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Part 7 of a series of 8 unrelated short stories, simply titled Edgar, written by me back in April 2013. I feel like releasing them now after being entirely untouched and mostly unread for two years.

Edgar and Albert were reminiscing. They were reminiscing about the amazing, heartfelt rejoice, gladness and mirth they experienced when they left their senior high school. Quite contradictory to the property of days, those days were very dark, according to them.

“Remember having to put our cell phones in a plastic bag every morning?” asked Edgar.

“Yeah, and once it started ringing, and the accounts teacher got rather exasperated trying to search for my phone. He went through the bag and eventually dropped it on the floor, causing more than a month’s salary worth of damages.”

Edgar and Albert sat comfortably in Edgar’s breakfast room, where they were enjoying dinner. Unfortunately, the sun rarely managed to stay awake at the same time as Edgar. Although they were well acquainted – the sun and Edgar – his tendency to dine in his designated breakfast room was negligible, like a writer’s true vocabulary or the happiness of a public speaker. He instead preferred to drink liquids, mostly mildly harmful in nature, in the comfort of his tables and chairs and his well adjusted curtains.

“Let me guess, it was in your pocket all along,” said Edgar.

“Naturally,” Albert replied.

Albert and Edgar discussed boundaries and limitations; how seemingly irrelevant lines are drawn across borders, between nations and teacher-student relationships, between respect, between hedgerows in a garden. Lines are arbitrary distinctions. Rules, more so. “Push the envelope and watch it bend,” Edgar would say.

“When you’re young, the consequences of breaking rules are much less severe,” said Albert.

“Agreed, my friend,” said Edgar. “Break a rule in school and the worst that can happen to you is getting scolded by a fellow human being. Or having a human being call the people who gave birth to you and explain your mistakes, or some other silly punishment of the sort. But it’s all relative, isn’t it?” he asked, leaning back his chair precariously.

Albert agreed. “To a child, the principal of an institution is this devious monster; the paragon of authority, of Orwellian proportions and distinctive hatred. Reveling in misery and fueled by sadness, like an unwilling software programmer, but less likely to bite off your head.”

Proportional with age do the consequences magnify. But even then, there’s always something worse. There’s always the next level in the video game of life. There’s always a new power-up, or a challenging mountain to climb. And once the mountain is conquered, the only way down is a fall, and the taller the mountain, the more dangerous the fall.

Albert could attest to this quite easily, as he had fallen down a flight of stairs the previous Tuesday. He attributed his sprained wrist not to his clumsy fall, but to his guitar playing, which he claimed was ‘going on quite well, except for the playing.’

Eventually the conversation blossomed into more liberating things such as involuntary imprisonment in North Korea and price increases in the local chip shop, after which Edgar and Albert retired for the night, leaving the tables and chairs and the well adjusted curtains to be. They got up, exchanged pleasantries and agreed to see each other soon, as most friends do but don’t follow through unless absolutely necessary.

Edgar joined Albert for breakfast consisting of coffee and cereal the following morning and discussed alphabetical patterns on the wings of East Asian butterflies and the viscosity of marmalade. Eventually the conversation died into a calming silence, like that of a chess match between two old people.

“Do you  remember that English Olympiad you won?” asked Edgar. I think you came first in all the country for not answering questions like the average Indian, or worse, someone from Essex.”

“Haha, yes. I remember that. The best part about that was -”

“You weren’t even there. You were in Sweden,” completed Edgar.

The two had a good laugh for half a minute or two. Edgar’s clamorous laughter hid the fact that his deep insecurities still cut him like imaginary knives everyday. He should have won that olympiad, he thought. He was the one who was supposed to be proficient in the language.

“You weren’t there either,” said Albert.

“Had I been there we wouldn’t have laughed for the better part of half a minute or two.”

Albert nodded. The nod was not a full fifteen degree nod – it stopped just short, at about thirteen and a half. He, like most of Edgar’s best friends, knew of his self approbatory tendencies and was used to leaving it at that.

Follow Upamanyu Acharya:

IIM Ahmedabad MBA 2021. My hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is my personal blog where I write on topics ranging from blockchain, to leadership skills and the consistency of jam.

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