and I was getting late. I wanted to ask her about her well-being but felt that she might not be ready to share her problems with a stranger. I had to go to the 16th floor for some paperwork. I noticed that the button for the 18th was already pressed. Considering she might be meeting someone there, I didn’t ask her anything,” Ritesh paused for a while. He looked at the girl with lonely eyes.
“When I reached on the ground floor, I saw a big crowd gathered around. Upon seeing the teenage girl on the ground with blood pooling around her I realised that it was the same girl who I had seen in the lift. Had I asked her, why she was there or why she was crying maybe, just maybe, she would be alive today,” he chocked. I have been unable to forgive myself.” He chocked.
“You cannot change someone’s destiny, you might have saved her that day but you can’t be sure she would have been alive even if she didn’t commit suicide,” her voice was deep. Ritesh looked at her, she was the one now who was looking at the traffic.
“You are saying these things to stop me, I am the culprit, it was my negligence that someone lost their life,” Ritesh didn’t agree with the girl. “You go now,” Ritesh said tiredly, he didn’t want to fall prey to the kind words of a teenage girl.
“The girl who committed suicide from this building on March 14th last year was suffering from leukemia, she was in her last stage. Her parents had spent all their savings on her treatment but she didn’t recover. Look at that hospital,” the girl pointed at the multi-specialty hospital across the road. Ritesh looked at the girl and then towards the building she was pointing at.
“Her parents took her to that hospital. It was her last resort but the treatment there was out of the paying capacity for the family. The doctors had agreed to start the treatment, for which her parents needed to sell their house. The irony is, even if she had receives the treatment, they couldn’t guarantee complete success.” The girl continued.
“How do you know so much about her?” Ritesh was dumbstruck with the revelations.
The girl turned towards him and passed a weak smile, “Even if you had given me a pep talk that day, my death was confirmed. My parents had given their nod to the doctors, without a second thought in their mind they would have sold everything that belonged to them for my treatment. I have a younger sister; my conscience didn’t allow me to get a treatment that didn’t confirm a positive outcome.”
Ritesh was struck numb. He suddenly realized that she might be right. He remembered the jacket the girl was wearing. Her face wasn’t clear due to the darkness. Ritesh slowly raised his hand to touch her, he couldn’t.
“As I committed suicide, I can’t leave this world, I am struck here. Maybe if I had died a natural death I could be at peace after I died. Today, when I saw you here, I remember you, I remembered the sense of concern and hesitation in your eyes that night when I met you in the lift. You were never the cause of my death and suicide is never a solution to any problems. Look after your family, they need your presence and your support. You are a good man, in the future don’t hesitate to help,” the girl smiled.
“What …..” before Ritesh could finish his sentence, the girl vanished in thin air. “Is your name?”
That day a burden was lifted from his heart, he cried his heart out before leaving the terrace. “I will try to be a better person,” he promised himself.
About Arsh Sharma
Arsh Sharma is a free-spirited person who happens to be a veterinarian. She is the Jill of all trades trying to master them too. She juggles between her job, home, and two naughty daughters. She fell in love with words and books when she was at school. She inherited her writing genes from her mother and started writing at a very young age.
She is passionate about dance, loves to experiment with food, and is a die-hard fan of movies and cricket. She wants to travel around the world. Connect with Arsh Sharma on Facebook or Instagram to know more.