The 40W yellow light bulb in the staircase that leads to my terrace is iridescent. A few moths surround it but it doesn’t harm them…other than, of course, when recklessly, droningly, infatuatedly they convene themselves on its heated surface. Innocent light bulb, poor moths – I think, wrapped… up in a shawl, legs drawn close to my chest with my arms. I hear the winter breeze making sibilant sounds outside. I peek out of the window and see a velvety twilight sky and stars popping out one by one. I sit on the wrought iron bed in my dimly lit yellow room – one yellow wall of which is swollen in patches and is peeling off, leaving granules of its constituents on the floor. It might be falling apart. But I am not. At least not like the wall.
Other than the occasional groaning and knocking of the washing machine, the room is filled with despondent stillness. But I am not. At least not like the room.
The stillness of my soul is rousing. It rouses every end, every creak, every crevice of my mind and heart. It almost feels as if the ‘real me’ has peeled the shawl off her body and is doing things that I am supposed to do. But I am still here.
I let go of my legs. I stare at my feet and decide to do a pedicure. And to buy a pair of heels. And to write a story every day. And to laugh often. And to forget easily, because I do forgive easily. And to use smileys generously. And to persevere to be happy for others. And do everything that the real me is already doing out there.
But I continue to sit here and introspect.
I weigh rights and wrongs. I turn to the dictionary to figure out what these words mean. Really mean. I read. I nod. Really mean. My eyes pool. I let them cry.
I turn to God. I kneel down – facing towards the wall that is falling apart, clasp my hands together passionately and close my eyes. I pray, plead, explain, beg, demand, command, protest, rebel and finally abandon. My conscience barks at me for being rude with God. Next time, I decide, I shall be patient with God.
My conscience says that I am doing great things. But what ensues is nothing good. I wonder if I needed to change things I did or the definition of ‘good’ altogether. I also wonder if I needed a new conscience… and if I did, what were the ways to go about getting it.
I am not falling apart. Not yet. But whatever I have constructed is far from what I had dreamt of. Not that there ever was a blue-print. But yes, there was a rough sketch. Rough at the edges. Drawn with a regular pencil – a colourless sketch. It had rained heavily once… the sketch is blotched now. And the paper, crumbling.
I remember that rainy day…my hands tremble and my body shakes. I keep the sketch back in its old folder and decide to make a spanking new one.
I get up from the bed and give one look at the bulb in the staircase and the moths surrounding it. I switch it off. “You saved them,” congratulates my conscience. And I welcome utter darkness. I manage to get to the other room and open the window. It throws cold air of gloom inside. Winter breeze has always scared me. It reminds me of how each December so far has been lonely.
I close the window, switch on a light and stare at myself in the mirror. I see an irreparable me. Glistening red fire of pain in my eyes and crinkles of dry sorrow on my skin.
I set free my knotted hair to see if I look any better. My long, soft and curly hair falls down on my torso, covering my breasts. I think if I took off my top I’d be like the actress in ‘Blue Lagoon’. Well, almost. I smile. The smile hurts and tears trickle down my face. My feverish self feels a hint of common cold brooding in my nostrils. I may have broken someone irreversibly. Why else should something make me so irreparable, whispers my conscience?
Determined to make a ‘spanking new sketch’, I wipe my tears and resolve not to cry. I manage that. One is surely shattered when one can manage their tears. I begin making funny faces in the mirror. It doesn’t cheer me. I stay there for a long time, staring at myself, questioning my conscience. What wrong had I done? Wherever my conscious memory led me, a part of me was relieved that I had done a passable job. Just on the fence. But not on the wrong side of the fence. Had my conscience corrupted the placement of the fence itself?
Its way past midnight and I try to push myself towards the bed. But a sudden urge to look at my face once again brings me back to the mirror. I touch my dry cheeks and whitehead laden nose. I run fingers over my dry, chapped lips. My faith in make-up is augmented manifold. A fiery stream of cold runs up from my bare feet to my spine, as if pinning and needling my entire body. I see goose bumps surface on my skin. Since the conscience is perhaps asleep, I decide to go to bed. But, it isn’t. It has cemented my feet right there in my bedroom. It wants some answers from me facing me right in the eye.
My conscience bombards me with questions as I stare at my image in the mirror. I stare till something compels me and I lift my arm and place the tip of my index finger on the surface of the mirror. I felt something warm. Humanly warm. Winters didn’t make the mirror cold? Maybe the mirror’s clear conscience keeps it warm. I feel a strong, almost magnetic draw towards the mirror. I squint hard and see a hazy image on the other side of the mirror. The image almost resembles me. The part that doesn’t is the smile the image has on its face.
It feels as if I am hallucinating with my sleepy feverish self, playing the lead. As if Brooke Shields is me. Part of the movie has escaped from my mind and has mingled into reality, smoothening wherever there are creases. Truth is sedated. Hallucination is armed. And I can survive with the sheer brace of my movie mingled hallucination.
Suddenly the image becomes clearer. It’s not me. It’s you. Staring at me from there. Looking me in the eye. Smiling. The touch of your fingertip engulfs my entire self and now, I have my palm resting on yours and my fingers passionately entwining yours.
My lover trapped in the mirror is being rescued. He is coming to life and resurrecting me.
You had stayed there all the while, witnessing all the funny, pretty and disgusting faces I had made. When I cried. When I smiled. When I cried as I smiled. You saw it all. The fire in my tears and swollen lids. My hopes and dreams. You saw how much I needed a facial. But what you saw most of all, my lover, was my soul. And the beauty of it. I saw you seeing it. Admiring it. Falling for it bit by bit. Just the way I did for yours.
And you emerge out of the mirror. And smile at me. You take a few strands of my hair and wrap them around your wrist. I am your prisoner, for a while. You let my hair loose and come closer. You hold my face with both hands, winding your fingers in my curly locks I part my lips and you place yours on mine. Your touch is intense and passionate. Your minty breath smells heavenly. My entire body is aching. It feels as if the hollow emptiness inside me is being miraculously filled by your gorgeous, supple, crescent. I draw you closer; reach to you as if I would otherwise evaporate into the blackening horizon. The edges of my body seem to be melting and moulding into you. We are there for a mighty eternity.
Breathless, when we pull away, I have forgotten my name.
You hold my arms and take me with you inside the mirror.
To hold me forever.
While the rest of me – corrupt and irreparable - goes back to bed.