Note before reading: This story has been copyrighted and is the sole product of Shaista Vaishnav. It is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any character, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
“Vote for Jameson, vote for Jameson”, the voice had reached a feverish pitch now, loud and raucous, ringing through the silence of the October night.
“Thomas, Thomas”, a voice whispered next to him. “Thomas, are you alright?” Sonia looked at Thomas helplessly. He had been screaming the campaign slogan ever since 2007. It was two years since, Jameson had been sworn in as President early 2008. Yet all Thomas could do was fervently campaign for him – through the days and nights. He still unrelentingly gave out ‘Vote for Jameson’ posters and flyers, not reacting when people gave him strange looks or ignored him.
One of these bystanders even took him to the mental health division of the nearest hospital. Sonia had to come rushing to the hospital to escort a tired and lost-looking Thomas home.
Sometimes Sonia tried to talk to Thomas. “Thomas, the campaign is over. Jameson has won. You have won! Do you think you can go back to work in the new Senator’s office? Or would you rather go to Dr. Farber’s clinic again?” At these times, Thomas glanced at her with a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. Sonia would allow some hope to warm her cold heart. But just as quickly as it had appeared, the look in his eyes disappeared. And Thomas Castello would launch into a sermon about Jameson – his political agenda, his achievements, his social work and his glorious plans. All these were always recited in dignified tones, as if he had learnt the piece by heart. Thomas’s vocabulary was expansive.
Always a quiet boy, Thomas had excelled academically but had been on the fringes in every other activity. Almost invisible, he was hardly remembered by any of his St. George’s class-mates or his community college’s buddies. The one or two friends he had, always used him for company for fear of having nobody to eat with at lunch recess. Thomas’s parents had left him with an old, indifferent uncle, when Thomas was very young. Their reason was because they wanted to ‘find themselves’ in a distant ashram in East India.
Thomas found his calling, when he was asked to work in Senator Jameson’s office, to help him campaign for the prestigious 2007 elections. Senator Jameson was one of the first few people to even notice Thomas. The Senator saw a strange obsessive quality in the gangly, awkward, quiet 23 year old – a quality which he knew would work in his favour. He lauded his efforts at every opportunity and encouraged Thomas to join his inner circle of campaigners. Soon, Thomas’s only purpose in life was to campaign for Senator Jameson – the world’s greatest man and his hero.
It was around this time that Sonia, the granddaughter of Thomas’s old, indifferent aunt came to live with them after the death of her parents. 20 year old Sonia was impressed with her elder cousin’s passion and drive for the campaign. She helped Thomas whenever she could and tried to draw him out of his work and talk to her sometimes. She was never successful.
Bright and animated during his telephone calls with journalists and media persons, Thomas was his own anti-thesis when he left the Senator’s office. His clothes were the same every day. His routine never changed. And on Sundays, he used to roam the streets of his town or stop by the nearest church and give out flyers and posters on Jameson.
Thomas was most animated on the day the election results were announced. Sonia had never seen him so excited. Even the old, indifferent aunt looked up in interest as Thomas bounced into the room.
“Vote for Jameson, vote for Jameson”, he cried. “Yes yes Thomas, Jameson has won…your candidate has won!” Sonia exclaimed, dancing around Thomas in triumph. She stopped after a few minutes when she realized that Thomas’s cries had not changed. “Thomas, he has won! He has won!” But Sonia’s persuasive cries fell on deaf ears.
Months and years went by and Thomas’s condition deteriorated. His eyes were always searching for something, his movements were animal-like and his words were never different from the ones he used while campaigning. He ate when he absolutely had to and he ran to the toilet when he could no longer hold it, all the while muttering, “One must take a break, one must take a break.” Jameson had long forgotten his trusted aide but Thomas just could not get Jameson out of his mind.
Off late he had started talking in his sleep - screaming in his sleep rather. As if he was at one of Jameson’s more rousing speeches. Sonia was beginning to get more and more worried. She decided to try her last resort.
Thomas was put back in school – an adult school. At first he used to run out, but he was forced to be quiet and listen to his teacher when he was chained to the seat. He learnt his alphabet from scratch, he read books and learnt math. More importantly, the teacher made sure to give Thomas adequate attention. As did his classmates. Slowly Thomas got more and more normal with each passing day, forgetting Jameson as the weeks went by.
During one quiet dinner, Sonia hazarded asking Thomas a question. “Thomas, why did you get so obsessed with Jameson?”
Thomas looked up slowly and replied, “He was my purpose. Without him, I had no purpose in life. I was trying to find some purpose to live.”