This month is a milestone for Write...Edit...Publish... as it teams up with Insecure Writer's Support Group...so excited! I'm here with a flash, which is only very slightly over word count. Thank you for reading.
What can you do?
He comes back from the hospital after the transplant, a chance at a second life, and you are afraid even to smile, to show how happy you are in case you attract the wrath of the gods. The post-op at home goes well, except you are still in the adrenaline-charged ultra-vigilant mode after it has stopped being necessary. You are afraid to let go of fear, that’s your comfort zone. The Lakshman Rekha beyond which you haven’t ventured for a long, long time.
At first you don’t notice anything different, if his manner is a shade brusque at times you think nothing of it, attribute it to the cascading pain that's part of recovery. But as the pain diminishes, the difference escalates. The way he brushes off your hand tucking his sheet, the way he brushes off your suggestion of sitting in the garden. But still, you make allowances. You are used to making allowances. That too is within the Lakshman Rekha, well-trodden, familiar territory. You are filled with a love that can forgive anything. You're too happy to sweat the petty stuff.
But it doesn’t stop there. The eyes on the pillow change subtly, a totally strange patina of roughness, direct, bold, searing. They follow you round the room silently and you end up feeling as if a hundred eyes were on you. They are on you those hundred-irises, a weirdly red-eyed Indra, when you are upstairs on the terrace, or in the back garden hanging out the laundry, even when you are in the bath. You feel his eyes and suddenly turn around when you are out alone at the pharmacy one morning.
He starts speaking a language you’ve never heard before. The characteristic laid-back gentleness is gone, its place taken by rudeness. The tone changes, peevish and complaining at the slightest perception of ill-use. You have no idea what you have done to deserve this behavior, the constant accusations of neglect. The brushing off of your hand changes to a sharp smack one day as his strength improves. He shoves you out of the way on another. In a fit of pique at some triviality he calls you a name so offensive that you are stunned to silence. But he denies it when you do speak up finally. Looks at you as if you are deranged.
You leave the room, he doesn’t call you back. You cry yourself to sleep that night in the spare room for the first time in years. For the first time you wonder if life before this was better? Is a precarious, medical crises-ridden life worse than this stable recovery and a future wrapped in roughness? Is this how a quarter century of love ends?
He begins moving around independently. At the follow up the doctors are pleased with progress. He speaks like his old self in the consulting rooms and you feel you must have imagined the whole thing. The atmosphere is so normal that you can’t figure how to get the consultant alone, to broach the subject at all. You both drive back home, in the car he criticises your driving nonstop, your tongue-tied demeanour at the hospital. You can’t believe the change that happens in half an hour, a complete flip.
You can’t believe it either when you come upon him in the garden, holding a pair of secateurs, running his finger along the cutting edge. He says you need to buy a new pair. You don’t tell him that you got the odd-job man to buy one just a few weeks ago. Days later he is in the kitchen sharpening the cleavers. He looks at them and then looks at you and you don’t know what to think anymore. A new fear clutches at you, fuzzy, unfamiliar, beyond the farthest borders of all the Lakshman Rekhas you have ever known.
You stop crying yourself to sleep in the spare room, you lock the door at night. You visit a friend and talk about the problem in the vaguest possible terms. What if the donor was...a certain sort? She looks at you quite baffled and you can’t bring yourself to articulate anything more.
You finally find the courage to call the doctor privately and are less reticent with her. But she too is baffled. No, that’s impossible, she says in a tone that makes it clear she thinks you’re the one who is slightly unhinged. She suggests counselling, she knows this most discreet therapist you could consider. It’s stressful looking after someone who’s been an invalid for so long, Mrs Sen. Call if you need anything. Don’t stress yourself. Goodbye Mrs Sen.
At dinner he is more than usually irritable, questioning your whereabouts. He yells at you, nags you for being gone the whole evening when you weren’t. But you jump when he raises his voice, your hands tremble while serving the vegetables. Your nerves are shot. He smiles smugly as if the tremors prove your guilt.
“Who are you seeing, why are you away so much?” he shouts and tears into the bread with unnecessary force, while you sit there incandescent with fury and heartbroken at the same time.
“This is insane, Mohan!” you barely manage to whisper.
He yells even louder at you. And he’s saying the same thing as the doctor only much less politely. You are the one who is insane, not him.
“No, it’s you Mohan. Stop yelling, it’s bad for you. It’s you who’ve changed. Your heart has changed towards me. I noticed it right after you came home,” you finally screw up the courage to say it. And as soon as the words are out you feel calmer.
“You crazy woman! A heart transplant doesn’t change feelings! What’s your game exactly?”
Yes, Mohan, it does. It has. They’ve put some unknown criminal’s heart into you and you’re behaving just like one. Who knows the chemistry of transplants and what affects behavior? The ancients thought the heart was the seat of reasoning and emotions, the source of all life force. But you don’t say anything.
What can you do?
What can you do?
WC - 1021
A few explanations for those who are not familiar with Indian mythology
Lakshman Rekha – lit Lakshman line. Red line, a line that must not be crossed. From the epic Ramayana (composed around 500 BCE). Lakshman the younger brother of Ram, drew a ‘safe’ boundary around their cottage in the forest to protect Ram’s wife Sita, while she was alone. She stepped out of that boundary and was abducted and the whole epic hinges around the battle to rescue her.
Indra – is the king of the gods in the Hindu pantheon. While viewing a most beautiful celestial nymph called Tilottama, Indra developed a hundred red eyes on his body. From the epic Mahabharata, composed after Ramayana.
This flash is an excerpt from the story I'm developing at an ongoing MOOC from the International Writing Programme at University of Iowa - Moving the Margins : Fiction and Inclusion.
Read the other entries here:
Read the other entries here: