My Imaginings

Aashutosh Dhungana

A bullet hits your hand. You get a comminuted fracture. A bullet hits your thigh; muscles get harmed significantly. A bullet hits your head; you die. In my 15 years-long service, I saw many officers get shot. While I myself narrowly escaped a few encounters, I witnessed some of my closest colleagues lay dead in the filthy streets of the city. I was introverted and quiet in the initial phases of my work. The colleagues, however, were always frank. I was acquainted with the highest-ranking officers and the narrowest hidden lanes of the city through them. The amount of significance that our team was provided with always reminded me of the critical nature of our work.

Our job really is just a matter of seconds. The goons come in a motorcycle, they aim, they shoot and before the crowd panics, they vanish. When a person five meters apart shoots you all of sudden, the speed of the bullet is so high that you would not be able to swerve even if it travelled thousand times slower. If there is anything you can do in that particular time frame, it is to widen your eyes in surprise. But, astonishingly, if you are a family guy, you will get a glimpse of your son walking down the stairs while your wife holds your hand and you look into her eyes. Things will fade thereafter. In less than a second will lay the body of yours in an indifferent filthy street. In less than a minute, it will be the crowd staring at you; you who is devoid of life. However, it is not always the case. The accuracy of the shooter determines your faith — a comminuted fracture or death.

The nature of my work may look extremely threatening to you. But there is a tempting side too- the side that the money in the work offers. Nationality first drives you into this work. However, when your contribution to the country remains unappreciated and you grow disappointed, money sticks you to the job. The risk in the work is always high but so is the reward. You ought to devote fifteen years of your life to the service and you get a pension salary more than necessary. If you are fortunate enough, you may get a medal too. Then? It will be you, your wife, and your son dressed in cashmere coats enjoying the night sky at Rue de Rivoli, Paris. Chicken cassoulet will suit the drizzling night. Your son will love it- the haute cuisine. He will insist you try. But despite his insistence, you won’t. You will just smile; watch him eat.

It was the last mission before my retirement. The crew was astronomically boring. I was the head. The newcomers that were extremely introverted came up with silly jokes to keep up the conversations at times. I, in response, blew a few puffs of cigarettes to conceal my exasperation. The inability of the newcomers to communicate or my inability to comfort them, whatever it was, we failed to foster that rigorous vibe in our team.

One week after the recruitment, we started spending most of our time on those same streets, monitoring the activities of suspected criminals. The newcomers were attuned to the pungent smell of the streets, the local street food, and the utterly boring nature of the work in no time.

“The only bad thing about street food is that it can cause you cancer,” I used to tell them.

“We will have to accustom to the food now.” They would smile.

“With my grumpy nature too.” I would blink my eyes at an irritating newcomer as a satire. They all would laugh. I would hug the grumpy newcomer, smile, tread around and take them all to a new place.

A similar sluggish evening. While the crew was discussing the suspects and trying to arrange the set of events that occurred in chronology, I interrupted.

“We are going to eat raw chicken today,” I told them.

“Raw chicken?” they asked incredulously.

“You can’t deny your head. After all, I am the one to provide you with recommendations.”

The officers look at me with a strained smile. Newcomers take your jokes seriously at times- so you have to provide them an elaboration.

“They call it chicken sashimi. I am going to try it. Officers used to try it before their retirement. Years later, I have the turn.”

They all were introverted to object.  I would not consider any objections anyway.

I was acquainted with the place. The place was acquainted with my reputation. So, there was always an exaggerated form of respect that I received despite my friendly and extroverted behaviour. The crew loved it- receiving a massive amount of attention. But I hated it.

“The beer is good here,” I told them as the owner pulled the chair out for me.

“I will be trying the chicken sashimi today. They will have a beer.”

“Great, Sir. Your presence will be missed in the future. Happy retirement!” The owner nodded for the last time.

I excused myself to the washroom as the crew again started discussions on the suspects. The place was jammed. I had to push myself through the throng to find the way to the washroom. As I got into the washroom, I was shocked. My gun was missing. I opened the door in astonishment. An old man, 80 years or older, was standing at the door. He stared at me and silently handed me a doll. I froze. I was hallucinated. Seconds later, as I regained some consciousness, I realized I was hit with a bullet in my stomach; two shots.

As I would stare at ceilings at night, my imaginings would always horrify me. And, as I laid almost dead at the door while countless people stared at me, the same image prowled around my mind. It horrified me- the image of my son walking down the stairs. I wanted to watch him eat.