Love is a better teacher than duty.
- Albert Einstein
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When I turned 22, I moved away from home to my university dorm. My parents accompanied me till the gates and left. I was very awkward and shy. I didn’t have any friends. I walked into my dorm and opened the door to my room. It was huge and it also was very clean. I looked at the list and saw that I was sharing the room with two other people. Someone called Harry and another called Ashley. I was the first to reach the room. After half an hour, a guy with shaggy black hair and dark brown eyes entered. He inspected me for a second and extended his hand.
“Name’s Harry. Looks like you’re my roommate huh?.”
“Kyle... yeah I guess so..”
“This is going to be a good year.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Our third roommate still wasn’t here though. Harry and I picked our rooms and got settled. Just as we finished, we sat down on the table. We heard the door open and a girl entered. She was absolutely beautiful. Her midnight black hair was tied back into a ponytail. Her caramel brown eyes were mesmerising. She came and sat down at the table. She saw me staring at her and looked away. I looked down in shame. Then she addressed both of us.
“My name’s Ashley. Looks like we’re going to be stuck together for the year.”
We shook her hand. She went into her room and unpacked her stuff. Tomorrow was the first day of college. I was excited. That was when everything happened.
The next day I woke up early and got ready. Ashley and Harry also woke up at the same time. I bathed and got dressed and we sat down together at the table. Harry made coffee for all of us. We slowly sipped our coffees and we set out together. We talked on the way to university. Then once we reached the university we split up to our separate classes. Ashley and I had history class together. We sat together during history class. The class was soon full. The professor entered the class and started immediately. I found history to be extremely interesting. The class flew by. There were only a few more classes to go. On my way to the next class a tall burly guy stood in front of me. I remembered that he was from history class.
He spoke menacingly.
“Where you going?..”
“On my way to the next class.”
He pushed me and I dropped my books. For some reason this made him happy. He chuckled.
I dropped to my knees. He placed his foot on my head. He shoved me down with his body weight. I could’ve pushed his leg off but for some reason I didn’t. I heard Harry come to my aid and shoved the guy into the wall. He snarled at the guy.
He glared at Harry. I picked up my books and dusted them off. I got up and put a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry continued to glare at the guy until we rounded the corner. He faced me and shouted.
“What the hell were you doing back there?!! You should’ve fought back.”
I replied calmly.
“Violence will only make it worse. Besides he’s probably bullying me because he’s either insecure or he’s in pain. And if doing minor stuff like this will alleviate his pain then I will gladly allow him to do so.”
Harry looked at me confused.
“You’re pretty goddamn stupid.”
He stormed off. I took one last look behind me and walked back to my class. Soon the day was over and I walked back to the dorm. I opened the door and saw Harry talking to Ashley. He leered at me for a second and then returned back to normal.
He refused to talk. Ashley spoke instead.
“Harry told me you faced a bully today and did nothing.”
I maintained my calmness.
She stepped closer.
“The three of us watch out for each other. If any one of us have a problem it means all of us will face it together. Don’t ignore your problems.”
I beamed at both of them. Such a thick bond built and it’s only been a day. The next day I met that guy again. He didn’t seem in a bullying mood. I went up to him. He looked at me distatsefully.
“What do you want?..”
“Just wanted to know your name.”
“It’s ‘shut up’.”
I laughed. He didn’t expect me to laugh and looked at me weirdly. I waved at him.
“Seeya in history class.”
Time flew by and soon the last class was history. I was walking along the way when suddenly I was pushed into a corner. It was that guy and he had brought along a friend. He smiled evilly.
“I’ll give you two options. One you let me have a go at your girlfriend or two I hit you twice as hard.”
My face hardened.
“Do whatever you want with me. Don’t go near Ashley.”
“ Bad choice.Now no one can hear your screams.”
I replied with even fervor.
“I wasn’t going to.
His fist came flying at my face. I couldn’t dodge it. It hit me square in the jaw. I felt a coppery taste in my mouth. I fell to the ground. I felt his boot almost going through my stomach. Every impact jarred my body. I was unable to do anything. He kept on kicking me. I was short of breath. I saw his friend pull him back.
“Frank stop.. you’re going to kill him.”
“He better be close to death.”
He stopped kicking and both of them went away. I laid there for what seemed like a long time until one of the students found me and took me to the nursery. The nurse called Ashley and Harry to the nursery. I heard the nurse say.
“No cracked ribs or major damage. But you’re going to have to take rest for a few days.”
She looked at me worriedly.
“Bullying is a serious offence here. Don’t hesitate to complain. We will take strict action against the conspirators.”
I thought about it just as Harry and Ashley came in. Harry swore whereas Ashley came and sat next to me. Both of them looked at me worriedly. It was Ashley who spoke first.
“What happened Kyle?..”
“Nothing.. some guy attacked me.”
Harry saw through my lie.
“It was that guy wasn’t it..”
Harry punched the wall next to him.
“I’ll pummel the guy to the ground.”
Ashley looked confused.
“The guy in your history class. Huge.”
“Yeah. I did see him glaring at Kyle but I never thought it would get that serious.”
I interrupted their conversation.
“Guys, lets go home.”
I got up and Ashley supported me. I thanked the nurse and she wished me a speedy recovery. We walked back to the dorm room. Harry stormed into his room and slammed the door. Ashley helped me onto the couch.
“You really should do something about this Kyle.”
I didn’t reply. She sat next to me and we sat there silently. I went to my room and went to bed. Next morning as usual, all of us got up at the same time. We sat at the dining table and had our daily cup of coffee. I helped Ashley and Harry get ready and I sent them off. That day was the most boring day for me. Ashley and Harry came back in the evening and Harry seemed ticked off. I immediately asked.
“Harry what’s wrong?.”
“He has to submit a 120 page report by tomorrow.”
“I should’ve finished it.”
I put a hand on his shoulder.
“Remember What Ashley said, if one of us has a problem, all of us will face it together.”
He teared up.
“We’ll all stay up late and help you finish it.”
Ashley agreed with me. We freshened up and we started. We kept typing. Once we got tired and sore we took a 5 min break. After several intervals at around 2.00 am we finished it. We high fived each other and Harry went to sleep immediately. I cleaned up and Ashley stayed back and helped. She sat on the couch for a few minutes. I finished cleaning and sat on the couch next to her. When I turned to her I saw her dozing on the couch. She leaned on my shoulder. A strand of her was strewn on her face. I gently tucked it behind her ear. She was really really beautiful. I didn’t sleep the whole night. Ashley woke up and her eyes widened at the sight of me.
“You didn’t sleep yesterday?..”
I shook my head. She smacked me.
I chuckled and she joined in. Harry woke up looking all frazzled. He looked like he was going to fall down any second. Ashley got up and steadied him.
“Easy there champ.”
I was fully recovered. We walked to the university together. We split up just as usual. I surprisingly didn’t meet Frank anywhere. He didn’t show up for history class as well. Weeks passed by and no encounters with frank. One day while picking up the daily letters from the mailbox, I noticed two envelopes addressed to Ashley and Harry. I rushed up to the dorm and handed them their letters. They opened it and read it. It was a letter from their families. They both teared up at the letters. I searched through the other envelopes for any addressed to me. There were none. Ashley saw me rifling through the letters and saw the disappointment in my face when I had none. She held my hand. I thanked her and went out on the balcony. I thought about what mom and dad would be doing. Did they miss me?. Ashley came up next to me.
“Sucks that your parents didn’t send anything.”
Harry has gone into his room. I sighed. She placed her hand upon mine.
“You’ve got us now.. you can tell us anything.”
“You know what I really want to do.”
I pointed to a bench on a hilltop a kilometre away from the dorm.
“I want both of us to sit there and look at the sunrise.”
“I’d really like that.”
I looked into her eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes. They shined. She looked at me. I clenched her hand. I leaned in close to her. She hesitated and then came closer. I kissed her deeply. And on that chilly night both of us were warm.
The next day I went into administrations office with Ashley and Harry to pay my fees. When I handed them the money they returned it to me.
“Kyle.. your fees has already been paid completely.”
I was shocked. No way..
“Do you know who did it?..”
“Your parents.. they did it a week ago.”
I couldn’t believe it. I remember my parents saying that they didn’t have enough money to pay it completely. I was bamboozled. I walked into the main campus. Frank came up to me.
“Man you must’ve been one horrible person..”
I was confused.
Harry clenched his fist next to me.
“I said you must’ve been one horrible guy if your own parents left you.”
My head spun. My heart climbed up my throat. I felt like I was going to puke.
Harry unclenched his fist.
“What do you mean?.”
“It’s true. Why do you think they laid the entire fees in one go?.”
My knees buckled. All three of us were in shock.
Frank laughed and stalked away. I was still kneeling on the floor. I looked into the distance my eyes not focusing on anything. I felt empty and hollow inside. Ashley sat in front of me. I saw her lips moving but I didn’t hear any sound. My ears were ringing. She shook me and my hearing came back.
I snapped out of it.
“Are you ok?.”
I heard the question but did not know how to reply. I walked back to the room, Harry and Ashley looking worriedly at me. I shut the door and sat in a corner of the room. I heard the door open and close. I saw Ashley enter my room and sit next to me. She didn’t say anything. Neither did I. She put an arm around me and we sat in silence. She kissed me on the cheek and left after a couple of hours. I could faintly hear the conversation outside. I just sat there. I wondered what I did to make them leave me. I couldn’t handle it and drove to my uncle’s house. It was about an hour away. I pulled up in front of his house. I knocked at the door. My Uncle Joe opened it and was surprised. He hugged me quite nervously. It was almost like he was squirming. I hung my coat on the coat rack and sat in the hall.
“I’ll make it simple, uncle joe.”
He started sweating.
“Did my parents leave me and go?..”
He tried to squirm away but I was firm.
Something broke in me.
“Uncle joe please... I’m begging you.”
He finally succumbed and told me the truth.
“Yes.. your parents left you..”
“I don’t know.. but they asked me to not tell you.”
I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. I got up and walked out of the house. I drove back to the dorm but I made a stop along the way. Ashley was sitting alone on the couch. When I closed the door she got up and hugged me.
“I was worried about you.”
I hugged her back. She let go. I didn’t spot Harry.
“Oh.. he won’t be coming for a few days. He’s working on a project.”
I walked into my room and closed the door. I dug through my jacket pocket and found it. A bag containing white powder. Cocaine. I waited until Ashley went to sleep before opening it. It was my only solace. All my happy memories resurfaced. I remember talking to Ashley about going up that hilltop and watching the sun rise. That was one of my fondest memories. Then the numbness came and it numbed my emotions as well. Angry,sad,happy I couldn’t distinguish any emotion. I continued abusing cocaine for weeks. The symptoms were starting to become discoverable. I couldn’t focus on any particular thing and I couldn’t feel pain easily. Ashley noticed these symptoms but she didn’t say anything. One day I came home late and I saw Ashley digging in my room. She gasped out aloud. I went into my room. She had found my stash of cocaine.
“Kyle.. what the hell is all this?..”
“Baby.. let me explain.”
She put a hand up. I never saw her this angry. She picked up 2 bags of cocaine in her hands and flushed it down the toilet. For some reason I got angry and before I could control my hand, I slapped her. The sound reverberated throughout the room. I saw a tear fall from her face. I realised what I had done. I clutched my hand tightly.
“Ash.. let me explain.. I’m sorry..”
She stormed out of my room. I chased her.
“Ashley please...stop.. I’m sorry.”
She turned around.
“I’m not mad you slapped me Kyle.. I’m mad you actually do drugs when you have us here with you. Harry and I would drop anything to help you.”
“I know it’s just-
Before I could complete she walked out of the room. For some reason Ashley leaving hurt more than my parents leaving. I started sobbing before it even registered.
“Ashley..don’t leave me..”
I looked back at the stash of cocaine.
I stormed out of the room after I found out Kyle’s stash. It upset me so much. There was only place I had in mind. The library. I went and sat in the library in a secluded corner. I looked in front of me and saw Frank coming towards me. I raised my guard but Frank raised his hands.
“I’m not going to do anything. I just wanted to say something.”
I snapped at him.
“You’re lucky to have a guy like Kyle around you.”
“What do you mean?.”
“That day when I beat him up, I gave him two choices. Either I beat you and him up or I beat him twice as hard. He chose to take it all on himself and threatened me not to come near you at all.”
I was shocked. Kyle took all those hits for me. How could I leave him when he was so weak?
Just as I got up, Harry came running towards me. As soon as he caught his breath, he uttered those words.
“Kyle is missing.”
My heart stopped dead. What have I done?.
With dread in my heart I ran to find Kyle. We searched throughout the campus and the dormitory. We couldn’t find him anywhere. I went back to the room and stood on the balcony. I couldn’t control the tears that fell. Through the blurry vision I saw a bench on the hilltop. I wiped my eyes and looked at the bench. I remember the time Kyle kissed me. He wanted both of us to sit on the bench. I ran towards the hilltop.
I sat down at the bench numb to everything. My eyesight was slowly fading away. My heart slowed down. I didn’t feel any pain. There was no one for me anyways. I was about to resign my fate when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Ashley.. her eyes looked all red and her hair was disheveled. She leaned onto my head.
“Don’t ever leave me again.”
No..no. She sat next to me. She focused on my eyes. My pupils were dilated. I could barely see her face. Her face fell.
“Kyle.. what did you do?”
Out of my pocket, the bottle of alcohol fell.
Ashley picked it up.
“Kyle.. no.. please don’t tell me..”
Before she could complete I slumped on her shoulder. I covered my mouth and coughed. I felt something wet on my hands. I felt the tang of blood in my mouth. Ashley looked at my hand. She hugged my head.
“No.. don’t go..”
I pushed her away and signalled my eyes. My voice was raspy. I was tearing up.
“I can’t see you. I can’t see you.”
“I’m right here Kyle.”
“I wanted to sit here with you and look at the sunrise and in the end my eyesight was taken away from me first.”
Ashley was sobbing now. I reached out my hand. She took it. I felt my strength ebbing. I coughed more blood.
“Live..Ashley.. live for me..”
My vision blacked out.
I felt Kyle’s pulse slowly fading away. My tears fell on him. Harry came running up the hill. He saw Kyle and looked to me. I shook my head. He fell to his knees and screamed towards the sky. His shout was heard for miles.
A week later at his funeral, only a few of us were gathered. Harry and I, a few students and Frank. His parents didn’t come even for his funeral. As soon as the priest finished the ceremony, everyone dispersed. I lingered behind and left a bouquet on his grave. I heard shouting from behind. It was Harry and frank. I heard Harry scream at him.
“It’s your goddamn fault. You beat him up for no reason. Taunted him about his parents. You wanna know what he said when I told him ‘why don’t you stand up to him’.”
Harry was crying now.
“He said you can do anything to him as long as it will alleviate your pain. He only wanted good for you.”
Frank looked and down and I knew that he actually regretted it.
“Harry Stop. It’s not his fault.”
I held up a hand.
“This is over. We’re going to let his death be peaceful. Just continue on with our lives.”
Those words were the hardest for me. A piece of me died back there with him. Frank never bullied anyone again.
And I continued to live on for Kyle.