The next few days were a blur.
My mind was taken so much by surprise that if someone who didn’t know me happened to initiate a conversation, they’d assume I was currently going through the five stages of grief.
The conversation between Vinnie and Millie that I overheard, never occurred. My brain made it all up and it could easily have been Millie replying “I love cats more than I love humans” in response to Vinnie’s question.
After my initial transient moment of bravery when I had the nerve to go back and nod at Millie, I was pretty much weak in the knees the days following that. I spent most of my time in the kitchen with Vinnie, cooking and cleaning up the yard. I even said “I’ll pass” when Millie came up to me and asked me if I’d liked to join her on our usual terrace time.
My reply earned a hurt expression from Millie and a confused one from Vinnie but thankfully nobody asked me any further questions and Millie just left. Little did they know, I had an entire chaotic universe coming to life in my brain that involved existential questions and I did not want to deal with them at the moment.
Anger followed after that.
It was mostly directed at Vinnie for having the audacity to mention “your girl” every single time she took Millie’s name. I tried to find Nathan to spend the rest of my time, when I couldn’t bear Vinnie’s constant mockery but he had locked himself in his room most of the day and demanded we bring him the food to his door which only managed to escalate my frustration even further. I would see Millie while eating dinner and would constantly sweat whenever I felt her looking at me and then I’d be angry with myself for being so anxious about the whole thing.
Bargaining came next.
Although this whole situation had made me internally very happy and curious regarding how things might turn out, all I could find myself wishing was that I had remained oblivious to her take on the whole situation.
If only I had just walked away before Vinnie had asked that question.
If only Millie had said she was unsure.
If only I had closed shut my window when she crept in like a ghost on the day we met.
If only I didn’t have a “potato” face.
If only I was taller. It bugged me so much that both Vinnie and Nathan were taller than me.
If only I was brave enough to go up to her and say “How you doing?”
I could feel myself suppressing the anxious screams from within.
I’ve heard depression comes next. But what I was going through could only be described in the lines of mourning. Mourning a friendship that I’ve definitely lost cause my stupid brain couldn’t muster up the courage to accept the fact that it can be more than that and just give it a shot.
But a few adrenaline- filled days later, I felt myself moving on towards the last and final stage. The stage of acceptance. I’d managed to smile and thank Millie when she helped to move the potted plants and I could now initiate light conversations during lunch with her. I was finally getting a hold of my anxiety and gaining confidence.
But my train of inner thoughts were unexpectedly and very harshly de-railed when I entered Nathan’s room that night, his dinner plate in my hand, only to find the room empty. And his window wide open to the mud- road behind the house.
A painful shiver crept through my spine. I hoped I was overthinking and closed the window shut and rushed to check if he was in his bathroom but that wasn’t the case. My eyes caught a lot of alcohol bottles just lying on the floor near his bed and the afternoon’s lunch untouched.
He had left his laptop switched on and it felt like he’d just turned hysterical and left in the middle of the day with no explanation whatsoever. Even though I’d latched the window shut, I could still feel the chills from the room, which made me conclude he must have been long gone.
I ran out of the room, screaming Vinnie’s name, my mind rushing with all sorts of horrifying possibilities by which things could have gone terribly wrong. Unable to take it, I collapsed on my knees, the very minute Vinnie jumped in to catch me.
It was 9pm. Too late to go searching for him all by ourselves. The girls had made me sit down on the couch and handed me some water. Vinnie was pacing around the hall, her forehead creases prominent with worry while Millie sat there with her head resting in her hands.
“If you knew he had a problem Arav, then why didn’t you do something about it?” Vinnie screamed.
“What? How is this my fault? He always locks himself in his room for a few days whenever things get too rough with his work.” I yelled back.
“And you didn’t think that was taking a toll on him?”
“I’m sorry, but do you really think I haven’t tried to intervene?” I asked.
“It never works, alright? He usually gets back to normal once that phase has passed. I know this, okay? I know how to deal with his weird-“
“You don’t!” Vinnie screamed again.
“You don’t, Arav! Please. Try to understand. Nathan needed psychological help. All that stress and anxiety was never good for him. You knew he had a huge drinking problem. It was a given things were going to go downhill real bad at some point. And you had to do something about it.”
My ego wouldn’t let me admit Vinnie’s reasoning, even though some part of me knew she was right. I got up to scream back at her again when Millie interrupted the both of us.
“Guys, rather than blaming each other we should really be focusing on finding Nathan here.”
There was a brief pause where the three of us spoke nothing.
“We’ll have to call the police, I guess.” Vinnie finally sighed.
To be continued->