by Lekha Dey.
I was alone in the house under the moonlight. In the mirror, dying flames of the candles flickered like reflection. White wax melted over the edges of pewter stands, polished like silver. Dull jewels spilled out of old boxes and glittered like the gold that it was. At midnight, I was wide awake. At a distant, the grandfather of clock of the quaint neighbor struck. I saw shadows fleeting past.
And I heard whispers from the past.
The spell was interrupted. By the rhythmic sound of the night watchman’s warning cane, hitting, at regular intervals, the asphalt of the serpentine lanes as he roamed the neighborhood. “Don’t you dare!” he hollered every few minutes. It was meant to chase away imaginary thieves. Though instances of break-ins were not unheard of in these parts, where the rich and famous live.
The next house was nearly a block away. I loved tall trees and lily lakes. The man I married had chosen this spot. It was a clearing surrounded by tiny clusters of forested land in the outskirts of the city. He bought the land and built our home.
I tried to hide the hollowness of my heart. I thought I hid it well. Yet I should have known. Because the corners of his smile faded when he looked into my eyes after he sang the raindrop song. Because the corners of his eyes grew narrow when he watched my faded smile after I sang the sunshine song. “Aren’t you happy?” He had asked on our wedding night.
If I could, I would tell him today…tonight… “Yes, I am.” As happy as the silver moonlight and the golden sunlight. But the thoughts never occurred to me then. The words never came.
But if the thoughts did gather and the words did tumble out…like clouds followed by rain…at that time…it would be the truth. At least the truth of that time.“See, I am not really here,” is what I would have told him at that time.
And I would not have added, “See, I am there.” And I would not have pointed dully in the direction of the end of the road…misty in the early morning and inky late at night. And though my gaze would have swept the horizon…hovering over the hollowness inside and out…and searched and scoured the unknown and the unseen, I would not have declared it.
Because as soon as we had moved into the house under the moonlight…that very same day…that very same night…I found the hollowness filling up…slowly, surely. In the silent sunlight of the afternoon. In the quiet moonlight of the evening. He thought I was happy unwrapping the crystal bowls, folding the silken clothes and placing the gold and silver in intransient lockers. That which will live on long after I perish needed to be protected. Long after I pass on to where I dwell even now, these will remain.
“Be careful with that piece of jewelry,” his mother had told me. “It is precious. It was a gift from my mother-in-law on my wedding day. I am supposed to give it to you. It is to be passed down from generation to generation.” She took the heavy, beaten gold necklace, yellow as the moon, out of the large box, as red as the sun and hesitated. She looked into my eyes and saw something. Saw the something. Saw the nothing. And she hesitated. Her hand shook. Her voice trembled. “I don’t know…” she murmured. “I don’t know why he couldn’t just…”
“You don’t know why he couldn’t just…what?” I asked her. We were still in my in-laws’ house, a nearly thirteen-hour drive from the house under the moonlight.
“Shh…stop shouting,” she said. “The house is full of relatives. You don’t know the first thing about marriage. The traditions, the customs. What a wife should be. What a bride shouldn’t be.”
The wedding ceremony comprised a “signing” at the local marriage registrar’s office and sacred fire and flower rituals at the local temple. I had a deadline to meet. The chief minister’s interview, for which I had been waiting for, for nearly a year, coincided with the day of the marriage registration. I went straight to the secretariat. “She’s a reporter,” I heard my mother-in-law explain apologetically to the gathered family. Dads and moms. Granddads and grandmas. Uncles and aunts. Cousins and more cousins.
I returned in the evening before the party. I dashed to the room, rushed to the shower, brushed out the tangles from my hair. It was the tangible then. It was happening…in the senses. The dazzling lights I so loved, the jazzy music my husband so loves, the floral perfumes the guests smelt so much of…the fruity drinks we got so drunk on…and the dizzy fingers untangling my hair.
“Yes, of course. I am happy. Except that there is a hole…a hollow.”
Because TANGIBILITY danced in the dazzling light…through the jazz, the floral, the fruity and the dizzybuzz…and everyone was drunk…only I could see it all slipping…into nothingness. I could see the silver of smoke as it congealed into grey just before fading out…the whiteness of the moment when present became past… right before my eyes. I could see now become then and today become yesterday.
I could hear the silent whisper of the deity of transience…looking at me with cold, darkened eyes. I tried to rush out to the balcony to get fresh air. I saw my mother-in-law and father-in-law looking at me with cold, darkened eyes. “Where are you going?” She asked. “You’ll catch a cold. Go back in, my dear. It’s okay. It will all be okay.”
I sit straight up on my bed. Throw the blanket down. And drag myself to the moonlit balcony. The nocturnal guard can no longer be heard tapping his cane and issuing his warning.
The night is now tangible. Before it is washed away by the day.
Ten years have gone by. Elections have brought in a new government, a new chief minister. The printed daily which carried the interview has been buried…pushed down by layers of new tangibility. What remains is the memory of an adrenaline rush. Like a scar of a long healed-wound.
Granddads and grandmas have passed on, leaving behind memories of an incredulous sigh. Uncles and aunts have separated, divorced…ripping apart moments of tangibility to expose raw, gaping holes of nothingness. Cousins and more cousins have gone their different ways, like waves of the ocean…so distinct until they too dissolve into the sea.
A streetlight shines in the distance. It will fade by morning.
For now…it creates a halo…a silhouette of a shadowy figure. It is slowly, steadily walking towards me.
Copyright notice: © 2019 Lekha Dey. Lekha Dey is the author of the above work and holds exclusive rights to the content. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author or publisher, in this case www.Cuckoo-news.com.
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