Remember last week’s Wednesday Welcome Q&A with Arpita Pramanick?
Arpita has been gracious enough to Guest Post today with a fiction piece about a man who is dark and psychotic…
Be sure to check out Arpita’s blog and enjoy the story!
And don’t forget to check out “Culebrita“, another one of my “Delaney” excerpts as a Guest Post on Arpita’s blog here!
Rosenberg is an island in the midst of a turbulent sea. The ferocious waves of the ocean thrash at its shore, but the noise of splatter does not reach the deep serene heart of Rosenberg.
It is only 7.30 in the evening. We are the only couple in Rosenberg at the moment. The empty chairs, the spread out china at the table, the flowers, the napkins – all are immaculately arranged. Add to that the violet furnishing on the walls. It was like you are in one of those movies. It is my all-time favorite place.
It’s been a long time since I last came here. More than a few months.
Ruprekha is a bitch. I knew from the beginning that I did not wish to be with her. I do not like women who cling so much.
But there was something in the way she wore her kohl – a mystery so deep that I felt increasing hypnotized whenever I looked into her eyes. She was the oasis in the big, old desert, and I had just started to lose my way. But deep within, somewhere I knew that she couldn’t possibly quench my thirst. She just couldn’t.
It is middle of July. Rains lash the city outside. But inside, sitting on the wooden chairs with thick cushions, drinking beer, the outside world seems milky-ways away. A small candle floats in the green liquid of finely-crafted glass bowl. White tissue papers are heaped in a vessel as if to give the impression of a coniferous tree. Not really the best place to tell your girlfriend that you are about to break up. But I have to hurry. Sohini leaves for the States in a few days. Until I break up with Ruprekha, I can’t ask her to stay back.
“Rup… I have something to tell you.”
Ruprekha is sipping orange juice with utmost concentration. She is kind of distracted today, probably rough day at office. She hasn’t been speaking much, and even when she did, she replied in monosyllables.
She raises her kohl-lined eyes. Her eyeballs form the question-mark. I never noticed before, but Ruprekha looks a lot like my dead elder sister. My sister had the same sadness that I see in this woman’s eyes. A sadness that makes you promise that you are never going to leave her. If it was not today, I might have said “I love you” to her once more.
But I do not love her. Do I? No. I love Sohini. Sohini works at my office. She is divorced with a young daughter, and she looks gorgeous in her olive-green sari. I know my colleagues ogle at her. They stare at her at the pretext of looking at the notice hanging on the wall behind her, brush against her on their way to the cafeteria. They talk about what it would be like getting her in the bed while releasing grey rings of smoke. I hate them.
Sohini joined our office six months back. “I can’t do this anymore, Amit,” she told me during lunch one day. We were sitting opposite to each other at the cafeteria table. I could feel eyes on us, but Sohini did not seem to care.
I sighed. Suddenly, she placed her hand on mine. I could barely swallow the food I was chewing.
“It is so difficult. Handling everything single-handedly.”
Her eyes bore into mine, as if she wanted me to take responsibility for her. I could say nothing to her. I did not know how to.
But today I know. She is about to leave for the States, to live with her elder sister. I can’t let her go. I need to tell her that I will be there for her.
I will marry you, Sohini. I tell myself. Somehow, just saying these words gives me a sense of resolve. My reverie of the kohl-lined eyes breaks. I need to get straight with Ruprekha. Now.
“Yes, tell me,” says Ruprekha, smudging the juice off the edges of her pink lips.
“I… I love someone else. I can’t do this with you anymore.”
There! I had said it. Plain and simple.
I gaze intently at the sketch of a black horse on the opposite wall. I have always been fascinated by it – the sheer power and speed that the picture depicts. It makes me confident – like I can do everything.
It takes me a few minutes to return my eyes to Ruprekha. I do not know what I would see there. When my eyes do meet hers, I see a deep scorn in them. The candle light reflects in her dark jet eyes, and shine like vengeance. Or maybe I am imagining things again.
At length, when she finally speaks, her voice is more distant than it has been the whole evening.
“I knew you’d say that someday. I just did not expect it to be today.” She speaks too low. I have to strain my ears to catch her words. “It’s okay,” she says when she notices that I am arching towards her. “I hope she’s worth it,” she adds in a louder voice.
She takes out a thousand-rupee note from her purse and places it on the table. I stand up instantly. “No, no… I am paying.”
She smiles feebly. But she does not retrieve the note.
I never imagined this to go so swiftly. I pinch myself. No, I am not dreaming. I just broke up with the woman I had been with for three years. And she did not curse me once. Did not create a scene. Quite unlike her. Ruprekha was always too possessive of me. Once she found out I was hanging out with a female colleague at office. She came to my office and publicly humiliated me. She checked my phone whenever I was with her. Disgusting!
Maybe this is just a game plan. Maybe she did not react because she designs to apprehend me in another way. Maybe tomorrow.
I am glad when Ruprekha stands up and takes her bag. She puts her hand on my arm. “Be well, Amit.” With that, she leaves.
Several days later when everyone finds out about her suicide, her mother calls me. She is hysteric. She says Sohini was pregnant. She asks me why I did such a thing to her daughter.
“Mrs. Chatterjee. I had no such relationship with your daughter. I am not responsible for what she does to herself.”
I am surprised at how calm I am while speaking to Ruprekha’s mother. Sohini has left. She didn’t stay back after my repeated imploring. All because of Ruprekha. That woman stopped me every time I wanted to breathe free. If it were not for her, I would have asked for Sohini’s hand long back. She couldn’t say no to me then. Ruprekha was better dead.
“Don’t you lie to me, you filthy man. You killed me daughter. You killed my daughter!”
What a shrill voice! Here’s where Ruprekha gets her nauseating nature from. You think you can scare me, old hag? I know you are a widowed mother. I know you have no one to step up for you.
“Mrs. Chatterjee. If you can prove anything against me, go ahead. But if you harass me again, I will press charges.”
I put down the receiver, but I am not so confident anymore. Mrs. Chatterjee was getting on my nerves. I don’t suppose I have to…? Even if I had to, t would be her fault. Her own fault.
These days, I flinch whenever the door bell rings. I can’t be found out.
Did Ruprekha write anything in her diary about the day we met again post our breakup? About the fight we had? But that will prove nothing. Nothing! Her suicide will remain a suicide.
Rosenberg is nowhere near my house. It is not on my way to office. I haven’t been there since I broke up with Ruprekha.
But today the place attracts me like a magnet. I leave office early to be there.
I am thirsty. I order beer and sit at my usual table.
There is no one here except me and the waiters in black coats.
I gulp the drink down. It feels tasteless. My life feels tasteless. Ruprekha need not have died. She could have lived. But she wouldn’t listen to me. She wanted to suffocate me with her disgusted self.
Why are women so stubborn? Why couldn’t Sohini just say yes to me? She could have lived too. But she was so hell-bent on leaving me! I couldn’t just let her go, could I? It was convenient that her daughter was at the boarding school.
“Waiter, bring me another!”
God! This place is suffocating me.
Two women are sitting at the opposite table. When did they come? I did not see them coming. They are talking so loudly. Laughing so loudly. So loudly. God, I feel like banging their heads on the wall and turn them into pulp.
“Shut up, you two,” I howl at Ruprekha and Sohini. “Why won’t you leave me alone? Why do you follow me everywhere I go?”
Ruprekha and Sohini walk towards my table. I cringe in my seat. They shouldn’t be here. I killed them myself.
I feel feverish. I stare at the horse on the opposite wall.
“Come now, Devil. I need you!” I implore the black horse.
Devil leaps out the wall-painting. He is so brutal in his speed. He makes me feel I can do anything.
© 2015 Arpita Pramanick