Us and Them
By M. Farooq Azam
March 25, 2004
The music poured out of the cassette player.
Pink Floyd's "Us and Them", soft, smooth and slow: "Us...
and them... and after all, we're only ordinary men..."
We were terribly late. But still Jim was coasting
along the highway at a comfortable speed. The road
side lamps sped past and shed their light into the
dark interior of the car. Sometimes I turned and
looked at him. He seemed tired. He had been back only
that day from college but had come to pick me up from
my university hostel as a holiday surprise. And it was
a surprise, seeing him standing outside the girls'
hostel awkwardly, looking at me expectantly. I had
laughed, and so had he. We had so many things to talk
about; my experience at university and his at college,
but it would have to wait.
Whenever we were together,
we heard this song at least once, quietly absorbing
the soothing musing. Tonight Jim was replaying it for
at least the eighth time, but somehow it didn't seem
odd or out of taste. It was, perhaps in our moods, or
maybe it was the atmosphere. It felt sad and good, in
a delicious sort of way.
"Me... and you... God only knows it's not
what we were chose to do..."
I yawned and looked at him again. I lit a cigarette,
took few puffs and placed it between his lips. I
looked out of the window but could see nothing except
my own reflection and white snow on black bushes,
swishing pass. Somehow it made me sleepy.
"Black and blue... And who knows which is
which and who is who..."
It may take another three to four hours to get there.
I closed my eyes.
"Up... and down... And in the end, it's
only round and round... and round..."
I was four years older than him. But right from
childhood we had hit it off. Not like being together
all the time but... when we were together, it was
different. He was different. Perhaps it was because he
lost his mother at an early age. Not like all those
macho, showoff, brainless boys. He had the special
privilege to enter my room anytime he wanted, which he
never abused. He always made one look at things
deeply. Once he told me he wouldn't marry anyone,
"Why?" I had asked, astonished.
"Because it brings lots of responsibility," he
said soberly, "More than you bargained for. And you start
sinking deeper and deeper. So those who are good, they
face up to them while others just runaway from their
"But those are responsibilities you are glad
to bear, for they are of those whom you love," I pointed out,
looking into his deep brown eyes.
"I don't know... I just don't want someone to
cry for something I did," he said looking away.
"But Jim, why would anyone cry?" I asked.
"Well, I don't know," he said. He was only
thirteen-years old then.
"Down... and out... it can't be helped if
there's a lot
to think about..."
I awoke curled on the seat and noticed the blanket
draped around me. It had started snowing. He looked at
me and we smiled.
"Only an hour more to go," he said.
"Haven't you had enough of that song?"
"Ummm, tonight I just can't seem to get enough
of it," he
He was hottest thing around the town before he went
out to college. Not only because of his looks but
there was something in him that made people notice and
trust him. Combine that with his manners and mystic
personality, every girl from cheerleader downward
wanted to go out with Jim. But he shrugged them off as
soon as they started to be even slightly possessive.
That, no girl except me could understand about Jim. He
did not want a girlfriend, he wanted a friend. An
honest, straight friend, with no strings attached. A
friend like me.
"Us... and them.."
I closed my eyes again. Suddenly the brakes screeched
and something thumped the front of the car.
"What was that?" I asked alarmed as Jim
was getting out of the car. He ran to the front of the car and
cradled something in his hands. I raised myself
groggily to look through the windshield and saw a deer
sprawled on the road.
"It's ok, said Jim carefully, a little stunned,
nothing broken, silly thing ran straight across the road."
I felt very drowsy and rubbed my eyes vigorously.
must be freezing outside the car, I thought. Jim
rubbed the deer and tentatively it tried to stand.
Then it tried to run and fell on the other side of the
road. Both of us at the same time saw the lights of
another car coming from the opposite direction.
Quickly Jim stood up, looked at the approaching
lights and then at the deer, still trying to get up. Somehow
I knew, I just knew what was going through his head.
"Jim no!!!" I shouted getting out of the
Suddenly he looked at me then at the deer and dashed
towards the opposite lane. I saw in slow motion as Jim
lifted the deer, knowing that he can't cross the road
faced the car as it hit him and flung him into the
air. The deer fell into the bushes and ran away. The
car was gone in an instant.
"Oh My God!!! Oh My God!!! Oh My God!!!"
I ran to where Jim lay, his body twisted awkwardly,
face to the ground. His blood was already soaking his
shirt. I turned him over and lay his head in my lap.
"Jim!!!" I shouted.
His face was chalk white, eyes closed. My tears
on his face and slowly he opened his eyes.
"My God Jim!"
It's ok Nora, don't worry, it's ok, I'm
fine," he said in a weak voice.
"It's cold, I must get you to the car" I
started to lift him.
A heart wrenching cry came from his mouth.
"No, please Nora, don't move me..."
"Don't cry Nora, please don't..."
Suddenly he shivered uncontrollably. I took off
my jacket and tried to wrap it around his twisted
"Nora..." he said in a very weak voice.
"I... I wanted to say something to you," his lips were quivering.
"Don't, not now, be quiet, don't waste your
said, holding his face in my lap.
you must hear this," he said a pleading look in
"Nora, I love you, you don't know how much
I loved you..."
Somehow with infinite pain and effort he lifted
his bloody hand and held mine. His hand was cold, very
"D... do you love me Nora?" He searched
my eyes, his hand clenching my hand so tight.
"I LOVE YOU, Oh God I love you Jim, God knows
how much I love you, I loved you from the moment I saw you" words
came tumbling out of my mouth uncontrollably.
"I knew it," his face softened, but I held
his hand tightly. He looked deep into my eyes and knew what I
said came from my heart. His smiled, I felt so much love flooding
my heart for this boy I knew all my life. He sighed softly and
closed his eyes.
"Us... and them..." came the music
from the car.
"You made me cry Jim, you made me cry."
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