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Sheela then went on to narrate some of the injuries that she had seen at the accident site itself. While she was privy to injuries, casualties and death on a daily basis by virtue of her job as a nurse, she didn’t quite realize the mental trauma that was being caused to Arjun as a result of the conversation. While he didn’t actively participate in the conversation itself, he couldn’t help but overhear it and his head was filled with images of injured people, moaning in agony, blood everywhere. It was an extremely distressful experience for him.
To keep his mind occupied elsewhere and to release the tension, he took out his yellow smiley stress ball from his laptop bag and started squeezing it. This was a habit that had been suggested to him by his psychiatrist when he was first diagnosed with his mild form of OCD, and doing this had become the only coping mechanism which gave immediate results.
As Sheela and Kesavan continued to have their conversation and Arjun continued squeezing the ball, the teenager suddenly gained consciousness. In his half-conscious state, he turned around to Arjun who was sitting nearest to his head and gave a blank stare. He obviously didn’t know where he was and what had happened to him. The first thing he saw was the yellow smiley ball in Arjun’s hands and he feebly stretched out his left hand and asked Arjun for the same.
While Arjun hesitated touching the bleeding teenager and give him his only source of solace on this terrible day, something about the boy’s eyes and the delight in them at having seen the ball automatically made him part with the ball.
The boy took the ball, took it close to his face, all the while smiling away to glory. Kesavan who was watching all this with a big smile on his face, patted Arjun on the back. For the first time in his life, Arjun didn’t mind somebody else touching him without his permission.
Kesavan had seen enough of the world and had met more than his fair share of people in his long life to know that this was a big step that Arjun had taken, by giving the ball to the kid. From the first five minutes of his interaction with Arjun in the train, he had realized that here was somebody who didn’t like talking to people too much, let alone have any physical contact with them, even something as simple as a handshake. And for somebody like that to voluntarily part with his possession to an unknown stranger was a big improvement, and Kesavan mentally acknowledged that.
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