He climbed up the dirty set of stairs and reached the corridor. The lodge looked dingy from the outside, but the hallways were spacious. There were rooms on both sides of the path, and a verandah on either side after every five rooms. The whole building was rectangular- running much longer than its width. He stared into the pathway- the lights didn’t work, and at night there was just infinite darkness.
266. He had to go to the room on the left, right before the first verandah. That way, if you had entered the building thorough the back door, like he had- nobody could spot you at night. You climb the stairs, walk into one of the ten rooms and slam the door shut. None in the world would know where you were. Precisely why she wanted him to come here. Who knew, he was none the wiser five minutes ago, standing in the street.
He got inside and shut the door. He found the switches near the door. A dull yellow light filled the room. There was no plug point, no fan, no mirror– nothing. There was a short table in the corner, but no chairs. The bed was short but wide, and lower than what he’d have liked. The mattress was new, but there were no pillows or bedcovers. He sat on the bed, and tried to pry open the lone window.
“Don’t bother, it’s locked from the outside”
He turned sharply to see her standing by the door, a bag slung across her bounteous front and a bottle of water in hand.
She walked in. Strong, long, calculated strides to the table and put down the bag.
“Do you fall asleep quickly?”
“Me? I’ve had trouble sleepi…”
“No. Not that. After you jack?
“Ehm… I guess…”
“Alright, would you like a bed sheet?”
“Take it- too many mosquitoes. Here, it’s on the table. Take it after I leave. No stains. And leave them here in the morning. Blucky will make sure that they are otherwise, when you pay.”
She took a mirror out and started putting on lipstick. He lied down on the bed, unsure of what to say or do next.
“Take these”, her outstretched hands-shapely and embroidered with mehndi, had a packet of condoms and- for lack of a better word- a metal piece- strangely shaped like a lock bolt. He pocketed the condom and held the other up in the light.
“For the door”, she said taking off her sari.
He hadn’t noticed the door lock- or its lack thereof. There was no latch inside that could be locked. There was a lock for sure, but it had no metal bolt that could lock it shut. He pressed the wooden panes together and bolted it shut.
Four minutes. She stood up and drank some water from the bottle. Then washed the semen off her thighs, in the corner of the room.
“Need some?” she asked, pointing the bottle at him.
She poured it down her face, and started pulling on the petticoat.
“Thank you”, he said raspy voiced. Like a love-lost, pimpled teenager.
She nodded, and starting packing her things. “What do you do?”
“I sell fish…” he stopped short, as if ashamed to keep talking.
“And…?” she probed.
“I write poems.”
She pulled a face, to show she couldn’t comprehend.
“Poetry. Poems. In a book. I mean, I write poems and I get the book published and then I carry around the books with me.” He explained, sweating now; more than what he was about five minutes ago. “When they come around to buy fish, I offer them to read. If they like, they buy.”
She laughed. A full hearty laugh. The laugh of someone who hasn’t sinned. The laugh of the brave. “You make a lot of money?”
“I made ten last month” he announced, proudly.
She raised an eyebrow in mockery, and headed towards the door.
“Thousand. Ten thousand. In a month”
“So that’s why you are here tonight!” she laughed again. The laugh of the truly content.
She stepped out and adjusted her bra. “Pay downstairs before nine tomorrow. Don’t forget the sheet.” Before closing the doors, she peeped in –“Write one about me. I am a vegetarian, but I can read”
“I will”, he said as he closed his eyes.
In your eyes
And the fish’s, I see the sighs.
Looking at them, I whisper
“I can hear your silent whimper.”
The fish and you
Cost me so much, but I never knew
If you or them,
Would rot first; like phlegm.
But if you do not-
When death tightens its knot
Remember that you fought;
But you just forgot,
That life was worth shot.
-Sr Ja [4/1/2016]
Inspired by a poem in a weekend newspaper. For those who can read Malayalam – http://digitalpaper.mathrubhumi.com/681913/Weekend/JANUARY-03-2016#page/1/3