A Letter And Its Disintergrated Pieces
By Mohammed Hanif Shanavas
Time. Birth. Life. Death. What do they all have in common?
It isn’t the fact that they are what human beings think of as ever-living or fascinating. It could be the fact that these values or incidents are what makes a person’s life memorable. I often think, how boring would life be if we didn’t have any of these events?
Seriously, think of it for a minute. There would be no birth. No growth. No death. Time is infinite and with it, our health and the people around us. As our world progresses day by day, we remain the same. At first glance, it seems like that would be a version of paradise.
To be honest, I seriously don’t know where this “perception of life” came from nor do I know when this idea was born but I am sure everybody has thought of it. With full conviction, I can tell you everybody has thought of it.
You will not find a person who hasn’t because if you do, you have found a perfect person. You have found a person without problems, without worries or without sadness. In short, you have found a person who is living a “perfect life”.
Funny, isn’t it? God has different ways for different lives yet through all of them he has kept one thing common. They will have their equal shares of happiness and sadness, equal shares of problems and solutions but never one without the other.
I am sorry if I am sounding a bit philosophical but this is how the world works. This is practical thinking, at best.
Alright, let’s get started shall we?
My name is Annirudh Mehta. I was born on October 20, 2022 to a stock market broker and a dance teacher. Trust me; I know it is a weird combination. As I was growing up, mom and dad always had one rule...I had to study hard. Yup, I know. Typical Indian Parents. I got 97% in my boards and applied to my dream college, Yale. After 3 years, I dropped out. Why?
I’m still trying to find that answer. I had dreamt of Yale since the age of 5. It was a dream that I considered impossible. Living and Studying in America was a fantasy that I had for as long as I can remember but after 3 years in Yale, I realised my passion was elsewhere. My parents, as you can guess, did not take the news lightly.
“Are you mad or what? You are throwing your future away for Photography? Since when did you like clicking pictures so much? How will you make money? Will you be able to take care of a family?” The usual.
In my mind, I was prepared for the mental torture.
But ever since I found that rose box, my life has been turned upside down. I am literally obsessed with the letter. Clive Stone, whoever he was, was not an ordinary man.
Everything began when I found that box in the attic of our hostel room. In Yale, we have 5 storey hostels, with 27 rooms one each floor. With my roommates, Jake and Ethan, I lived in room E21. I never found anything unusual in the 3 years I lived there. When I dropped out, my plan was to get an apartment in Manhattan and move there. I had to start packing.
I would be lying if I said that moving wasn’t affecting me. With every shirt, pant or book that I packed, I felt more dreadful than ever. The toll it took on me. 10 years of hard work. Over hundreds of essays, homeworks, tests, exams...All of that, just to quit. What was I doing? I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like Annirudh Mehta. It was like another person, a hostile person, had seeked refuge in my soul. My younger self would be so disappointed in me right now, I thought. Yet that young boy did not know the amount of torture he would go through, just to get into his dream college. Just to make his parents, his family and his friends happy.
“There is no going back. What’s done is done. Stop thinking about your past.”
I had to get my books and writing work from the attic. All these years in Yale, I just filled up the attic with essays, stories, novels, poems and of course, my diaries. I never once looked at any writing twice...when I had submitted it, into the attic it goes.
At that moment, I did regret throwing everything into the attic. The place looked like a mess. There was this particular smell that struck me when I entered the attic. It smelled old, perhaps ancient. I can’t really describe it. If I had too, I would say it smelled like a mixture of stinky socks and strawberries. Both the odures didn’t overpower one another, they seemed equal which made the room smell like a new car and a swamp at the same time.
Jake and Ethan didn’t keep their pile of work any better. Their boxes were all over the place. Inside were their family albums, old war figures and kid you not, 5 playstations. All of which either of them broke due to rage quitting. Courtesy of Fifa nights.
I never had anything special in my section of the attic. Just my work and some things I brought from India. All of the boxes were filled with cobwebs and dust...I thought I saw a rat in one of them. In the middle of the boxes however, there was this suitcase. It was more like a cardboard treasure box, just that in this one, there wasn’t any gold or silver inside. I do not remember bringing treasure boxes from India, especially rose ones. Maybe it’s because I was just filled with melancholy or I was just bored but I opened that box.
Inside were an odd bunch of things. There was a copy of the 2001 edition of the New York Times, a navy blue police uniform filled with dust (which smelled like it had been in that box for aeons), and an envelope.
I took out the Newspaper gently. It felt sort of mushy, like clay. As soon as I laid my fingers on it, it sunk through the thin layer. I couldn’t clearly make out the headline. I had to get my glasses.
“2 PLANES CRASH INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER”
My heart stopped. The silence around me was loud, very loud. With every word I read, my heart grew heavier. 9/11. The incident which changed modern American history forever. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon resulted in almost 3000 people dieing. 3000 people.
Why is this box up here? How did it get here? Questions flooded my mind. The uniform was old, to say the least.
As I picked it up, I read the name on the badge...Officer Clive Stone.
The letter. I had to read the letter. I knew it was a bad idea, opening other people’s letters but as they say...Curiosity got the better of me. The letter had already been opened before. I could tell from the opening of the envelope. I pulled out the letter and opened it.
Sorry if my handwriting is shabby. I don’t have much time. To be honest, I don’t know if I have any time left. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. God, it seems weird just writing it down. Another plane has been hijacked and is en route to crash. I am writing this down because I feel like something might happen to me. But this time, I am not going to run away from my problems. Not this time. So I just want to say whatever happens, I will always be there for you. In this life and the next.
Saying I was stunned would be an understatement. A man, an ordinary man, went to fight a terrorist attack with no fear of losing his life. For his family, for his brethren, for his country, he went to fight a war. I wonder, did he have any fear? Did he have any second thoughts? What happened to him after 9/11? Did he survive? I have to know what happened.
The door flew open. Jake came rushing in...
“Dude aren’t you done packing?
He caught me by surprise. He saw my expression.
“And what are you doing with my grandpa’s box?”...
By Mohammed Hanif Shanavas