The Droplets of Life
“Gus, come down and have your breakfast, honey”, Erin called him, “You will be late for college”.
“Coming ”, Gus said in a low tone while keeping books in his bag.
There was a sweet aroma of freshly baked pancakes in the kitchen which was adjoined to the living room.
“It’s your first day of college, sweetheart. You don’t wanna be late for that”, Erin said, caressing his hair.
Gus lived with his aunt, Erin, in a 2 bedroom house on the upper-west side of Warlington, a small town in the United States. They had recently moved there from Canada. Gus’ parents had died when he was 4 years old, in a car accident, leaving Gus orphaned.
Gus was then taken up by his aunt, Erin, who had been taking care of him since then.
Erin used to work 2 jobs to support herself as well as Gus financially.
Even then, due to financial issues, Gus and his aunt were always shifting from one place to another.
Gus was a shy, introverted guy who lived mostly by himself. Due to constant moving and also his nature, he had no friends. The only person he used to share and talk to, was his aunt. For him, she was like his best-friend. His world revolved around studies and his home.
Gus picked up his bag and said goodbye to his aunt before leaving for college. The air was filled with joy and anticipation of all the students, when he reached the college. Everyone was trying to be social and introducing themselves to each other. But not Gus. As soon as he reached, he went near the notice board, checked his allotted class and went straight inside it.
It was a normal generic classroom as you would see in your day to day lives. There was a blinking tube light, which no one had repaired and a couple of slow rotating fans hanging from top. There were a few groups of students talking to each other and acquainting themselves with one another. Gus looked around and found an empty bench and went to sit there. Typical Gus. No social interaction, nothing.
Gus was on his phone, scrolling through his social media when he noticed a guy entering the classroom. He was tall and well-built. He had a navy blue hoodie on and a chewing gum in his mouth. He had earphones on, which depicted that he was just in his own world. The way he was walking showed how much confidence he had in himself. He came and sat on a bench adjacent to Gus’. He was also sitting alone on his bench. Although Gus never noticed what was going on around him, he was keenly looking at this guy.
“Silence, everyone. Please take your seats”, said a middle-aged man loudly. He was the professor.
The bell rang after a few lectures and college was dismissed for the day.
Gus went outside the gate in the parking spot where he had parked his bicycle. Someone poked him on his back.
“Hi, I am Julie”, she said, putting her hand forwards for a formal hand-shake.
“I am Gus”, he said in a broken tone.
“I saw you sitting alone, in the corner inside the class today”, said Julie.
“Y-Yeah”, Gus responded.
“I am new in this town, and I don’t know a lot of people here”, said Julie.
“Me too”, said Gus. “I just moved here from Canada, last Wednesday”, he added.
“Let’s go somewhere after college tomorrow. We will explore a little”, Julie said.
“I hear that the Orion Park is a nice place to sit this time of the year”, responded Gus.
“Deal”, said Julie. “I will see you tomorrow after school”, she added, turning back and waving her hand.
Gus sat on his bicycle and peddled away.
Gus returned home to an empty house as Erin was already off to work. He went to the kitchen, and made some egg omelet. After having his lunch, he went to his room and started his usual routine, i.e took his headphones out, and plugged in. After that, nothing mattered for Gus. It was just him and his tunes. He went to sleep while listening to music and woke up in the evening.
“Gus? Honey, are you home?”said Erin, entering the front door and keeping the keys on the key holder. She went upstairs to Gus’ room.
“Hey, you awake?”asked Erin.
“Yeah” answered Gus, yawning.
“Soooo, how was your first day?” asked Erin in anticipation.
“It was normal. As usual, people were chirpy for no reason. Classes were ok. It was an introductory session in almost every class. Can you believe I had to introduce myself 5 times in a day?FIVE TIMES” said Gus shaking his head.
“And that is too much for our Gus, right?” Erin said mockingly.
“EXACTLY”, said Gus, opening his eyes wide open.
“Come, let’s have dinner.” said Erin, patting Gus’ head.
Erin and Gus sat together to have dinner and they talked about normal stuff throughout. Gus felt comfortable opening up only in front of his aunt. That, and his diary, of course. He used to maintain a diary and write day to day stuff in it.
After having dinner, he came up to his room and opened his diary.
Today started off as a normal day. It was my first day of college. Aunt Erin was kind enough to pack me a meal box for college. I didn’t interact much with anyone in college. Although I did see a guy who struck my eyes.I don’t know why but he felt different from others. He was wearing a navy blue hoodie. I will call him Hood, for now. And yes, I also met a girl while leaving the college for the day. Her name was….. Oh-shoot what was her name, I can’t remember.
Anyway, I would rate the day as a pretty decent one. That’s it for today.
Gus closed his diary and went to sleep.
The next day arrived. Gus, as usual, being in his own world, forgot completely about the meeting with Julie. After class ended, he was on his way towards leaving the college when someone called him out from behind.It was Julie.
“Hey,Gus”, said Julie, giving a warm smile.
“Oh, hi Julie”, answered Gus, remembering her name after seeing her.
“I guess you completely forgot about our deal”, Julie aforementioned.
“N-No,I didn’t”, uttered Gus with guilt in his voice.
“Oh-okay, let’s go then”,Julie said, making way for Gus to accompany her.
“So, Gus, what do you like to do in your free-time?”, asked Julie.
“Nothing much. I like listening to music a lot”, answered Gus.
“Oh that’s nice. What kind of music?”, questioned Julie.
“I don’t have a particular genre,actually. It all depends on my mood.Sometimes I like slow songs, sometimes jazz,or sometimes hip-hop”, said Gus.
“I also like music. I will send you my favourite playlist”, said Julie radiantly.
“Sure. I will send you mine too”, Gus said.
“Look, an ice-cream parlour. Shall we have one?”, Julie asked, pointing to an ice-cream stall.
“Yeah, let’s have one.”, said Gus, keeping both his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.
They both walked towards the ice-cream stall. It was a small stall and the vendor was an old man probably in his 50s.
“One vanilla cone, please”, both said simultaneously.
“YOU ARE A VANILLA PERSON TOO?”, asked Julie in excitement.
“I love it. It has a natural taste.”, said Gus, taking out a 5 dollar bill from his pocket.
They both kept talking and didn’t realize it was 7pm, until it was dark.
“Hey, it’s almost 7pm. I didn’t even realize that.”, said Gus in a surprised tone.
“I know right!”, said Julie looking at her wrist watch.
“I had a good time today. It was really nice to talk to you, Julie”, said Gus with a smile on his face.
“Same feeling, Gus. I like your line of thinking. It’s similar to mine”, Julie said, smiling back.
They exchanged a friendly handshake and bid goodbyes to each other.
“See you tomorrow”, said Julie waving her hand and walking in the opposite direction.
Gus sat on his bicycle and headed home.
Gus reached home and parked his bicycle. He headed inside.
“Hey, sweety. You are late today. Where were you?”, asked Erin, upon seeing Gus.
Gus had a smile on his face.
He answered,”Yes, I went around a few places in the town to explore.”
“Gus and a long smile on his face? That’s something new.”, Erin said tauntingly.
“I made a new friend today. It was nice talking to her. Her name is Julie.”, said Gus rubbing the back of his head.
“Oh wow! First a smile, and now a new friend. Today was a very unnatural day for you, I think”, Erin chuckled.
“It was really nice talking to her. I found opening up to her a little easier. We share similar ideologies, we have a lot in common and AND… SHE LOVES VANILLA ICE CREAM.”, Gus said in a delighted tone.
“It’s really good seeing you socializing.”, said Erin, preparing the table for dinner.
Both of them sat down for dinner. Gus went on about his time with his “new friend” to his aunt.
He went upstairs after dinner and opened his diary.
It was a good day today. I had a few classes and understood most of the things. And Julie.
Her name is Julie. Now, I remember it properly. It felt really nice to open up to someone. And we all know how good it is to find someone who thinks just like you. Thought soulmate, I’d say.
We went to the park and had an ice-cream. And guess what, she loves *our* favourite ice cream flavour too. I really am looking forward to sharing more experiences with her. I will let you know the rest, okay? Bye, for now.
Gus closed his diary, checked his social media and then went to sleep.
Next day, he woke up to a fresh smell of waffles. He went downstairs.
“Good morning, Erin. What are we making today?”,asked Gus.
“I made you some special waffles for breakfast. Come have some”, said Erin flipping a waffle in the pan.
“Smells really good”, said Gus.
“It tastes as good. Okay Gus, I will be a little late today. I have to go see a doctor after work.”, said Erin.
“Doctor? Is everything alright?”, Gus asked in a tensed voice.
“Yes,yes. Everything’s alright. Actually I have been feeling a little weak lately. I also have a tingling feeling in my legs. Sometimes there is some numbness too.”, said Erin pointing towards her legs.
“Don’t worry though. It’s probably because I have been working a lot lately.”, added Erin.
“Should I meet you at the hospital?”, asked Gus.
“No,no honey. I have made some extra waffles for you to have at dinner too. There’s also rice in the refrigerator. Heat it up before having.”, Erin answered back.
“Yeah, okay”, said Gus.
Gus left for college and Erin left for work.
Gus reached college and parked his bicycle in his usual spot.
“Hi, Gus”, said Julie entering the front gate.
“Hey, Julie!”, said Gus waving his hand.
“So what are your plans for today? Shall we do something?”, asked Julie.
“No plans as such. We can do something.”, answered Gus.
“Are you a Marvel fan?”, asked Julie.
“I like Marvel. But I love DC”, said Gus.
“DC? We have so many good superheroes like Iron-man, Captain America, Thor and so on. What do you have?”, said Julie teasing Gus.
“We have Batman!”, said Gus cheerfully.
“And what are his superpowers?” said Julie, folding her hands waiting for Gus to answer.
“He.. he.. He… is BATMAN!”, said Gus, proudly.
Erin was smiling adorably.
“A new Captain America movie has been released recently. Shall we go today after college?”, asked Julie.
“Sure, let me inform my aunt.”, said Gus, removing his phone from his pocket.
“You live with your aunt?”, asked Julie.
“Yes, I was brought up by my aunt since I was 4. My parents were in an unfortunate accident and I lost them when I was little.”, said Gus.
“So, how’s living with your aunt now?”, asked Julie.
“She takes really good care of me. She is so cool. She is my best friend.”, said Gus.
“Who do you live with?”, asked Gus further.
“I live with my parents and my brother. I moved here from another city in the United States”, said Julie.
Both kept talking till they reached their respective classrooms.
Class ended and both of them met outside the college, as decided.
“C’mon let’s go”, said Gus to Julie.
They kept talking while walking to the movie theater.
“Two tickets for Captain America”, said Gus, handing over a 5 dollar bill to the theater counter guy.
They took the tickets and went inside. The movie went on for a couple of hours and then it ended.
Both of them came out.
“…….I know right!”, said Julie, continuing their conversation from during the movie.
“It was a really good movie, right?”, said Julie ecstatically.
“Yeah, I will give you that. Marvel made a really good movie.”, said Gus, agreeing with Julie.
“So, can I count you as a Marvel fan-boy now?”asked Julie, smiling in a teasing way.
“It’s still a long way to go”, said Gus, shaking his head.
It was late in the evening and both started heading towards their respective homes.
A couple of months went by and the bond between Julie and Gus became very strong. They used to go and visit different places, share food, and share different experiences. Gus opened up about anything and everything he had in his mind. He found himself telling things to her, which he had never said to anyone.
A couple of months went by and the bond between Julie and Gus became very strong.
One morning, Gus and his aunt were having breakfast.
“Hey Erin, I wanted to talk to you about something.”, said Gus, blushing.
Erin saw the blush and asked, “Why is your face getting red?”
“Uh-actually, it’s about Julie. I really like spending time with her. I think I might be feeling something for her,” said Gus.
“WOW!”, exclaimed Erin. “My little boy is all grown now, huh”, said Erin, teasing Gus.
“Yeah, I think I will confess to her about this. I really like her a lot, Erin”, said Gus.
“Mm-hmm. You should. She sounds like a good girl”, said Erin.
“And she has given me hints that she likes me too”, said Gus.
“Well then, what are you waiting for?”, said Erin.
Both of them kept talking about this.
Erin said, “And you know what—”
Erin fell down. Gus rushed towards her.
“Erin, wake up. What’s wrong? HELP!! Somebody PLEASE HELP!!”, shouted Gus.
Their front door was open and Gus’ voice reached the neighbour who was outside watering his plants. The neighbour rushed towards Gus’ home. As soon as he saw Erin unconscious and down on the floor, he took his cell phone and called 911.
An ambulance arrived soon and Erin was taken to the hospital. Gus was sitting in the ambulance besides Erin, holding her hand.
The ambulance reached the hospital and Erin was put on a stretcher. The nurses and doctor came to attend her and she was hurried to the ICU.
Gus sat down outside on a chair, completely shocked and in utter disbelief.
Around 20 minutes later, a doctor came out of the ICU.
Gus sprinted towards him and asked, “What happened to her, doctor? Is she okay?”.
The doctor took a long pause and said, “I think she missed her medicines for a couple of days. Her condition has worsened and I am afraid that we cannot do much now.”
Gus was completely puzzled. He asked,”Condition? What condition?”
“She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few months ago. We told her that she doesn’t have much time and the only hope we have is to keep the disease at bay, by taking medicines regularly. You are his nephew, right? She had told me about you. Didn’t you know?”, asked the doctor.
“She didn’t tell me anything. What is Multiple Sclerosis?”, asked Gus.
“It is an auto-immune disorder, and sadly we don’t have a cure for it.”, said the doctor keeping his hand on Gus’ shoulder.
“How long does she have?”, asked Gus with tears in his eyes.
“She is in a coma for now. And I am afraid….. ”, the doctor’s voice broke down.
“… I am afraid that it’s just a matter of days now.”, added the doctor.
Gus was completely shocked. In just a matter of a few hours, his whole world turned upside down.
“I am sorry,” said the doctor, slowly walking away.
Gus broke down and he sat on the floor. He was weeping.
He went inside the ICU. Erin was lying there with multiple wires plugged on her hand.
Gus held her hand tightly and kept sobbing.
The ECG machine started beeping rapidly. After a few repetitive beeps, a constant beep sound echoed throughout the room. Gus looked up and the ECG showed a straight line.
Gus kept crying and a nurse came and covered Erin’s face with a blanket.
Erin’s funeral was attended by a few of her neighbours and colleagues from Erin’s workplace.
There were also some people present who didn’t like Erin, as she had informed Gus.
After all, funerals aren’t attended based on relationships.
Gus stood there with a blank expression on his face. He was still incredulous with what had happened. After the funeral ceremony, a couple of Erin’s friends came towards Gus.
“If you need anything, we are here to help,Gus”, said one of her friends.
Gus just nodded and kept staring into space.
After completing all the rituals, Gus headed home. He came to an empty house.
Silence was never louder to him than this. He was looking at the chair Erin used to sit on and read books. He went upstairs to his room. After sobbing for some time, he went to sleep.
*tring, tring*, Gus’ phone rang.
He woke up from his sleep and picked up the phone.
“Hey Gus”, said the voice from the other end. It was Julie.
“Why didn’t you come to college for the past two days?”, Julie asked further.
Before Gus could say anything, he started crying again.
Julie kept trying to calm him down and kept asking what was wrong.
Gus explained everything to her.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry”, Julie said, in a tensed tone.
They talked for a while and then Gus hung up.
The next few days went in bed for Gus. He was disconnected from the outside world. He was not attending classes and he didn’t do any social interactions.
After around a week, Gus woke up one morning and started getting ready to go to college.
He called Julie before leaving. He wanted to talk about all this with her. Now, only she was left for him with whom he could talk openly. She didn’t pick up the phone. He tried again and got the same response. So, he packed his bag and went to college.
After college ended, he saw Julie with a group of her friends. Gus had never seen her with them. They were actually the “cool” group of college. Gus called her out from behind. Julie saw him for a second and then quickly turned her face in another direction. Gus couldn’t understand any of this. He went closer and caught up with Julie.
“Hey,Julie”, said Gus.
“Hi”, answered Julie apathetically.
“Listen, I really need to talk to you.”, said Gus in a concerned tone.
“Actually, I have some work to do.”, Julie said, turning her face from Gus and walking in another direction.
“Oh-okay, please call me after you get free.”, said Gus.
Julie didn’t even listen to Gus properly, and went her way.
Gus sat on his bicycle and went home. He had some lunch and went to his room.
He was waiting by his phone for Julie to call him. So, he kept checking his phone constantly.
Time went by and it was evening. Still no call from her. So, Gus called her. She didn’t pick up the call. Gus really needed to talk to someone as he had a lot on his mind.
Similar things kept happening for the next few days as well. Everytime Gus would go up to Julie, she would come up with some or the other excuse and get rid of him. Gus didn’t understand what was going on.
The next day, at college, Gus went to Julie to have a talk about what was happening.
“Julie, I really need to talk to you, right now”, said Gus in a firm voice.
“Yeah?”, responded Julie.
“What’s been going on? You have been ignoring me ever since I came back.”, said Gus.
“Listen, Gus. You are a good guy and I had a good time with you. But I think we should move on in our own separate ways now.”, said Julie, trying to sound convincing.
“But why? What happened?”, asked Gus, all confused.
“Nothing. It’s just that….I mean… I guess it’s just not meant to be.”, said Julie.
Gus stood there, clueless.
“Anyway, I have some important things to attend to”, said Julie, turning and walking away.
Gus was still standing there, looking at her walking away.
“She is one of them now”, a voice said behind Gus.
“That is the ‘cool’ gang of the college. She belongs to that group now. She won’t hang out with you anymore.”, the voice added.
Gus turned behind. It was the same guy Gus had seen on his first day. The guy who had worn a navy blue hoodie. The “Hood”, in Gus’ language.
“But we were very good friends. I don’t understand what happened all of a sudden.”, Gus said in a confused tone.
“It happens, people change.”, said Hood putting his headphones back on and starting to walk away.
Gus stood there still confused and started walking towards his classroom.
After college, Gus was sitting alone in the cafeteria. The cafeteria was crowded. Only a few seats were left. Hood arrived with his lunch and since there was no place left, he sat on the same table as Gus’.
Gus looked at him and continued, “Should I go and try to talk with her? Maybe we could be friends like before, again.”
Hood was about to take a bite from his burger, he stopped and said, “The only fights worth fighting for, are those in which there is something left to fight for.” He then continued to take a bite from his burger.
Hood could see on Gus’ face that he was feeling really down.
“I am Damon.”, Hood said, putting his hand forward towards Gus.
“I am Gus.”, answered Gus.
“What’s wrong?”, asked Damon.
Gus explained everything to him. Right from his aunt to Julie, everything.
“I am sorry for your loss”, said Damon.
Gus nodded and kept looking down.
“You can talk to me if you want, about anything”, said Damon.
“Sure”, said Gus.
Both of them left the cafeteria after a long time and went outside.
They sat on a bench on the side of the road. It was around sunset time. The breeze was cold and the wind was blowing hard. It whistled past their ears.
“I think the universe is trying to punish me”, Gus said, staring into the sunset.
“Punish you, for what?”, asked Damon.
“For trying to go against its will. I’m supposed to be a loner, and that’s why the universe takes away the people I get too close to. And the hurt becomes my punishment.”, said Gus, still staring into the sunset.
“And why do you think that is true?”, asked Damon.
“Because that’s what has happened all my life. I lost my parents when I was small. I lost my aunt, who was like a best friend to me.I finally found one person whom I opened up so much, who I felt for so much, and she left me too. This has been my whole life. I have just lost stuff.”, Gus said in an irritated voice.
Damon took a long pause, looked in the direction of the sunset, and said, “When you’re fighting something in life, you’ve to understand that it is more than just winning or losing. Life is not a wrestling ring, where the outcome will be either of that. Sometimes, you win to lose, and sometimes, you lose to win. But everytime, you learn.”
“I just want to move on from all this, and get a fresh start”, said Gus.
“To let go of the past, you need to let go of everything associated with it.
You have to become a little selfish.
You might have to give up on your favourite place just because you used to go there with them. You might have to delete your favourite songs from your playlist because the tunes make you think of them. You may have to unfriend some people just because you know them because of that person.”, responded Damon.
Gus shook his head a little in agreement.
“What do you think of the term ‘if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen’ ”, asked Gus.
“What context are you talking about?”, asked Damon.
“I heard this line from Julie, a little earlier.”, said Gus.
Damon took a pause again.
“Have you ever heard of the line, ‘We don’t get to choose who we fall for?’ “, he asked.
“I agree. But we do choose who we stay for.
Love is not just falling for someone for their good things.
It’s about accepting each and every part of them.
It’s not about the big dates, the kisses, the grand proposal, etc.
It’s about having a blast with them just by sitting next to them on the roof on a dark night, gazing at the stars and speaking nothing.
Love is not about the I love you’s sent on the texts everyday. It’s about making them feel it by doing little things for them.
When you fall for a person, you have to stay for them if you want to make it work. The sentence – ” It’ll happen if it’s meant to be” doesn’t mean anything in this.
You have to make it work. Every goddamn day. Commitment is not just about being loyal to them. It’s about staying with them through every thick and thin. You choose to love them on your worst days and on their worst days too.”, Damon added.
Gus was listening carefully. “How does one get back from all such setbacks in life?” Gus asked.
“You will never understand the top, till you hit rock bottom.”, responded Damon.
Damon took out his wallet from his pocket. He went through the compartments in the wallet and took out a piece of paper. The paper was weary and had something written on it. Damon folded it up and gave it to Gus.
“Read this tonight when you get home. Someone gave me this when I was at a very low point in my life”, said Damon, keeping the paper in Gus’ hand and closing his palm.
“It’s late”, said Damon, “You should head back home. It looks like you haven’t slept properly in a while. You should get some good sleep.”, he added.
Gus got up, looked at Damon and said “Thank you. Your words helped a lot.”
Damon acknowledged the gesture and started walking in the other direction.
Gus reached home, had a little dinner and went to his room.
He was lying on his bed, when suddenly everything hit him again. Everything that happened in the past few days. He couldn’t control his tears. As he was crying, he looked at his hoodie which was dangling on the hangar. The note which Damon gave him was hanging from the pocket.
He got up and took out that note. He opened it. Gus could see blurry words through his teary eyes. It read —
“Anyone can be happy and uplifting when everything in their life is going good.
The real test is when you will have those days when you wake up with a heavy heart.
When you will hit rock bottom, and nothing in your life would excite you the way they used to.
It doesn’t matter how positive you are, how optimistic you are, how emotionally strong you are or how brave you are; when life hits you, and it will, you’ll be down on your knees in the dirt.
Each day would feel like a tedious task.
I hope you will learn and try to grow on each day.
Remember, the true beauty of a full moon can only be appreciated on the darkest night.
And believe me, some day, you’ll face that darkest night.
I hope you’ll glow like the moon or atleast try to do so.
After all, we are all heroes of our own stories and no hero should remain dull :’)
Everyday will feel like you’re in a deep, dark cave.
I hope when that time comes, you’ll keep crawling in the cave, inch by inch, foot by foot.
Promise me you’ll cling on to hope, not hoping that things will be fixed soon, but hoping that it’ll eventually get better.
Like they say, wounds may heal but scars are forever.
But promise me you won’t let these scars define you. You’ll look at those scars and realize what it has taught you.
In the end, promise me you’ll never give up during that phase, being in the cave, because hopefully, as in the case of any cave, there’s a light waiting for you at the end of it.”
Gus got up, wiped his tears and went towards his desk. He opened the drawer and took out his diary.
I know it’s been a long time since we last talked. Things have been messy lately. Today was a day of roller coaster emotions. I think, sometimes a stranger can help you more than a person you might have known for years. I realised that I should stop feeling sorry for myself.
I need to continue my life one day at a time. Because, even the hugest of the walls are built by laying the first brick.
It isn’t always about wearing a cape and a cowl to go and save someone. Sometimes, just being there for them is enough to do that.
The biggest lessons we learn in life, won’t be taught by teachers, rather it would be taught by someone we call our own.
Gus closed his diary, and went to sleep, hoping for a better tomorrow, as we all do.