11:03 am: There is something oddly familiar about today’s date. 19th March. I can’t put my finger on it. What is it? A birthday? But whose? An anniversary? Or maybe an appointment? I’m not sure. It’ll keep bugging me for the rest of the day now. Might as well focus on work.
11:36 am: I figured it out! It is a birthday. And I remember whose – Jayant’s. Yes, I’m sure now. But was it the 19th or the 29th? It was the 19th, I think. I’ll look him up on Instagram and check. Yes, there he is. I was right. Oh. So many of my friends have wished him already. They’ve put up stories of his birthday. Morons. Still clinging to the past like insolent parasites. I’m not going to do anything like that.
11:52 am: I’m an idiot! Why did I see his Instagram stories? Now he knows that I know it’s his birthday today. What a mess. I must wish him now. Should I text him? That’ll be quick. But then he called me on my birthday. Why did he have to do that? So I have to call him then. Okay, I will. In a while.
12:47 pm: Today was supposed to be an easy day for me. No clients, no site visits; just stay in the office and finalise the drawings. The most convenient Friday I could have asked for. But now, like a huge boulder weighing me down, I have a monumental task at hand. I have to make a call. That too to a friend I haven’t spoken to in months. When was the last time we talked? Ah yes, my birthday – so roughly eight months or so.
2:03 pm: At lunch I realised my obscure error. My birthdate was visible on all my social media accounts. I have 577 Facebook friends – yes, I just checked. So, 577 people (many of whom I despised wholeheartedly) were being notified of my birthday! 577 people! Even though I only received five or six phone calls on that day itself but then even those could be avoided, or at best, they could be halved. Maybe three of them relied on social media to tell them whom to call on what day of the year. I have hidden these details now; on Facebook as well as Instagram. I think I’ll get even fewer calls this year. So my day hasn’t been a total waste after all.
3:14 pm: Is it too late to make the call now? Birthday calls are supposed to be made earlier in the day, right? Or exactly at midnight. Perhaps I have lost my window of opportunity now. Or maybe he’s busy. People have plans on their birthdays. I don’t; but then most people do. There’s cake and everything. They must be smearing cake on his face right now. And a few of them must be filming it with their smartphones. What a waste of time and a perfectly good cake. I feel like having cake now. Is it weird if you eat it alone?
4:32 pm: I am about to leave work. The phone call will have to wait until I get back home. Maybe if I delay it enough I won’t have to make the call altogether. So what if he called me on my birthday? I did not ask for it. And he did not ask me to return the favour. What do I care for social propriety?
5:21 pm: I am home. I’ve had a cold beverage and a change of clothes. Now what should I do? Do I have any chores left? I walk around the house searching for something to do. I stand in front of the window and stare at the stray dog who in turn is staring at nothingness, then I head towards the toilet to check if anything is leaking. Everything seems fine. With my pedantic eye, I look for something that needs to be done. Aha! There’s laundry which must be tended to urgently. I take up a basket and collect all the dirty clothes, hand towels, tablecloths, and handkerchiefs. I take one look at the curtains and think to myself: no, that would be too much. The washing machine hums to life and seems to do nothing except humming. I stare at it for a while but the machine refuses to look back at me.
6:48 pm: It is time for me to fulfil my obligation. I can’t keep running away from it. It’s just a phone call. How bad could it possibly be? I pick up the phone and search for his number. His contact is saved as Jayant 2. What happened to the original Jayant is something I cannot recall. I stare at the peculiar permutation of digits which exist solely, in that particular order, for the world to contact him. One tiny mistake and you’d be talking to a complete stranger. Would it be any worse? It’s hard to tell. I stare at those digits indefinitely.
9:25 pm: I had fallen asleep. And now I have a terrible headache. The thought of having dinner makes me nauseous. So I pour myself a glass of Coca Cola and sit in front of my computer. Like any other prudent professional, I check my emails, and then the spam folder, just in case. Nothing new. Perfect. Maybe I should watch a movie.
10:39 pm: I have finally decided on what to watch. Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional. I check the runtime of the film – 133 minutes. How fortuitous.
12:52 am: An incredible film! Gary Oldman is an absolute revelation. It is the kind of film I can watch again and again.
12:58 am: I open my Instagram and check Jayant’s new story. Thank you for all the love and the wishes! Do I still have time to add to this love? Oh. It’s 20th March already. I missed my window. Very well, I’ll try again next year.
Satvik Gupta is a writer whose work has been published in The Alipore Post, Impermanent Earth, The Tint Journal, and Architectural Digest India, among others. He has recently embarked on a doctoral journey which, he hopes, would strengthen his understanding of the ontology of human existence through literature. He lives with his family in Jammu.