Mrs. Wondorf had been really worried about her son.
It seemed like a very very long time back that her only son had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Her husband and she did everything in their power to bring their son back from the cruel vices of the abnormality that he suffered from. They took him to the best Psychiatrist and got him treated at the best known hospitals. The fact that he was in his late teens, only made it all the more worse. It was difficult for him to understand it all. To accept that he was mentally ill. Especially when everything seemed so normal to him.
“If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have Schizophrenia.”
It is the greatest disorder of the youth, doctors had told them. Affecting bright and highly qualified men and women in their most productive and youthful years, the disorder thwarts their ambition and goals in life. Schizophrenics tend to keep aloof and shun social contact. Rarely do they get violent.
It denotes a severe and complex mental illness wherein the patient loses the ability to think and behave in a normal way. The patient lives in a distorted reality often unaware of his or her condition. They become delusional, their perceptions becoming disoriented. They start living a life full of firmly held, but false beliefs giving way to an abnormal behaviour.
But all that was a thing of the past. All that had happened years ago. With the extensive therapies, sessions with the expert psychologists and support of their family, Ashton had become normal again. He had been living a full peaceful life ever since. He had completed college with good grades. He made friends. He had an ambition he wanted to fulfill.
There was no reason for Mrs. Wondorf to doubt her son’s mental condition now after all these years. But somehow she couldn’t shake away the feeling that something was wrong. Something had changed in the past few weeks.
“The last time I saw him he was tall and burly with average looks – one of those people you notice, but your attention is not really pinned down on them for long. Moreover the fact that he was hardly ever verbose, made it difficult to know him more or engage in a conversation with him.
It often happens that you like someone, but you don’t give much thought to it. You’re content in just knowing them. You have other, more engaging people around you to make you forget of any inkling whatsoever, that you might have felt towards such people. But then, when you find yourself interacting with them, you realize there was scope for more. Your interest is beheld in them. They surprise you. And you want more of them.
It would be unfair to call this an attraction or a major crush. You meet someone, you like them for whatever reasons, and irrespective of whether you become good friends or not, irrespective of whether you see each other often or once in years at some common friend’s birthday party, the admiration stays. And if you’re lucky enough to get to spend time together, the admiration gives way to a more solid adoration.
And that’s exactly how I feel about Ashton.
I hadn’t seen him in more than two years. But having spent the past one week together, chatting, talking and reconnecting made me feel like I always knew we’d make great friends. One thing that I really liked about Ashton was the way he smiled- an almost embarrassed, shy and utterly cute smile that made him pink in his face, especially when he would be teased about something.
The humor was always reflected in his eyes. As if he knew better. As if he knew what went through our heads when we teased him and a witty remark played in the background of his head, the privilege of laughing at which, he only gave himself. I’m sure every girl with the slightest sense of wit, would really like him, if he wanted her to.”
Ashton was so engrossed in reading the mail that by the time he finished with it, it was almost time for him to leave for work. It had become a part of his routine for the past couple of days to get up and check his mail first thing in the morning. He awaited Serena’s thoughts. Sometimes they were about him, sometimes about the issues they’d discussed. But always with an appeal. He shut his laptop, smiling to himself, thinking about her. He felt almost similar to the way she did about their relationship. It was easy-going, carefree, and with just the right mix of humor and emotions. He would send her a reply after returning from work, he thought.
Ashton worked as a chief assistant to an upcoming director. They were directing a suspense thriller – the kind with psychotic killers and schizophrenic stalkers. Suspense movies, novels and stories intrigued Ashton since he was a child. In contrast to his calm and timid self-portrayal, he was frantically drawn to suspicious and curious things.
He would read about such dark happenings around the world, imagining movie plots in his head. Sometimes he would even write his thoughts down with the hope of transforming them into movies one day. Anything abnormal or paranormal, that kept him hanging on the edge with suspense fascinated him to the core. And this fascination had grown with age. So much so, that now, in his mid-adulthood he was neck-deep in it. And his directorial work took him deeper and deeper into it. He always had this adrenaline rush in his head. He wanted to do something big with all the story ideas he had. He had worked hard on them.
Now, with the re-entry of Serena in his life, things had taken a new turn. Now he had someone to discuss his erratic and freaky story ideas with. Since he never really was this voluble with anyone before, he was surprised as he found words coming out of him, flowing without hesitation. Ideas expressed and topics debated.
They would talk for hours together. Even though Serena still did the major part of the talking, but just being able to hold a steady conversation together was a big thing for Ashton. Within a week’s time of being in touch, Ashton and Serena had become like personal diaries to each other. The ones that you write each night before you go to bed. They would speak about things that interested them and things that did not. Things that mattered and those that did not. More than anything else they were being able to laugh with each other and explore their sense of humor. It came as a great respite to Ashton after a hard day’s work.
Today, as Ashton returned home, he thought he would call Serena up and tell her how much he appreciated her mail from the night before. He was on his way to his room when his mother called out to him to inform him that the land-line connection of their house had been disabled since afternoon due to some technical issues from the network provider. ‘Please make a call and check if the connection has been re-set or not’, she had said.
Ashton walked up to his room, showered and changed into comfortable clothing and lay down on his bed. His laptop was lying atop him, he began sifting through his mail box. He had to give Serena a call, he remembered. With that thought, he picked up the receiver of the telephone set aside on the stool beside his bed. He dialed the ten digit mobile number.
“Hello”, a raspy female voice answered.
“Hi Serena. Hope you aren’t halfway to sleep. Work held me up today.”
“Not at all”, she said “I was reading the book you mentioned to me about earlier. The one your current movie is based on.”
Someone knocked on the door at that time. Ashton’s mom entered the room. “Hey sugar,” she said, noticing the receiver in his hand, “Don’t bother making that call. Your father just got a call from the telephone company saying that the connection will remain cut until tomorrow evening since the fault wasn’t fixed today.”
As she shut the door behind her, Ashton’s mother wondered why her son had become so withdrawn over the last few days. Who did he mention he had been re-connecting with? Ah, Serena. But as far I remember, she thought, there never was any Serena in his college. Apart from the one that had died in a car accident three years ago. It had been a big news for their small town. Maybe he has met a new girl at the film’s unit, she thought. With a shake of her head she let the thought slip off her mind.
(P.S. I’d like to state here that the idea of this story was given to me by a dear friend. I’ve used some of his findings and data in early passages of the story.)