The grandfather clock chimes anciently over the incessant patter of the teardrops streaming down the blushing cheeks of heaven. A dusky shadow drifts across the chess-board floor and stumbles on the slovenly sheets spread in the oak palanka. He carelessly brushes his palms over his dishevelled ebony hair. His watery eyes drift to an eclectic stack of Tagore, Plato, Chaucer, and FitzGerald and attempts, in vain, to trace the uneven veins of the dusty cloth-binding. He feels the silver embroidery of the pillow biting into his sullen cheek. He childishly turns away his face, dwelling upon the swinging silhouettes of a pair of talgach outside the blotched crack of his window pane. Each tree slaps against the other in tempestuous intoxication, making the shallow dighi at their feet quiver with fear, but not before sweeping the smell of bheja maati and brishti into the dark, desolate bedchamber of this self-righteous lover.
Ten years. Ten desperate, broken, ugly years.
And the solicitous wait is awarded by a long, perverse pause. And a clumsy rationale, 'It’s been a while. I wanted to see how amader rajbari was holding up!'
He had stood there in the thakurdalan, facing her—flamboyantly and vengefully ranting about his perfect wife, his perfect boys, his perfect marriage, and his perfect life; whilst—searching for the bristles of red in her hair and regret in her eyes, noting the silver pattern on her cheap jhumkas, reading in-between the fault lines on the sides of her lips, and hungrily tracing her fragile, silent skyline in the dying light. Despite the famishment, he took a voyeuristic gratification in the ruthless assaults of insanity his words commanded against her epiphany. Yet –
'Why? Why now?' he asks aloud. The indiscreet jharbati sways from the ceiling above him as if caught in a bedlam of discordancy. The lightening taints the shamed marble face above the doorway, violet and white. The solitary bulb in the corridor outside flickers balefully. He reaches out for the mobile phone beside the wine bottle and the two half-drained tumblers.
He dials the newly saved number. Once. Twice. Thrice.
˜ ˜ ˜
Some ten miles away, the frenzied night closes on upon her.
A fine thread of blood trickles down the side of her forehead from a gush … as fresh as the love-bite on her neck bone … as mortally deep as the orifice in her soul.
The vibrations of the phone rebel to shake off the bits of shattered glass and awaken its silent companion behind the steering wheel from her sleep. In the end, they relinquish to the might of the unconscious lullaby drifting from the stereo: Mrityo se dhore mrityuro roop … Dukkho ahoye dukkhero kup … Tomaro ashime prano-mono loye … Joto dure ami dhayei…
Little do they know that this isn’t her death. She already died twice that day; first, in the thakurdalan that evening and later, with his head buried in her hair at the nape of her neck, atop a lavish oak bed.
© Jhilam Roy, 2019. All rights reserved.