The heels sound different in the afternoon. Upon the road that looks like old skin, or the pattern that shows up when she closes her eyes in the night. The sound is not absorbed by anyone. The crowd eats noises until everything is blown-up-white screen. She does not like that.
So is she walking in the naked sun to hear the cluck of her heels? Yes and no.
He was hungry. He had to be fed.
She could have gone in the morning, however. They expect her to wake up in the morning. But afternoon is better. Not just because of absence of crowds but something else.
Oh don’t look at me—I’m not your omniscient narrator. I do not know everything. Sorry for giving out the mysterious-girl protagonist vibe. Well in any case, for you, I do know some things and I do know that she likes the sound of her heels in the afternoon sun. So she chooses the days and does it when she knows the power will go out (I would hire her as my secretary—that good of a planner). But she sees the pattern and it is not hard for her to guess that men in municipal divisions have light bulbs for lunch.
She walks near the pavement; it is elevated till her knees. A lot of shops have their shutters down, they remind her of Japanese fans. I never thought they can look like the Japanese fans. Grace got some imagination. And she is walking so much faster now. She climbs up upon the pavement—better watch out those heels—and enters a dark stairway. Time runs like a sideway canal in here. The stairs look like the stairs they may have for bad people to stay, when they die before their time. A limbo. Damp—not the good damp. A decay. An itch in the walls as if painted with the blood of blown-up yellow bulbs that no one bothers to replace on time. Or at all.
She walks out and inhales so sharp, the woman in the plastic chair raises her eyebrows. Her sister looks at her with an equal concentration.
‘They very well feel like under the sea.’
To the affect, she does cough repetitively and hold on to her waist. But here, the word we are looking for is ‘intrusion’. Both of us. Grace senses it and grows extremely awkward about it. Tries her forced smile with touching-teeth. Their reaction does not change. It is as if they can’t speak.
They sit in an open balcony, like the ones they have in villages where the floor can absorb running water. The door behind them is open but everything inside is really dark. There is no shade over their heads. They sit out in loose floral trousers and their heads just looked too heavy on their heads. There is a newspaper in one of the sister’s hand to wave off the houseflies. Both of their faces look…intruded. But Grace is not here for faces. She has someone to feed. So she does what she always does.
She picks up a scorpion from under their chair. Then a beetle. Geotrupidae. And at last, a grasshopper.
Oh was I giving out the mysterious-girl protagonist again? Well I’ll tell you what, Grace is absolutely disgusted. So much that she screams a little. Then to cover that scream, she jumps to her heels and pretends to loosen her shoes, which she can’t because her hands are full. So she just bends with her palms outstretched as if begging an apology.
‘They must be biting her feet’ one sister explains the other, nodding.
And while she is almost squatting on her knees, she looks under the chair once again and thinks to herself the following line:
There is a snake under the chair. Is it a fucking rabbit hat?
What a line to say to someone, if she could. But the sisters will just laugh. That is, if they can. But Grace is scared out of her wits and I’m disgusted too. I’m disgusted at her capability to hold a scorpion, a beetle and a grasshopper without crushing them to death. But she has a husband to feed. And so it is now her duty.
So she fidgets around with them and stares at the sisters. It is as if she has forgotten what to do with them. For a millisecond, there appears the usual doubt. ‘What the fuck Grace’. But then she remembers to smile. She smiles and asks one of the sisters to drag out the plastic seal-up bag from her purse. The one they usually sell home-made candies in.
It is blue in colour. Somehow they all look more repelling to her in a plastic bag. But there is always empathy in her. Like she would think, would they be getting any oxygen? They clearly aren’t. They are running inside the bag like a PacMan game. How can she put this in her purse? Carry her upon her shoulders? Walk the road? They are all going to die inside her purse very soon.
But she does. She lightly slaps the plastic bag so they settle down and traces her steps back to her home.
She has to cook the lunch and he likes them fresh.
The yellow hut-shaped bungalow on the rolling hill. The road wore it like a crown. It looked like a dollhouse. There were waving woods behind it and a misty smell. Towards it left, there was a cluster of blue-sheet slum. They clustered near the streetlight. They made the ground dark. Muddy. As if the woman in the slum who sweeps at people’s houses, carries all their dust into her make-shift home. She has a broken hand but it is plastered. And if you go close, there are sketchpen marks on it.
Grace walks out of the front door but you never see her, it is as if she came from some curving corner. Popping right up on the road. She has a lot of work to do today but her memory and mind makes everything a traffic-accident wreck. Two cars—one way, and causalities. Sometimes more.
She walks near the streetlight into the opposite end, carrying an arm-length stuffed doll. You know the drill. Blonde woollen hair and polka dot skirt. But then she looks at the women with her broken arm and her little girl. She walks over to her and tries to talk to her, not sure if she is old enough to talk. But she surely can because she had sketched a
With a poorly shaped star, on her mother’s hand. The woman is wearing a green saree and a golden nose ring.
‘Do you go to school?’
The little girl does not say anything and Grace looks at her own hand in amazement, finding in them, the doll that she was carrying without a purpose. She hands over the doll to the girl as if finally, pushing in the last piece of the puzzle. Oh it makes sense, doesn’t it now forgetful Grace?
‘My mother’s sister told me to.’
Grace doesn’t understand a thing the child says. Her mother sways her in her arms and tells Grace that she is young and she only says what she feels like.
It is absurd to Grace. The child. The woman. The woman and the child. The relationship. The little girl cries now. Grace just smiles awkwardly. The woman sways her child some more, she has an indifferent air. She couldn’t care less about Grace. But she stands, airing the child. And Grace cannot understand it. The woman and the little girl. Poor forgetful Grace.
It is absurd, even more when Grace’s son climbs up the street to find her near the streetlight. He looks at her and laughs a theatrical laugh with flared nostrils. It is bizarrely loud. There is rage in his laughter. Bursting out of his forehead, out heavy on the shoulder of his friend where he had collapsed laughing. Grace smiles at him but does not know how to approach him anymore. But then there is her daughter. Like a placard, she appears too. Her face drips with the need. Her mouth stays open as if air could never reach inside it without doing that. But the look on her face is not surprise, it is need. She squats near the old beggar passing right by her mother as if she is no one. A subtle wind that passes by the hilltop, maybe. She is that. But Grace’s daughter barely remembers the color of the house she walks in every day, and here I am romanticising her in the wind.
There is so much forgetfulness everywhere.
They make conversation. The beggar and the daughter. The old man’s voice is heavy with the sudden knowledge of how trade still dances upon his hand. She needs. She needs. He makes. He gives.
There are incredulous lines on the Grace’s forehead. She smiles some more. There is no one behind her eyes.