Friday, April 24, 2009

There and Back

She looked left and right .Twice she looked away from the moth-eaten doors. Finally, she shook her head and turned that foot-long brass key into the lock. The rusted innards of the keyhole clanged mournfully, called to service after years of disuse .But the key turned, the lock clicked and churned and the crumbling red doors fell open. She shut them quickly behind her, lest the urge to step back pulled her away. They closed with a sickening thud and left her standing in an inky, black darkness. She ran her fingers along the cold, rugged wall that rubbed against her back. Twice she was pricked by sharp pieces of stone jutting out; thrice she disentangled her palm from the mangle of cobwebs. At last, her bruised and scratched hand found the pull down switch. She wondered why it had taken so long for her to find it. But then it had been a long time since…

A flickering, now-flashing-now-gone light shone from the dust covered hundred watt bulb. But what she saw in the dying light was enough to make her swoon .She shielded her eyes even against the dim glow. But she could see the room and its occupants, just as they had always been. Barring the curtain of cobwebs and the envelope of dust that seemed to lay siege over the entire room, it was just like it had always been. Just the way he’d kept it.

In the left stood the rickety, four-legged table, its deep mahogany now a dull sandy-brown. She ran a finger down the front leg and found the spot where she had once tried carving flowers into the hard wood. He had bought her a present every single day that week for her 'brilliance' and had even called on people from work ,especially to show them her piece of ‘art’.

To the right lay the four-poster bed,the only piece of sophistication that ever stood in this cell. It was still as majestic and regal as ever, even though it now lay bare, sans his favorite floral printed bed sheet, the only one they ever had. It had been a blank piece of cloth until she turned it into her canvas and lo and behold! Another masterpiece was created. Or at least, he had said it was.

She sat gingerly on one corner of the bed. She could swear she could hear him close by, saying in his typical raspy, panting but nonetheless excited tone “And this one’s my favorite, this blue one you painted….”. Towards the final days, he must have been confined to this very perch , for she could still see the where the contours of his frail body had pressed against the wispy mattress, the only one they ever had. The one he used to lay for her to lie against and dream on, while he graced his stony corner on the floor below.

The silence, the soullessness closed around. She tore herself from the bed and glided to the very back of the ten by ten feet vaulted room. It had to be here , it was all she had come back for, it was the only thing in this room that had any meaning left for her. And she found it: she knew it before she saw it , for even as the laughter in his eyes spilled out of the photograph, hot, choking tears gushed out from hers. She stood quietly in front of it. The roughly hewn frame, adorned with the intricate designs of a little hand ,was just the same. The little kid with one eye closed against the flashbulb ,was the looking just the same .And, the graying man with the frail countenance laughed on, looking over her. The same as it had always been.

Then she realized what was missing; why her ‘home ‘ was unknown to her at that moment. The objects that defined her one-time abode were still there, but the life had gone out of them. He had gone away.

Big P, her life, her benefactor, her mentor and her God. Or so he had been , until she stepped out. Until she travelled with her masterpieces to places far and wide. Until she grew increasingly ashamed of turning up at this ten by ten feet ‘den’ ,when swanky galleries beckoned her . Until she left the place for good(or worse now that she thought of it). The place where he had given her all he could. But she had not looked back, too eager to escape the stifling reality of her origins to more colorful haunts. But the place called her back, he called her back. Why she had come back today, she did not know. She only wished she had had heard the call sooner.

She wiped her face with her scratched palms, and looked up again with a quiet determination. In one fluid move, she took off the photograph from the hinge on the wall . She hugged it for dear life and pivoted away. She gave the room a fleeting glance, not stopping over anything for long enough for memories to flood back again. She left the light turned on and ran back to the moth-ridden doorway. As she ran down the crumbling steps, the wind blew over the house. It sounded like the contented moan of an old man.


Skywise said...

jaw-droppingly awesome.

Vinayak said...

that last line did it, it formed a tear at the corner of my eye

IsHiTa said...

Really ,Skywise, Vinayak?
Hey Thanks!

Mohit Rodeja said...

I love rug-pulling!
first lay the structure of the story
and then just one line at the end does it all !

also, I can tell you've read your harry potter :)

('4-poster' - in case you're wondering)

Mohit Rodeja said...

I realise i was little cryptic there-

Rug-Pulling is like pulling the rug from under the reader's feet.
it could replace 'blows the reader away' but it's so last-line-ish that it couldn't possibly be called anything else but rug-pulling.

IsHiTa said...

@Rodi Sir : Rug-Pulling, Potter- Understood both at first go !! :P
Thank You :)

mayank said...

Goosebumps...All over my arm..

There were a few expressions that seemed a little too familiar..For instance, the only piece of sophistication in the room...or the last line..Maybe I've never really read those before, but the tone of the entire thing gave them a semblance of being something very near and personal
Raw, intelligent, unhindered, detail-centric writing style.

m y s t i c said...

really good...instant fan here ishita :)

Ko said...

why did this make me cry?