It all happened in a moment, within the blink of an eye. The accident was as brutal as it can get, straight out of a movie. But it took me 10 seconds to speak. In those 10 seconds I found myself staring at a twisted arm with bone broken into multiple pieces. The only thing holding it together was the bleeding skin. In school I had learned that on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the pain that will kill you, 7 is the pain you feel when your bones break and 9 is the pain felt by a woman delivering her baby. I couldn’t help but think somewhere in the world someone was in even greater pain. Then I saw the leg, I could see the broken bone, it was not encapsulated by the skin, it was out, protruded and it was scary, but still a 7 right? Or is it a 14?
I looked at Abby, she was on the phone. I understood she was calling for an ambulance. Strangely Abby was calm and in control, which is something I never saw in her. She looked determined. I turned to Rishi; he was in a state of confusion, as always. He didn’t know what to do. Tears pouring out of his eyes, mouth open in gasp. Finally I found the courage to look at Rahul’s face, his eyes were wet, his mouth open like he was shouting but the voice won’t come out. Lying there with the broken arm and broken leg, looking over at the sky like he was being called to heaven. I was standing right next to him, hoping this was a dream. It wasn’t. I knew what I had to do.
I leaned down, went near Rahul’s ears and said, ‘Rahul, Ambulance is on it’s way. I will be back with you in 60 seconds; I have a job to finish’. Giving estimates in seconds was my hobby, and I seldom failed in sticking to those estimates. Rahul batted his eyes in agreement also conveying that I better be back on time. I got up and ran, ran behind the SUV driver who was trying to flee the scene on foot. I took a look at his car, it had hit a tree nearby. I set my eyes on him. It was just us in the area making it easy to spot him. In 15 seconds I had caught up with him, I pushed him and he fell on the ground. I punched him in the face so hard that his nose blew open instantly. He knew he was in trouble, I could see it in his eyes. I lifted him up holding him by his shirt collar, he didn’t fight back. Surprising. One punch and he had lost the battle. I pulled him back to the accident site and handed him over to Rishi. I shouted, ‘Rishi, if you let this bastard go, I will make sure you will sleep on a hospital bed next to Rahul tonight and won’t get out of it for weeks’.
Rishi was always good when he knew what he had to do. He beat that guy a little as well. I looked at Abby, she gestured 5 with her hand. She was still strong, not crying, standing there calmly looking over Rahul and his injuries. She had made peace with the event and was working out a plan for what comes next. I leaned over to Rahul. He was moaning in pain. I had never seen him in pain. He called me his best friend; I never said the same to him, or to anyone else. Honestly, I just cared equally for everyone. I told Rahul, ‘5 more minutes man, the ambulance is on its way’. ‘You mean 300 seconds?’ he tried to laugh as he replied. There was a little pause as we smiled at each other. That pause lasted over a lifetime.
I didn’t know his pain, but those eyes of his made me weak. My friend was in my arms and I was helpless. I had been in accidents, not this worse but I had felt the pain, I could see him feeling it, accepting it and hoping for it to end soon. Rahul was the one person who never gave up, he was the toughest among us but he had given up. He looked sure that this was his end. I wasn’t wrong in judging this. He said, ‘Ronak, you know what to do. We have discussed this before’. My heart sank, I knew exactly what he was talking about but I did not want to believe it. I looked at Abby, she was shocked; angry at Rahul. Rishi on the other hand was busy with that maniac. I could hear the driver pleading to him and Rishi slapping him everytime he folded his hands for mercy. He didn’t hear us.
I was back to my senses again, and I looked at Rahul. He looked calm now, he had made his point and was sticking to it. I shouted, ‘Are you fucking insane, you dumbass? Is this a time to joke?’ I knew he wasn’t joking. He looked at me and said, ‘I am not joking. I can’t live on a wheelchair all my life. My hand is broken in 2 pieces; both my legs are broken too’. Both? I looked at his other leg, couldn’t make out anything as the jeans covered it, but I assumed he would know the best.
He continued, ‘Listen Ron, I do not want to be a handicap for the rest of my life, I am not strong enough to live like that. We have talked about this. All of us have. You know what to do; the ambulance could be here any minute now. Do it Bro, please. Kill me now’.
It was true, we had talked about it. I looked at Abby, she was horrified. She believed I would do it; she looked at me and said, ‘You will not do it’. I didn’t say anything, I was in shock too. Abby came down on her knees, sat next to Rahul and said, ‘We will do our best to save you, you are not supposed to die’. Rahul looked at her and with great effort said, ‘I want to die and I want to die now’. Abby never fought back with Rahul, what he said was blindly accepted by her. I assumed she would fight back this time, but she didn’t. She had thrown the burden of this responsibility on me.
There was nothing I wouldn’t do to save him. There was also no hope of his full recovery, I knew that. He was going to be a Handicap, I knew it, he knew it and Abby knew it. But this was not the 20th century. Handicaps can live among us with pride without being treated differently. Besides, the conversation happened a long time ago. Although a serious one, no one really thought it could happen to us.
Rahul gave me a look; it suggested that we are running out of time. He wasn’t backing out of his decision and I wasn’t able to decide. Finally I said, ‘Rahul, this is not right and I won’t do it’. He somehow had gained the energy, he shouted, ‘You fucking promised me and it’s time to keep it. I should be pronounced dead when I reach the hospital or you will never be able to forgive yourself for making my entire life miserable. Ronak, get your fucking mind straight and do it. You know what to do; we have discussed this in detail’. Abby got up and walked away crying. I took one deep breath. I didn’t know what to do. Over the next minute I imagined Rahul going about his life in a wheelchair. It wasn’t the best imagination, but I could see him happy, with his friends, us.
I heard it then. The ambulance siren. I saw them at a distance. There was a cop car ahead of the ambulance. Rahul pulled me with his only functioning limb. ‘Do it’ he whispered. How can I? How can I kill my best friend? But I promised. We all did. It was a promise.
For any other person it would seem like a cruelty. For us, it was a well thought out decision. In fact we has discussed all possible scenarios at length for more than a week. We had come to a consensus to not let anyone of us live on the chair for their life. Crutches were fine, but not the chair. Yet it is easier said than done.
The ambulance was getting closer. The empty roads helped it reach us early. I had to make a decision fast. What if the new medical science can help get him back on his feet? The thought made me smile. But I knew it wasn’t possible. It isn’t possible. Maybe in 10 years he would walk again, but for those 10 years, he would have to undergo painful training every single day. It is worth it, right?
But we decided, we won’t let it go there. My brain oscillated between the options of the devil’s dilemma. The ambulance was just a few seconds away. I knew what I had to do. Scared, I looked at Rahul. I am sorry Rahul, I said to myself instead of telling him.
About 100 seconds later the medics from the ambulance reached us. Abby came running with the medics, who carried a medical kit and a stretcher with them. They all looked at Rahul. Abby looked at me. There was no expression. As the medics examined Rahul, I walked away from the site. The police was arresting the SUV driver. Rishi ran to Abby. They began talking. The cops then joined the duo. Probably asking them about the accident. I sat down on the road. For the first time in the last few minutes, I wasn’t doing anything. I found myself lying on the street. Thinking about Rahul, the decision I had taken, deciding whether it was the right one, I didn’t realise when I dozed off.