An Act Of Bravery
By Sudipta Das
I was out of my house at last. I had tried to get out before but couldn’t possibly go beyond my doorstep. I was scared of a lizard at our main gate. At times when I could gather up the courage, I was stopped by two of them. Those days, because I was working from home I didn’t really need to go out. So I had decided to be patient and searched online the life span of a lizard which was eight to ten years. That was not really an outrageous amount of time to stay at home and mind my own business, I thought to myself.
However, less than a year after that, for some reason they all left at once. I was pleasantly surprised by that and had kept myself ready with a packed bag all along and the book which I was reading then, ready to discover what the world had in store for me.
Everybody was happy. My mother cried and my father told me to be aware of all evils of the world with teary eyes he tried to conceal. Coincidentally, the marriage of one of the cousins was coincided with my voyage and I wished to be there because I had fond memories with him growing up.
At the wedding, when I saw her from time to time from a distance, all that came to my mind was a smell or to her, the lack of it. The smell of mutton curry which I had attempted to cook for us at my kitchen on an ancient, lazy Sunday and she kept complaining about nostalgic fragrance of our mothers’ was not wafted from the mutton curry, to which I remembered to be in such fury that I had poured the whole packet of every kind of spices in and around the kitchen in the mutton curry and left it cooking till it burnt every bit of it.
Then it’s a big blank in my head where I could only fill with empty kitchen, empty kitchen which was squeaky clean or empty kitchen of rancid stench, undone dishes, decaying vegetables, must be memories from other days. Then all of sudden, I remember crying, both of us, and a blurred motion picture of her leaving the apartment late at night obstinately and I was at door making an attempt to hinder.
There she was again! “Why am I having trouble breathing? This cannot be her”.
The other day I noticed a billboard where I go every once in a while for my afternoon tea. The billboard had a girl who was a famous actor and holding some kind of spice (for which she must be brand ambassador). Funnily enough, I couldn’t even remember her name or what movies she was in except that I somehow knew that she was divorced for a while now. When thought hard about it, I could vaguely remember that her husband too was a famous actor. Isn’t it strange to have remembered those details out of everything? Would I have made better choice if it was up to me? Which memory to hold onto and which to let go? I couldn’t care less though, for I was still gasping for tiny amount of air and started to fidget with the hands in my pocket where a cigarette pack was suddenly palpable in what came to seem an apt moment.
No, the cigarette didn’t help me. Cigarette never helps. Cigarette always stands first at the promise-land queue, but never delivers. She hated that I smoked, couldn’t stand the sight of a cigarette pack with me. She stamped on it, flung it out the window in every chance she had gotten. Most of our fight used to end with a destroyed or disappeared cigarette packet among other things. Once she did the most incredulous thing because of my smoking.
In those days, we had hung out in my place and knowing her habit, I had kept couple of extra cigarette packs hidden in unusual places with the main packet in my pocket. As usual, she snatched the main packet from me during a disagreement and I, with a passive-aggressive attitude, revealed one of the other packs that I had concealed beforehand. At this point, she had gone berserk and started to scream like anything. When that couldn’t stop me from smoking, to my utter surprise, she picked up the scissors from the table and threatened, “If you don’t put that out, I am going to cut all my hair right fucking now”. I didn’t know how to react or maybe I was curious a bit, how she might look in that. She had voluminous hair of which she was awfully proud and I didn’t think she’d do it. So I didn’t utter a word or ceased smoking or even looked at her. The sound of a scissor cutting through a thick bunch of hair had a rather distinguished quality, and also a shock value which made me jump up from my chair to put a stop to that, but the damage was already done and followed by one another episode of crying and sex, on a bed of full of her hair.
“Have you eaten yet?” the ever-consoling face of my aunt just popped up in front of me. She was the one who would take me to doctor when I was days old because my feet were inwards after I was born. She was the reason I could walk now. But for the first time, she looked ugly, just like a face I had seen in Shobhabazar whorehouse. Her eyes looked as though she had been through thousands of men. I wanted to strangle her looking into her eyes just to see how much the eyes could come out when one couldn’t breathe. “No, not yet”, I said, “why didn’t you? Go, this is the last batch”. I couldn’t breathe anymore. Everybody around me seemed like an out of focus silhouette.
I came back the next week. My parents welcomed me with open arms and prized my bravery with my favourite, mutton curry and rice. The lizards were still absconding. Apparently they came back after couple of days when my father, grabbing the opportunity of me being not present at the house, had appointed pest control service.
By Sudipta Das