Fiction by Sonam Angmo

The Room

The old clock in the musty room clanged loudly at noon. Down and out, she lay in her own pool of dried tears and sweat. Urine stains rubbed her inner thighs, turning them red. It was the fifteenth day and she had laid in that room pronouncing to herself that she will make it through. She needed time. The world had closed in on her. That room in which she lay, once smelled of rich perfume. Slowly, those clothes had come off, leaving that soft flesh on the hard floor. Her howls had made her tongue dry, her throat growled with deep sorrow, thirst, and rage. Each day she woke with a start as the clock struck twelve. She then slithered around like a snake, coating herself in the dust on the floor. This continued night after night.

During the day, she twirled her hair that fell against her moist cheeks. Her fingers detected the faded sheen and softness of the hair, and instead, grasped onto an entangled bush this time. The hours passed away. She tried to get up. But today, her strength was giving up. “I’ll fold this cot sitting down.” Another hour passed by, before she managed to neatly tuck her cot against the wall. Her eyes longed for the mirror hanging above. She tried hard to get up, but her legs gave up each time. She started to crawl all over the room writhing in pain.

Each day in the room had begun to last only for five hours. Earlier, she could swear, it had lasted more. Her howls had now become whimpers. Her long bony fingers reached her sides feeling a strange delicious joy at the touch of naked flesh. She had kept that flesh so clean and pure. She was proud of her body, the way those contours hugged her, kept her safe. Now her flesh lay covered in grime. Still, she loved to touch the sandy granules which had latched themselves on and sprinkled down at every touch. Her eyes stood gazing again at the roof longing for rain, her parched throat pleading for a drop.

Crouching towards a corner she scratched her head, taking a few wispy breaths. She contemplated for the umpteenth time. Life had taught her the hardest lesson, taken her heart’s treasure. From a lively, happy, strong-willed spirit, she had metamorphosed into a shadow. The world sat heavily on her bony shoulders. For months she had been numb, till that numbness had dragged her towards the room. Her eyes had always dreamed big, those dreamy eyes now left to an empty ceiling. All her dreams had fractured with her dearest sister’s untimely demise. Staring into that empty ceiling, she wondered about life’s vagaries, an aspect that she had enjoyed with her sister.

Amidst the terrifying silence, she heard a faint gentle voice, a voice that came from within, telling her to get up. She clutched her ears to drown that voice till she could no longer hear it. Her eyes closed, a dream drew her in. A strange memory entered her consciousness, a memory of her childhood. She saw herself as a carefree child, she was wearing her favorite color blue. They had been playing hide and seek. She could see her sister’s white frock behind the pine tree. “There you are! I found you.” The two children laughed loudly, chasing butterflies, hugging trees, her hand holding her sister’s arm. The images changed till she saw her sister covered in a white shroud, forever still. Her body convulsed at that moment. Her world had been frozen since.

Those legs break,

That heart again heaves

The mind boils

The spirit tumbles over

Sorrow feels like sorrow

A wound that never congeals

She heard her sister’s favorite saying ‘wound is where the light enters you’

Raw memories, the pain within.

A struggle too great, the heart pleads no more…

She laid for hours on the ground until she heard a whisper, her sister’s voice which came from her heart. That warm voice spoke, “ My dearest sister I wish I could have grown old with you by my side. I wish we could live the dreams we had dreamed and laughed till our old backs ached. Alas my journey with you was cut short. I am always with you. Someday I shall hug you again. Remember, one has to venture on. We have to run our own race. ‘Know thyself,' know, dear sister, I’ll be on the stands, always cheering you on.”

A smile formed inside her heart and she opened her eyes.

She thought she heard raindrops falling on the tin roof. Gathering all her strength, she made her way towards the mirror on the wall. The mirror shifted with the reflection it saw. She saw her naked self, she saw herself as she truly was. A deep, warm smile curled up those parched lips. Running those fingers, she parted her hair. The twinkle in her eyes had returned. She had come home at last. She couldn’t care less.

The fingers lifted the iron latch. The feet fell on the moist earth outside. That beautiful voice, comforting her said “You know dearest sister, ‘hurt, bruised souls belong to the most beautiful beings.’ Just continue, brave on, no matter what…I’ll always be there, in your spirit forever more.”

She raised those frail arms to the touch of the rain drops, to feel her dying spirit rise once again.

 

Sonam Angmo's story deals with the pain of losing her cousin who was also her best friend.  She has an M.Phil. in English Literature and teaches English at a college in India.