Smoke

Cold feet, Goosebumps all over and a thin veil of smoke around me. These were the least of my worries… more important was the dread – icy cold, lead heavy dread that slowly wraps itself around my heart. Its tentacle like fingers advanced when I was absorbed elsewhere and when they had the whole pulsating thing in their grip, they gave it such a major squeeze, I never recovered from it. That cold dread had become a part of my days and the evenings and the nights. I waited for the inevitable, because I knew it was coming. Even on days when it did not come, there was no respite. It was not an end, a mere break. What solace was to be derived from the postponement of misery? Especially when you know the misery will be back the next day, stronger and more forceful. The first time he struck me, I cried for hours on end. My eyes were red and puffy the whole day afterward and I pretended conjunctivitis at work. The dark glasses hid my eyes, the pain, the hurt, the sadness in them. What they could not hide was the strain in my voice. So I spoke little – very little. Those who cared did not get to hear my voice and those who heard it did not care. I hid behind a self-created smoke screen, telling myself that there will be flowers and an apology waiting for me when I get back home. I’ll be angry for a while, but give in when he professes his undying love and devotion to me.

 

Today, I laugh at my naïvety, my optimism and my inane belief in the goodness of mankind – especially of mankind. But there’s no way I could’ve known. I was young, not worldly-wise enough and ridiculously woven into ideas of romanticism. Blame a protected childhood and hordes of Mills & Boons for that. What waited for me back at home was an evil shadow monster armed with a leather belt and spiked buckle. The welts on my back stung for years – they never healed. Every evening, he’d rip open the partly healed flesh, drawing fresh beads of dark crimson blood. He stopped wearing that belt after 2 days – it stank of blood and sweat soaked leather. He hung that belt proudly in his almirah and soon his clothes began to emit that smell too. No matter how much of Brut or Axe he showered upon himself, he was always enveloped in the perfume of stale blood and rotting, decaying leather.

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