"On the edge" by Siddharth Murali

“There’s always a price,” she said suddenly without looking at him, dispelling the comfortable silence that had settled between them. They sat on a rock ledge, and she was leaning forward with her legs dangling out. Only her back was visible to him as he sat a little away from the edge. He wasn’t too fond of heights. He looked at her, a little surprised at the vagueness; the spontaneity; however, he was now used to. “What do you mean?” he asked. There was a small pause as she continued to stare ahead in the distance. “Haven’t you thought about it?” came the reply. Her voice was soft and the wind wasn’t helping; it came in small periodic rushes.

His alcohol addled brain struggled to keep pace. He didn’t understand what she was asking. He frowned. She had definitely drunk more than him, yet she seemed more in control than when she was sober. In sobriety, she was usually prone to her random impulses and ideas. She would suddenly come forth, bursting: ‘I want to go fishing! I’ve always wondered how they manage in such small boats’, ‘We should rent some bikes and go riding on the coast! What do you say, Brad?’, ‘We should totally crash this party, Lex. I’ll show those bastards’, ‘I’m going to write a book! What do you say, Will? Will you edit it?’ ‘These fucking essays are killing me. Take me away from this, Amar’. Addressing him by different names was her idea of humour, and for the most part, he found it funny. Ironically, he found it a little personal too.

This was one of those impulse-driven evenings. “Let’s get wasted tonight, Jack!” she’d said earlier that afternoon and here they were.

He tried to form some coherent response to her question. Thankfully, she continued, “No matter what I do or don’t do, there’s always a compromise. It’s like I either give up these ties for the strife of exception or settle with people for mediocrity”. The use of the singular ‘I’ stung like always, but like always, he didn’t bring it up. How could he? It was not as if she owed him anything. It would be selfish to ask about it, not to mention the unbearable awkwardness of such an intimate inquiry. No, they weren’t even close to such a conversation. Instead, he took the subtler path, “What do you want to do?”. She turned suddenly and looked at him with a curious expression. He flushed. Was it too out of context? Was he being too inquisitive? Her gaze lingered a moment, and apparently thinking nothing of it, she looked ahead again. He sighed a sigh of relief. There was a longer pause as a quiet enveloped them again. The sound of the wind reigned again and blew against them persistently. He calmed down a little and blinked groggily. He tried to see what she was looking at. He hoped to at least catch a glimpse of it.

Below the rock ledge that they sat on, there was a steep drop. It hugged rock on one side and fell into a cluster of dark green trees at the bottom. The forest of evergreens spread out beneath them. In the distance, it grew sparse and petered out to the shoreline that ran across the landscape. Beyond the coast, the shimmering navy sea stretched out to meet the darkening horizon. There were a few dark spots on the water, presumably fishing boats reeling in their last catch of the day. His eyes skirted across the scene aimlessly and finally came to rest on her. Strands of her hair were flowing in the wind around her. The rest of the scene was now a backdrop.

“There are many things I want to do — so many things. You’d be surprised”, she finally replied. Her gaze was fixed in the distance. The light was fading quickly now and the wind was getting stronger. He wished that she would speak up. He leaned closer as she began speaking again. “Wait, who am I kidding? I have no idea what I want to do. I’m completely lost”. What was she getting at? His head felt heavy and his vision grew unfocused around her form. She shook her head violently and kept talking, “But what is the point anyway. What is the point of anything at all? We’re all going to die anyway and everything will be lost in time. It’s not as if — ”. Her voice was almost a whisper and the wind stole the rest of the sentence but the sadness in her voice was enough for him to instinctively ask, “Are you okay, Ida?”. There was real concern in his voice.

Ida’s silhouette became still and she was leaning dangerously over the edge. A silence ensued for the third time and this time it was tense. He was slow — his mind was lagging and his body was asleep. He reached out instinctively when she promptly turned around and said cheerfully, “Aww, looks like little Taym is concerned for me”. The tension dissolved in a flash. She patted his cheek, teasingly. He was caught off guard by her use of his real name and he didn’t notice the slightly higher tone of voice or the quickness in speech. Or perhaps, he was just plain drunk.

He drew back, embarrassed, waving his hand dismissively, and tried to play it off. But she wouldn’t hear of it. She continued to tease him as they unsteadily made their way back, holding each other for support. However, it was evident that Taym needed it a great deal more than Ida.

Editorial: This story is a sweet little conversation between two drunk friends, and it meanders on like a tipsy road, wanting you to feel the drunken-ness and to enjoy the everyday joys of life. By the time you reach the end, there'll surely be a smile laced across your face. (Som)

Siddharth is a research student now entering his third year of college. He is an aspiring writer, who got into it like most others: spurred by the love of reading. He hopes to put something down that will last. He sets outrageous goals for himself and is delusional to a fault. He says so himself, but he believes that its what keeps him going. You can expect more pieces by him in the future.