The jail was a remnant of an era long since gone by. The only things that changed were the people who came and went, both prisoners and their keepers. I was ushered in to a special VIP area, for all those visits made to or by the “big shots” of our fair nation. In reality, the only thing “VIP” about this area as opposed to the regular visiting area beyond a flimsy plywood barricade, was that it had seating. A wooden chair facing a cast-iron lattice work of inch-thick bars was a better deal than what the regular, not-so-VIP folk, who had to stand and speak to their loved ones, had to deal with. As I sat down, I heard a grating sound of metal on metal, as a door somewhere in the building was being open and closed. This was it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see him. But, it was too late to be getting cold feet now.
More grating. This time, it was metal on stone floor, with bits of sand and whatever else was brought in underfoot adding to the hair-raising cacophony. I didn’t realize it at first, but I hadn’t taken my eyes off the door across from me from the moment I stepped into this visitor’s chamber. And now, it opened. First, almost unexpectedly, I saw a constable in stiff khaki shorts walk through the threshold, not in any particularly awe-inspiring fashion, but certainly not strolling either. Then, and it was almost as if time had gone into fast forward mode in the blink of an eye, I saw Jonathan. My Jon. My poor Jon. He looked up, with a placid stare that seemed to say that he didn’t know who I was. My plethora of emotions at seeing him, turned into a lump in my throat. But seeing this unknowing stare, it quickly gave way to wholehearted disappointment.
“Jon?” I implored with every last bit of familiarity that I could muster, pushing every little memory that I had ever shared with him in the upward, lilting, questioning tone in my voice. And I waited.
The constable ushered him to his chair, almost as if he abhorred having to restrain himself from verbally abusing his ward. Not one to miss out on an opportunity to brown-nose, the constable shot me a 50-watt smile, which immediately doubled in brilliance the moment I acknowledged it. Loud enough for people passing by on the periphery of the Central Jail compound to hear, he proceeded to explain to Jon that he was only allowed 10 minutes with the visitor – he made an accusatory gesture with perhaps the world’s most crooked forefinger to indicate that me meant me – that he was not to approach the iron divider under any circumstances whatsoever, and that he was never, ever to attempt to pass or receive any sort of gift directly from the visitor. Again, he pointed at me. All the while, however, Jon just sat there, half nodding in acceptance, but very desperately trying to put a name to the face before him. After his little act, the constable turned to me and saluted a very limp salute, sort of an unholy blend between saluting and slinking away into the shadows. With that, he was gone. Now, it was just us. Jon. And me. Me. And Jon.
I was crushed. He still had that puzzled expression on his face. My face, although I could not see it, was writ large with a painstaking, half-frown, half-twisted-sadness, on the verge of tears. I hadn’t been sure how I would face him. I kept thinking it over in my head; the meeting, who would say what first, how we would talk about things. A million times, and then some. None of those scenarios, however, began with the look on Jon’s face that now stared back at me.
“So, this is what our final meeting is going to be like,” I blurted out, sheer frustration at not being able to grab him by the shoulders and shake him out of this stupor getting the better of me. Perhaps this was the spark that ignited the next event, or maybe it was just a matter of time before it was meant to happen, but I saw a tear escape his eye and make a beeline for the ground, along his wearied cheek.
“Raj…Rajiv,” he said in hushed exclamation, a sudden, lost sparkle returning to his eyes, before he broke down and started crying.
Continue on to the next section - "In The End: Reconciliation"