With the bitterness of last night’s squabble rising in her mouth like bile, she woke up to the tinkling sound of a stream of water hitting the porcelain.Through the slit in the bathroom door, it seemed to drift into the room like an evil spirit, bent on making the morning miserable.She tried to turn over, bury her head in the pile of blankets, block the sound and at least pretend to sleep;rising seemed too arduous a task then.The temperature wasn’t cold anymore and the blankets made her sweat and all the more bitter.She felt her restraint slipping away, like slime.She bit her lips to muffle the shout, a salty taste began seeping into her tongue.A cautious voice met her, followed by a face peering from the bathroom,”What happened?”She looked at him.Foam dripping from the sides of his mouth, lip curled to hold the brush in it.She recoiled from her companion of many years.”please shut the tap”.
He clutched the rim of the basin and steadied himself,his head bent down.He stared into the yellowish whiteness of porcelain,lined with numerous cracks.Two drops of water tricked down on his feet and soaked his socks, two blotches of coldness.He did not move,the stink of the public rest-room gathering around him.The lady who had come in to reapply her lipstick before the flight took off would have had thought that he had passed out had she not seen his eyes, wide open and transfixed,towards the basin.
Life had turned into patterns for her.Long spells of oblivion mottled with painful consciousness.She hated to be conscious, to know what was going on around her, to see the bluish veins protruding in her palm, the white patch of surgical plaster, clutter of bottles in the bedside cabinet and the smiling nurse in her crisp white uniform.The whiteness hurt her eyes then.It made her squint.She longed sink into a stupor where everything went smooth.The visitors seemed like ghost fleeting in and out of the room, the pain reduced to a dull ache.The world used to turn blur, she could imagine the shapes filling her room as clouds, that can transform themselves into anything she wanted.She liked to be dead as she lived.
He looked into the mirror.The dirt on the glass superimposed on his face.He looked ghastly.He wanted to pull out the paper tissue and wipe his face.The case was empty.No one bothers to check these in a small airport.Outside the window, he saw an old man sweeping the yard, wiry bodied,glistening with sweat perhaps.Small piles of refuse dotted the place.Those would be burned then.He wanted to join the man.The motion of sweeping beckoned him.A hard brush to scrap his soul and burning those just like that.With a strong fire, ashes turn smooth grey.He wanted to touch his ash.
The doctor used to come twice a day.A short bespectacled man with a mustache.People used to tell her that she was lucky to be under the care of such a man.She couldn’t tell that she resented it.He came him and pretended that all was well;medical ethics, she knew.He never had bits of egg sticking to his mouth.There were no stray lines in his trousers.The smell of cologne could reach her nose without getting lost through all those antiseptics.She looked at her hand,the yellowish nails were lined with scraps of skin(it itched).Her pores were impregnated with the smell of human soil and antiseptic powder.she doubted if the nurse in white uniform cared to clean her properly.
Every evening he used to walk from his office to the hospital.He went through the regular motions of talking to the doctor before he entered the room and slumped into the chair.A bundle of flesh and bones lay on the bed.The air around the bed used to be thick with the smell of medicines.On some days she tried to smile, other days he would be too tired to notice.He longed to have an evening outside the hospital, may be at the lakeside where both of them used to go when they were yet to be married.He wanted to have peanuts there, break the damp-woody shell,remove the flakes of magenta and pop them into mouth.There used to be an ice-cream kiosk then.He wanted to have an ice-cream too.The blue hospital walls suffocated him.
She hated his diligence,the look of concern in his face as he walked into the room and check her charts.She could tell he waited for her to get well so that he can stop coming to the hospital.Usually she pretended to sleep when he came.The mere pretense of happiness was being too demanding.Every day as he came back, she could feel the outside world entering her room, swallowing her as she lay helpless, propped up with pillows.One day, he came in with damp clothes.She knew it was raining outside.Another day, as he came with dry leaves n dust clinging to the folds of his coat.It was autumn .She wanted to tell him to go away, to get out.Those were the days when she wanted to push him out of the room.She braced herself to pick a fight and make him leave her so that she can pull her misery around her like a shroud and lie impervious to the whirling of world.
There would be days when he used to remain absent from the hospital, making some odd relatives do the rounds.The first day when he decided not to go to her, he tried taking a walk through a streets alone, sipping a cup of coffee at the street corners.He walked the entire evening through the bustling streets.He went to the riverside.There were kites dotting the skyline.They fluttered like the tags that he slipped into those small glass bottles every morning before the ward boy came to collect it;bottles that told them about the gradual decay of the body that he once loved.In the market, the meat hanging from hooks looked like drips hung at the bedstead.That night he threw up the chicken he ate.
She knew she was going to die, rather decay and die.And she felt death flying about in her room, waiting to swoop upon her the moment she looked at it.She took to keeping her eyes shut the entire day.The nurse thought the sedative was working.She pretended to shut her eyes and listen to her innards disintegrating slowly.One day, she could almost vouch that she heard a rib crack.Faces loomed upon her, prying her mouth open and pushing spoons of medicine.They wanted her alive in death.She let the medicine gradually drip from her lips when none noticed.She never called the nurse anymore.She wetted the sheets lay still in the dampness till those dried.The smell of urine clung to her and it kept people away.She enjoyed the stillness around her.She spoke occasionally so that she doesn’t forget the word.
After the first day he never went into the town when he escaped the hospital.He used to bury himself in the piles of file in his provincial office, under the glow of yellow bulbs.His fingertips used to make patterns in the dusty table.He started getting high in the smell of crumbling papers and sound of rats scurrying over the floor.Whenever he stepped out of his office, he felt that he had walked into the hospital,he saw the blue walls, the bed, tubes and pipes sprung up and strangle him.He started smelling chlorine and dettol everywhere.
And then she died.
He got a call, a crisp voice informing him that his wife had died.It was the day shift girl from the reception desk,she had a husky voice.He tried to steer his emotion to sadness as a sense of relief started to grow within him.The last night they had a bitter quarrel..He cremated her in the evening,watching as she was pulled into the electric pyre.It was quicker than he had expected.He heard the booming announcement.He hurried out of the restroom and walked towards the tarmac.The flight was standing there, his salvation.He climbed into it.He smelt chlorine again.