Those who saw him concluded it was a fatal mixture
of a resurgent tuberculosis, an illicit brew, and a life
lived too long beside railway tracks. He had lost his mind
and could not stop screaming. But at midnight strangers
came and committed a medical crime against him,
returning before daybreak a silenced corpse with missing kidneys,
gorged eyes and a case the police would not investigate.
There is a hospital with a reputation here. I do not know
if it is good or bad. All I know is the rumor of a clandestine
deal it struck with homeless desperados. Give us your blood,
they say, and we give you some money. We are blind men:
your bloated faces, your gangrenous feet, the blood sputum
you cough out, your skin rash and your bodies unwashed
for months, they are not visible to us. Go home to your
bus terminals and railway stations and let us forget
each other’s faces every time we meet.
The business community that runs this town also believes
in God. Each winter, it atones for its sins with free blankets
for the pavement people, which some will sell for a meal,
some for a drink. But Arjun has fled to an unknown city
because he did not play by the absurd rules of middlemen
who earn a blood income to feed their clueless families.
And when this winter is over, I do not know how many
of my friends would still be alive. When this winter
of stale fog and freezing nights has churned out
enough lifeless bodies across this city, I do not know
how many would still be my friends.