Ananya Dutta

Abstract Others


Ananya Dutta

Abstract Others

Against Myself

Against Myself

26 mins

Jockey Tight Pants, Velvety Inner, cotton raiment, super comfortable and soft, L, 38 in size. The stickers on my dress were no less than tiny panoply of bits of confetti, and a little too bright that the reflection of the light, one that stood right above my head, from its pieces of glitter seemingly impaled my eyes. My eyelids closed in, and pressed further inside the lower line of my eye balls. It took me a moment to accustom to the white light in the bathroom with my eyes that were still drowsy; a fatigue of some unknown kind pestered them. I struggled opening my eyes. The inlay gleamed only brighter, but I came to acclimatize my vision quite right. I read the sticker for a second time, with an intention of not having to ever see it again. I knew I was going to dispose it off. Indeed, I was certainly going to. “Lyra leggings, your legs, your lyra. L, 38 in size.” I read it out to myself, almost in a whisper, fearing the echo around.

Following a few days of my sojourn at home, and soon after I made it home back from the University, the iteration of certain details had slipped into the list of my habits; I didn’t know if I really appreciated it. I clasped one of the Couture Glaze stickers with the thumb and the index finger of my left hand. My head commenced making me very much aware of the crick that had developed at the top of my spine at the back. I had been gazing laterally for about a quarter of an hour now. I tightened my grip on the sticker, and almost tore it out of my dress. Yes, I almost did because I knew I wanted to. The size ‘L’ had a raised velvety stitch on it, and was the only part palpable on my left thumb as I rubbed it against its borders, with an intention of smearing the velvet of ; the desire was however, too inchoate. I had not got the faintest idea of what awaited me.

The eight centimeters long plastic coil that ran through the aperture that had been carved somewhere about its top left vertex was bothering my skin. I knew I couldn’t carry on the dress with such a constant prick on the skin of my shoulder at the back. I had put on the dress without thinking for once. It was georgette with raglan arms that had a transparent network of appliqué on both of its sleeves. The latter beautifully floral and in a blue hue, ran all from the top of the neckline and all along the edges of the sleeves. The chambray had a pale white shade which was precisely putting my cerise camisole on display. I thought I must look like a slut, and couldn’t bring myself to take a dekko in the mirror just for the sake of my embarrassment– uh huh, just for the sake of it. I needed to feel, if not really have it in myself, the guilt that was in me – the guilt of having failed for the sixteenth time; my chagrin was inevitably intense beneath my camisole. It felt like I could sense the injury of a fresh wound.

The possibility that I would actually look like a slut quashed all the strength I had within to steal merely a single glimpse of myself on the mirror. It was an absolute scrimmage, and infuriated me inasmuch I was rendered to hover inside my mind. Although, I was aware of how worthless it was for me to interrogate, for I knew I didn’t know the answer and thus, didn’t nurture any soupcon of anticipation to find one in response, I whispered, “What’s wrong?” As expected, I could figure nothing out of it; I only remained in the transition from having a desire of a kind at one moment and the antithesis of that on the other that followed the quondam moment consecutively. I surmised if I could ever decipher the secret of our bodies, their stillness’ actually. It was always such a phenomenal occurrence I found so enigmatic.

To put it in few words, it was a topic that tantalized me; I conjectured that was the reason I was so drawn towards it. Wasn’t it ironical how the body managed the dearth of every movement whilst there was a pandemonium echoing inside? I wondered if anyone would find it stupid – rather absurd I supposed. Just like that, surprisingly, entirely unaffected by the internal mayhem of my desires, on the outside, my gaze only appeared as a stare, evidently transfixed at one spot of my body. I didn’t know how to laugh at that irony. Somehow, I wished I had never appraised it at the first place. The mirror at the back sketched my posture on the pane on which my eyes accidentally fell. And there it was. Someone endeavors and strives in every way possible, tweaks and wrenches one’s legs, arms, neck and head in ways they know they shouldn’t, but do it anyway. What for? Some do it to satiate that ravenous voice inside their heads that only demands more. Some do it because they simply can’t help it while some others concede with the call to get the heck out of the feeling that they didn’t go the other way, the trajectory of relinquishment, and to know that they tried one more time to not care.

Yes, weird reasons they are. Absolutely meaningless, let alone their plausibility. No one cares to consider it either. But the cries are always too plangent, strident loud and hard to take. One should know. Just as that, it was also true for me. You see, I too had my reason or reasons for complying with what a part of me knew was wrong. Only if I knew that it was fatal too. You don’t like to look at the mirror and evaluate every inch of what you see. But sometimes, it’s not under your voluntary control. It is merely meant to be that way, like you have to be berserk. Strange, isn’t it? It is all about you yet, you don’t get to have a say in it. Perhaps, that’s what losing oneself means, and how we wish we knew the enemy just for once or see its face. Sadly, we don’t even get to have that much. All too likewise, there it was. There it was on the pane of the mirror that stood at two feet from me – now I couldn’t help noticing. I traced the skin of my right arm down to the corresponding wrist. It felt smooth, almost like the surface of cream with the thin layer of its texture on it.

The only aspect about it that made it all worse was that I still detested it. I didn’t like the touch of my own forefinger, and was rather terrified at the thought of why that was so because I knew it - oh I surely did. My left thumb ascertained a mole at about the edge of my upper right arm which had developed a leathery form with lesions all over. I saw that it was light black and deep brown in color, and certainly merely complemented my skin – indeed, how could it not? I saw myself as a stupid knucklehead for even bothering to appraise a matter that was as plain as a pikestaff. I stooped downwind to take a closer look at it. Yes, it appeared just as I had envisioned it to be.

The rugged splash of the mole against the small area of my left thumb was abruptly too palpable, and I could tell it was not too rough, only that it felt like it was. “Era, are you or are you not done yet? You do know Ramese in these contexts, don’t you?”, my mother spoke as she almost thwacked the door of the washroom that was constructed en suite, breaking into the fracas inside my mind. I didn’t know it could also be that easy for someone to drag one out of one’s thoughts that you would struggle day and night with, wishing to avert an encounter, only to miserably fail. You see, the labyrinth always had it – the upper hand. I blinked twice at the sheet of glass the mirror held upfront.

Although, deteriorated at its edges, I found myself reverting to my stance in the real picture, only that the reality still stood much afar for me to come back to. “I am aware mother. I know that.”, I managed to respond just before she could whomp the door again. “How longer a time will you take then, given the fact that you know the truth already, to dress up? An hour more or something, is that your fancy?”, Mother enquired, her tone precisely sarcastic. I didn’t respond to that. I knew I couldn’t get her to cease anyway, never by indulging deeper in a dialogue with her. It almost seemed nice to know because I could save so much of myself for the toxicity of my milieu, and certainly great to be aware of the futility of a stride beforehand. That also summoned a realization of how much I had lost – in battles of nonsensical pursuit and conversations I never could talk her into, all wrapped in the shape of a mere squabble that was always very obviously trivial – huh!

Such sheer waste! There must have been something not too vapid that I didn’t notice the worthlessness in the expense of all my energy, something perhaps, somewhat important. But I now knew that I could have never found it because she never held it loosely, and it was always the case. However, it sometimes made me wonder if I was only seeing to the lessons as excuses to relinquish on trying, trying just a little harder for I was so intensely aware of the irrelevance of certain things now. “Be quick! This minx, drat! Come on now; be out of the washroom girl! We don’t have the whole day”, I heard my mother say before it faded into a distance outside.

My eyes reverted to the slightly thick pane of the mirror in no time. I was amazed at how easy it had become for me to find my own reflection, but that I disliked what I saw made it hard for me to figure out if I really appreciated that. I wondered if I ever would. It was then that I took notice of the bandana on the cloth washer that abutted me. Unknowingly, I had become entirely unaware of the de rigueur pertaining to the head. I brought it upfront with my left hand. It was only after I had picked it up and brought it closer to my face that a transition had occurred in the crux of my focus. I no longer envisioned anything about my body; I merely admired the ruche of the piece of cloth that both my fingers liked to caress – the velvet had been stitched over embroidery of a Dunnock. I couldn’t cherish the fact more that I was having my moment to feel the world outside my head, and it was strange how all that I needed to have to feel it was a mere frill of velvet.

All of my mother’s words of hortatory didacticism and undoubtedly, the anecdotes of her life with her intense emotions attached seemed absolutely quiet, unlike how they would echo so close to my ears almost every once in a while. In instances like these, I had always been intrigued to question if being in my own world was normal for me. Was it? I wondered. I stared at the velvety stitch. Honestly speaking, there was nothing so creative about the tapestry of it, it was my time I was spared by my own mind to keep myself out of my labyrinth that it appeared so aesthetic, and every second counted for I seldom was aware enough to notice such an ambience otherwise. The knot of happiness is however, ineluctable with sadness, even if it is for just a jiffy.

That always sounded ironical to me, but I never tried fixing my query with any. The truth was that happiness was far from my reach, let alone pursue; what I wanted was peace – plain and simple. So was the cessation of my moment of some relief stressed, and I realized that the bandana wasn’t enough. How could it be? I wasn’t foolish enough to expect it would; I only wished it were. I folded it, and hung it aside on the steel hanging bar above the chamber that was for the cosmetics and skin care. I collected from there my chinos. I had a penchant for the emerald shade. The chinos were just with it, more of a winceyette must I admit. That was the reason it was so comfortable for me to carry. I opened the zip which showed clear signs of a needy repair; the corrosion on it had only sought the corroboration of being there since I wore it last.

I had put my left foot into the corresponding pocket of the trousers that the irony of a prior mention pricked my skin again, only that it was all on the entirety of my body then. The arrant truth about my discovery couldn’t be kept from me anymore. It was still strange why I despised accepting it; it was my discovery after all – perhaps, I never wanted to have the proprietary ownership of the discovery of such an absurd abstraction to myself, not when I had to have it all to myself merely. It was too fragile, repulsive and savage on the inside. The mirror reflected the image of my body again. It carved the silhouette absolutely with utter veracity, and no insincerity – I could tell for what I beheld was not just ugly, but unacceptable as well.

My skin showed a flab on my loin which came to be about a handful under my lingerie, and it bulged out like sausage roll does when stuffed in between the two sides of a tortilla – just like that, too obdurate to be pressed in. It was quite bewildering for me to discern if I actually wanted to try at pushing my bra bulge inside or keep pulling it out with an intention that I might possibly excise it. I didn’t know the answer, but I could tell with certitude that the desire to do so was strong. I ended up in tears. I thought I never tried comprehending my mind; the truth is, I never could. I ran the tips of my thumb, index and middle fingers from over that area of my upper left arm where my skin was pigmented. I swear I had merely meant to caress, or assay the flab for it felt stiff like a slab of metallic iron, but held it tight the next moment, and even tighter in the moment that followed.

Like I had mentioned before, I could barely figure out what I wanted or take it as this that I actually couldn’t. It must be needless for me to strive at expounding why and how I was so little aware of my own form then. I didn’t know what I was becoming from the inside – a monster? Surely, it wasn’t merely abomination I nurtured in myself. I didn’t know what it was, and to be so damn constantly cognizant of what was burning me superficially, only from the inside, I couldn’t just be evasive with it the whole time; in fact, I was aware of it in me every second. I didn’t know how I was to deal with it, and for the much I had dealt with, I didn’t know how I had done it, but certainly there was no pride that I could associate with the feat. I wondered what I looked like at the moment because had I had a glimpse or two of my face, I bet I would have failed to recognize myself; I had grisly eyes that desired to feed on its own flesh.

Yes, I was hungry. I was hungry and I could find no way to digress my mind from it. To have to ponder over it again and again despite all of my absolutely cagey unwillingness to look into it, the thought was viscous and thick as honey, but within the walls of my skull, it was nothing less repulsive than some agglutination of catarrh. What a heck of an entity for one to house! While drawing the tracery of invisible lines on my skin, I had come to notice the silhouette of my body which was scantily clad in a gingham chemise at the top. It was both bewildering and fascinating for me to know that I could see it so clearly. Indeed, my body stood with its skin wrapped on it like a drape, and I was both perplexed and astonished for it was then that a realization of an unexpected yet, familiar kind lit a truth for me – I hadn’t cared enough to notice myself since the past couple of months.

Did it rather presage something? I couldn’t tell. “Era, are you done? Ah… can you hasten up a bit? We will be late. The birthday celebration commences in the next hour. Mum and dad say that it’s quite distant from here, and the journey may take some time for us to reach there.”, I heard my brother say, his steps sloshing back and forth which evinced that he was hurrying himself while asking me to do so. I couldn’t find the strength to respond, nothing in me did. Something was so advertently pricking me inside that I couldn’t numb the infliction to even know what to say. I couldn’t for a moment. I wished I could. But the infliction was only too intense when I tried to because of none other than my cognizance of the voice’s being my brother’s. It was perhaps, only strange to me that, despite all the hours spent in the battle to find my way to love him again, I could only wonder how he could dare to ask, or I was losing my mind over the second when he had said “You don’t deserve to talk of medical Science. Don’t talk about it. You can’t talk me to believe anything you say about that field or a doctor when you couldn’t stick to even a single weeks’ diet properly. Huh! And you’re talking of medicine! Don’t.”

There were times when I had wanted to tell him that the speechlessness I had witnessed while roistering on my bed that night puckered my throat every now and then at moments when I would be courageous enough to take a look at myself in any pane that was capable of reflecting objects. Yes, it now took me some courage to even look at myself plainly because I couldn’t bear the possibility of being disappointed as the only side of the coin showing up. Stupid, I knew it. How stupid of me! You see, I lost my mind for real I reckoned. I wouldn’t mind if anyone saw me as “defective”, Ramese my father already had, or if I was to encounter complete paucity of empathy from everyone as I had already been given a taste of it. It was bitter, but I had a sense of it which worked the better part of the repercussions for me because I knew that I would survive all the poison in my blood. But I was good at deluding myself so often that I was scared of establishing my confidence in any part of myself. How could I respond to him? I saw to the query as an interrogation that debouched from within my mind as actually genuinely put forth which genuinely wanted to be answered because I wanted to react. I wanted to tell him all about how his words had carved my mind just like many others’, and how I had come to surrender to everything he assumed I was incapable of because he was my brother and must wish well for me. Ugh! Keeping calm was drawing an allusion to all the inflammation that my scars now divulged riding roughshod over my status as a human being.

It was freaking the hell out of me. I knew what I had to say had nothing to do with any of his queries, so I was to put it aside for in the privation of profits or advantages, no one really cared. And I could barely seek a reason for what my mind sheltered. It was utterly useless. “Are you listening?”, he pestered, his footsteps seemingly closer to the door of the bathroom. “Hey, we will be late! Do you want to be a bane again? Be a tad quicker Era.”, he continued to carry on the piece of conversation that only appeared to be interlocutory. I considered myself to be incredibly eccentric for still wanting to tell him. I wanted to say something, no wonder I was entirely unprepared and was unaware of what could possibly sound good enough for me to grasp his attention and further lead him down the aisle to the lane of my memory. “Is there a reason, in any corner of your meaningless yet, curiously circuitous introspection? If there is one, will it be plausible enough?”, I enquired myself in a whisper, being oblivious about the ambience which was to echo whatever I uttered. “Yes? What did you say? …. Era, did you say something? Anyway, I was also here to tell you that we would be off to Granny’s afterwards. I conjecture we will have a day out perhaps.”, he chuckled as he spoke the last sentence. “Moreover, mum told me to tell you that you were not to wear the shantung dirndl you had got. She will…”, his speech was derailed by another voice that was my mother’s which came from a distance.

Even with my locus in the other room and a door that kept us asunder, I could sense from the sound of her footsteps that there was no soupcon of oneness, her part of speech would be consigned with, in comparison to the relatively less exigent speech my brother had delivered to me just then. “Era! God this minx! Be done you knucklehead!”, vented she, taking on to thumping at the door by then. “Come on, hurry up Era! I am here to tell you to not wear that dress. Here, put this on in lieu. This one’s for the part of hosiery. Roux, did you give her the dirndl I had asked you to leave for her in the room? Here Era, this one’s dungarees with a cummerbund at the back. It’s also raglan and woven in taffeta and chenille. This chiefly has a cerulean hue all over its fabric and tapestry. This will look good on you. Here, take it…”, it was my brother who bothered the flow of her tongue then.

“Mom! Why do you spend so much? You call her extravagant. Well, example is better than precept mum. You used to iterate it all the time. Do you remember? Is there a need of such attire for the de rigueur of the celebration? Look at me. I am rather simply dressed in a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. Will my entry be repudiated from the door itself? Tell me so I can save my shame. No. You’re asking her…ah! Let me frame it right – You are making her a dandy.” “Are you done with your didactic discourse? Stop sermonizing. Now hear me out. I was in Pantyhouse at Queen’s Market the other day, shopping for your dear amigo Shanelle. It was on…”, my mother was interrupted by my brother once again. “And it was on sale. Did it mean that you had to buy it? It is with anything that goes up on a sale and your fingers are incited to indulge in settling a transaction. You need to retrench. Correct me if I am wrong.”, My brother avowed, giving out a mild but sardonic laughter. Amidst all they were bothering about, I was intact inside the bathroom, still in that same posture, with that similar chemise that was coming loosely on my upper body. It would be inevitably merely an attempt at hurling the truth in a fugitive if I said that I was barely touched, because I was not touched at all.

And that I was so untouched by everything my ears had witnessed moments ago was starting to make me consider that something was wrong. I didn’t delve deep into it, knowing beforehand that I didn’t know what was. The cumbrous cacophony or rather a mélange of the dialogues exchanged in the bedroom of my parents perhaps, failed to supersede the impending melee that my flesh embodied - that I embodied and allowed. How I wished I was extracted out of my mind, only to concede with the other edge of the truth that I wanted to be extracted out of my body, the skin I wore more than any dress that my mother got for me. My hands could reach for the zip of the dresses and could undo them as and when they wanted to. That was one facet about the couture that captivated me the most about it since that was my desire never met with by my own skin, never even with a sufferance. It was probably because of this attribute of the drapery that madness had got the better hold of me and made me scrounge for the zip all over my skin, compelling me to scratch anywhere and everywhere, all in vain. But this was about that madness that I would sometimes encounter in a form that would be demonic. I surmised it’d be at its worst then.

Yet, I didn’t seem to be anywhere done with it. Those would be the nights of my abode in its company that I would behold every window as only a way to let the devil in; every corner of the room would be haunted. The voices in the ambience of the house would be manifold, coming to me in a cascade of staccato outpouring with varying intonation of the tones both dulcet and bitter, whilst I would be overcome by the mayhem that would, so as I could tell with arrant sureness, outplay the deception of all the other voices in my milieu. Ironically, the rough tide would only make me still, and so would I be – utterly bereft of every motion. I was seized out of my mind for a second by the gleam of the auburn light that had snuck in from the aperture at the top of the wall which was carved out somewhere in the middle of the pelmet. My bare back faced the ashlar. The airbrick juxtaposed the coving which was built along the top vertex, and then stood at the right of my back. I tilted my head by an ounce of an angle, and was happy to look at the sky through the network of net; it was being covered by nimbuses and stratus from the west - a weather of my fancy.

The cerise hue was a mark of the vestiges of the last hour of the sun for the day which was petering out just as gradually. It was now a red twilight. I thanked God the next second for his governance of the hour in that way because, in the cavalcade of the day hitherto, I was not thinking straight. And the only way I could describe how it felt to figure something out finally could be by an address to the weightlessness the feeling had despite remaining filled with a plethora of pulchritude which evinced a heavy meaning; those clouds didn’t seem heavy despite the darkness they bore. I could have a tonnage of them above my head, and it would only feel lighter. The sun peeped from in between the clouds, casting the last of its glow for the day.

The shine hurled was thus, too bright for me to keep looking. I didn’t want my gaze to revert for I was very well aware of the upshot of that feat, and I wasn’t done having the moment of silence, not yet at least. It was strangely calm and with the fading hue of the tangerine shade on my body entirely naked, I felt stripped of all my resentments and pent-up emotions. My eyes were becoming unshed, and I was aware of the cathartic essence those tears subsumed in themselves deep underneath my chest. My visage could spare no more than a second to have them kiss the skin of my cheeks and wash the latter clean of the rouge. Perhaps, I could be set free. Despite all of the malice my mind had inflicted me with, I realized that it was a mind of mine. I owned it whether I approved of it or deprecated the same.

My mind could not be an outlier, never in the sanctum it had created for me; it was an entire abode all on its own, one I found myself in, both at the rock bottom of my trance and at the zenith of my insanity. I wondered if I could ever find a place like that on Earth. It was my blessing – I found it in myself. I looked at my scars and the scratches on my knees, my thighs, my corpus, my shoulders, the upper part of my back, and on the back of my left palm. The red hue was gradually changing its color into a cerulean turquoise, but ultimately, it was merely slightly pellucid on my skin and I could see the bruises had turned black. The clots were irregularly allocated on the surface of my skin. I pulled up my right hand, and had let go of the corner of the chemise I had been holding at about my right shoulder in doing so.

I ran it over the back of my left palm. The clots seemed to connect to each other, and no sooner than I could catch the sight of the pattern had they connected in a strange way – there was a tracery as if on a poplin. There it was. I fathomed the texture of the skin I wore and it was worth more a meaning than any other dress or hosiery could comprise of for me because my skin, unlike the haute couture of great reverence, was the only shawl that I could drape my body with and have it as a part of me evermore. How could I detest it? I was endowed with it from my mother. It wasn’t only about me; my skin didn’t just talk about me but my birth mother as well. I detested myself at the thought of how I had so recklessly mauled it, conceiving it to be merely my own. The carved scars were imprinted on me, but they burnt more than one skin.

The gleam of the sun was too bright through the oriel window, and as the daylight shone for the last on my skin as, I could do nothing but weep. And I wept my heart out. The knowledge of my mother and my brother’s presence right outside the bathroom did not affect me in any way; as I had said, I was finally thinking straight. And there was peace in it. I cried and cried, my sobs transmuting into screams. I felt my ribs quiver with every heavy sigh I exhaled. It was painful, oh it surely was. But I was ready to empathize with myself. The heartbeats beat like waves against my ventral front, ruining everything inside me for one last time. But I knew it had to be for it was the departure of the evil from my soul – my sacrosanct salvation attained in good riddance.  

“Era, what is the matter? What is it? Why are you crying?”, came my brother’s enquiry. “Dear, what did happen? Why is she lamenting?”, followed my mother, her address to me overtly implicit. Just as the former time, I couldn’t manage to respond. And verily speaking, for must I divulge because passing through the grill at the front wasn’t going to seem so onerous to me, I didn’t want to respond. I had had my fait accompli of my own vandalism; it was time I ceased to sabotage. I must venerate my Almighty, and once again was my head commencing to hear a voice. Though terrified, I cared to hear it out, and it was not mine nor was it any of the voices’ that I had heard enough of to be able to recognize them with a definite certitude; it was a voice rather holy. I surmised if anything had left my body.

The extra bulge under my breasts remained right there; I squeezed my skin and an amount of it could be grasped in my palm. You see, nothing had really altered, but through the tempest of my own, I was coming to seek acceptance. I sought the guts to turn around and looked at my body which was entirely naked that the misty pane of the mirror reflected, only with a flawless sketch of the ugliness of it. The tears didn’t halt to pour. Following the rigorous composure, I was scarcely under any voluntary control of myself. And to tell you with probity, I felt the emptiness on my wrists and ankles from the manacles and shackles; I saw myself as a mortal human being who had a fixed time and a purpose to fulfill. I looked at my own eyes that had grown red with all the descent of the tears from them as I heard the voice say – “The treasure - you found it.”                                                                                                                                        

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