6/15/18

Opinion | Chandramohan Sathyanathan

PC: Indian Express 


Honor killings in Parasurama’s own country
[Old wine in new bottle]

The recent murder of Mr. Kevin Joseph, a Dalit Christian youth for falling in love and then marrying a woman of mixed caste identity - born of a Syrian-Christian father and a Muslim mother- has shocked the conscience of Kerala, making front page news on May 29th and May 30th.
The increasing influence of social media in shaping the discourse of the time was very much evident once again. Many Dalit activists claim that had it been not for the social media, this ghastly incident would have just ended up as another one-column news item in the interior pages of the newspapers – that too only in the Kottayam District edition, where the incident occurred.
This is the third such incident to rouse the conscience of Keralites in the last few months. The other incidents being that of Madhu – a tribal youth murdered for alleged theft and the murder of a young woman hailing from an intermediate caste (namely Ezhava) on the night before her wedding to a Dalit youth (an employee of the armed forces) by her father.  The former was an instance of anti-indigenous people violence while the latter, similar to the current incident was predicated upon very patriarchal and casteist notions of family honor that tend to limit the endeavors of the lesser-privileged sections of our caste-ridden society. This incident is a nail in the coffin of those ideals that were enshrined in the Social Renaissance initiated by Mahatma Ayyankali, Naanu Asan and Sahodaran Ayyappan. Rising intolerance, physical, systemic and epistemic against Dalits and tribals, social boycott of Muslims and generic oppression of sexual minorities have become markers of contemporary Kerala society.
1.       Is there an increase in attacks on Dalits or is it an increase in the ratio of such instances being “reported” and triggering a protest?

I would argue both ways. There would have been many mute “suicides” which are brutal murders/caste-honor killings in the past. But recently, due to increased access to the social media for the Dalit-Bahujan social activists, there has been widespread awareness against such incidents. There is a flip side to this. Dalit assertion has been on the rise and has been challenging the establishment and the conventional caste hierarchies. Due to the influx of gulf money and other new found prosperity, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the neo-rich and the traditionally rich, frustrating the socially dominant sections. Dalit assertion may have added insult to the injury of the social prestige of the traditional elites. Thus the Ezhavas and Syrian Christians might want to oppose inter-caste weddings involving brides of their communities.

2.       Is this primarily due to caste? Have other factors like economic-muscle played a role?
 Very much. The deceased youth was an electrician. There is definitely an element of social class operating in this, but the mutilation of the dead body (eyes gauged out) shows an irrational fury often associated with caste/ethnicity ‘pride’. As Ambedkar had opined “caste is enclosed class” though social and cultural elements are very much operational.
3.       A tinge of Islamophobia too?
The secular progressive cultural activists were quick to elucidate upon the Muslim angle to it because the bride’s mother happens to be Muslim. This was the case in the instance of Madhu too. Often secularism has become a ploy to exclude Muslim organizations from platforms for protesting against saffron fascism. Recently Dalit-Bahujan ideologue Mr. Kancha Ilaiah had opined that Congress has been protecting Hinduism in the name of secularism.
The myth of origin of Kerala hinges around Parasurama who killed his mother at the behest of his father for alleged adultery/infidelity. The language of subjugating women –curtailing her sexual freedom is not alien to Kerala .It could be argued that when an educated woman marries as per her own choice, she could demand a share of her ancestral property which would be inherited by the nuclear family consisting of her husband and children. This could result in drastic economic redistribution in terms of land holdings – even more pronounced if the groom happens to be a Dalit and if the folks are more rural then urban. During times when a Dalit with an Ambedkarite ringtone or a desire for a horse –ride during his own wedding procession can incur the wrath of the “establishment”, the moustache-wearing of Mr. Kevin Joseph may have added to the insecurity of the feudal elements. This reminds us why annihilation of caste should be a high priority feminist ideal.

4.       Why has Kerala (a state devoid of infamous Khap Panchayats) not witnessed such overt acts of honor killings when the neighboring Tamil Nadu did have a spree of such killings: the most ghastly being the Dharmapuri murder of Ilavarasan ?

This is because caste operates in Kerala much more insidiously and more viciously than many other states of India. Its documented evidence is found in matrimonial columns with the disclaimer “NO CASTE BAR” with SC/STs ‘please excuse’. In the increasingly urbanized surroundings of Kerala, implicit questions like “what is your full name” / “what is your father’s name?”/ “where is your original home?” often masquerade as pin-pricks to probe caste.  With the collapse of the traditional form agricultural economy, caste has found new ways of manifesting itself like systematic dismantling of welfare schemes; extremely male-chauvinist ‘upper’-caste male protagonists in movies; Muslims, Dalits and the Latin –Christians excluded from the popular imagination of a contemporary Malayali; a leading intellectual of the rationalist movement opposing caste-based reservation, among other such examples. It was only after the prominence of Dalit voices making stringent critiques of these trends that the cracks of the much touted Kerala Model of development were exposed.
 ***

6/1/18

Poetry | Srishti Dutta Chowdhury

pc: Brian Michael Barbeito









glass body mine

by bow he will mean listen. listen. when i speak, eyes rest on the measure of brown/stick/clot. all surface is water when downside upturned, face over. terrors are perpetrated easily, inherited fair.
see his face midnight glowing like an eagle, it is the dying. when i move, wind shapes my ears. all masters want a steady surface to bend over & reach between the thighs. later i will want to carry this certain to the table, not an expectation out of place.
by body, i mean a kiss planted squarely on the remorse. certainty is for the floundering, he will say. & between light & the deep, i shall waltz in a whirr squinting at the sore, at the hardkept tonguetied rarity of a spoilt child.




















but going on is a fantasy. with one reel, one crucifix, one by one beside, revert to previous settings. squares and one, a tonne of old, piles of exfoliation. in seven years good time, flinch.
the monstrosity of tomorrow, the charity of now. next fall, i decide to congratulate you on the new baby. wasn’t it born, was it postconceived like letters bereft of plain words. niceties. angry scrawls rushing through the lack of line. 
i think of moving, a clear synaptic reversion of  my folds. keep straight. little comfort in getting in, moving out, letting letting letting it fall then hold. wax ears, dry eyes and hands true and significantly weakening. such is the trouble of rotting, roots grow anywhere. in a rut, hair and throat fixated on the singular sound of deception. we are good manure, this is a tangible purpose beyond moving.
do not engage if teeth are out. the wolves come out with the shivers. grow old like a faucet turned out.
howl. for what it is not.



















prayers mean nothing to me. empty sound. like a tree, she curved into my spine, a word. hurricane.
it is time. windowpanes give way to the sea calling. one speck hang on a pockmarked pole attached to my radio. where goes the sound after the first contact. skin. little hurricanes of passion. murky like the bloody mary after six. alternatively enabler/saboteur of peace.
at night, i am a whirling dervish to the electric fan. hands reaching head reaching a point. it is the point i drive towards in darkness. this sound reaches no tunnel. an end to this end, time. the stories she writes with her body, the body that leaves through the door.
i have more to say, but in circles. the words armoured against thoughts, keep breathing. exeunt when you think of thinking of nights that burrow into loose earth and dancing.
sleep hurricane sleep



















woman of many heads and ponchos after my appetite own gave me the colour red.                                                                              
and in pastel she became a non sequitur. two houses far bodies growing roots with real living, green between sheets, blue over sink. once a game. twice pulling a trigger over the sea hanging below the tunnel of moons. i am a hunchback conqueror of all internal monologues- you do not cripple me.
dis.arm 





















the one you love left you for a stick of butter. so you bid your time rebaking batches of pasty mud for a flavour that won’t right itself. you are five now, five fingers deep in soft gills ceiling high in experiment. and twenty, in the gashes against your poultry. headless body in an unsteady oven. smooth as the herb butter between thighs, alive as glowing coal at the makeshift barbecue. food is what you do now.






















amma, when as young as she would be to me, talked of when she was a bride.
‘the houses limit the ocean. run off now. let me stitch’ as she ran her nicked digits over our cares, little wishes. ‘save every nickel for a rainy day. get me some paan.’
our boxes and knick knacks held our stories. old wife, poor soul, young widow, mother to a hundred sons and not one daughter, atulprasad doting paan-maker, i knew you.
letters are always read too late, writ too soon.
a wood door called ‘fancy corner (india)’ by this road i walk down every night. nothing too fancy about the green, old, scrambling for support, colour eaten by rain moss and rust. i lost a cat by the door, i marked it with charcoal in my mind, words in the lost section. ‘at the end of my suffering, there was a door.’ i have been handed ‘an atlas of the difficult world’, now to spot myself on it. this society is desperate from the need of saving from itself. i try i fail. i will recede to polite dismissals too, ‘peace of mind’, ‘an air of civility’, ‘quality life.’ rage died old in a rot bed.
then, what? nothing.


5/30/18

Poetry | Sumedha Chakravarthy

pc: Brian Michael Barbeito
                                                               

Dementia
she had these hands.
you know,
the kind that feel like they've held on for a long, long time;
waged wars,
smoothed furrowed brows,
braided hair,
made ripples in rivers.
i keep saying, "she had these hands.."
but
no one seems to  remember
How can anyone forget,
what it feels like
for the rainiest Banyan's breeze to caress your tired forehead
on hot, dry summer afternoons?
there would be coffee, as the afternoon crept away.
while she drank hers
i hovered,
waiting to be offered,
a sip, two sips, half the glass,
of
thick
steaming
syrupy
memories
of mighty rivers,
small temples,
weddings of well etched names and sketchy faces
the rituals of afternoon tiffin,
card games, cycle bells, karigai,
glinting mukkuthis in afternoon verandahs,
hints of sandalwood
(mixed in my mind with the brown of Pears)
wafted through
shores, cities, homes.
she began to forget things and i,
her.
now, every time i smell coffee,
or hear rainfall surge through the banyan's dense foliage
i can't shake off the
sudden familiarity
of my hands.

_______________________________________________________________________________


  Jigsaw
 When I made puzzles, 
 it was easy
 to take apart
 and know I could remake 
 whole.
***
My mother talks to babies in a strange language
I know it, but the lilt
that rolls off her tongue and colours the cooing
is not the one I can taste at the back of my mouth
where all the words I’ve stolen, hide.
My mother’s sister sits framed against a window, sunlight pouring in
And talks to me animatedly of “tenacity”
Her drawn face grows redder,
as she moves her fingers to emphasize
the importance of staying, holding on, remaining
and suddenly tenacity materializes
out of thin air.
Her jaded hands map it with an intimacy that I can't unravel.
I don’t know these contours.
My friend clambers languorously down,
winding, sooty stairs
emerging from rooms that are sometimes
canopied  by musty, high ceilings, and at others by large, sturdy trees.
Ambling down her road
a motley bundle of friends are made,
hellos exchanged.
I manage a smile, an awkwardness born of intrusion
and walk alongside.
All that I can write
seems to be of grandmothers,
aunts,
sisters,
friends.
Of knowing born of listening, watching and walking,
in moments I wasn't a part of.
Chipped vignettes that are blurred by heat, worn down by dust and re-assembled in the rain;
impermanent, but comforting jigsaws-
saved for languid afternoons. 

______________________________________________


Moving
little notes of frigid air float in to explode against my skin.
harsh cabin lights grow steadily more painful against an enveloped outside.
Dreaming faces glide beside me.
I pull the warmth tighter and closer,
wrapping myself in the textured tapestry of familiar voices.
Unspooling a secret mix-tape,
I find a riff for every cadence lying uncoiled in my hands.
momentarily how to fix it.
We will arrive, shortly.
·       * * *
I stare out of my window
the sky is streaked with the marginal magic of wispy smoke
left behind by airplanes that glide up and down seven notes
faster than the
the rickety reels of tape i'd left uncoiled.
I try to slip them back into the little holes
marked out for them
on a dusty rectangle
cassette
the sounds fill my palm
with a sour familiarity
like warm tamarind.
I hold them in a cupped palm-
the crisscrossed hazy lines
now darken to shallow streams
should I want to set paper boats to sail on them?
Maybe they'll cross the seas and
arrive,
weary travellers
reaching a waterless shore.
·       * * *
On another day I walk across a park,
the dull, distant rhythm of a machine grinding
draws me in-
the background vocals to a
an early morning,
that now exists as a gif,
hidden away in recesses.
Sudden sunlight falls from the sky
like jasmine buds falling out of a braid woven last night,
the necessary accompaniment to the performance of this
musical ritual,
sleepy mornings.
I stop to feel the familiar blunt edges of the rectangle,
coiled inside layers of paper
fragrant like,
sandalwood and dish washing soap.
I put it away, as I stepped into class:
(a momentary mooring)
dismissing
the urge to stop and taste the sounds of comfort.
I think those words,
as they appear,
in every unique intersection of space and time
fall down a deep and endless well,
tantalizingly irrecoverable.
Each time I come back
I look deeper,
in search of faint echoes.
·       * * *
As the rectangle ages, the smooth brown tape begins to fray.
it plays but there's a dullness to what I can see.
One day, I fish out:
A crescendo? bits of violin, a handful of words,
a sprinkling of tremors
and all I can taste is:...an udupi restaurant?
i'm left tapeless,
with an incurable synesthesia.

5/29/18

Poetry | Sartaj Ghuman

pc: Brian Michael Barbeito


Four poems from the lit. fest/ faint echoes of the word escape

1.
strangers in a strange city listening to strangers read their poetry
we vow to be amongst them next year to be up there next year to be
not so lonely next year. me in my pockmarked sweater and you in your overcoat
and high heels we exchange glances from across the crowd and then quickly retreat
pretending to write something or be completely absorbed in reading what we wrote
for we both know that fiddling with cellphones is just far too lame
and we won’t profess our loneliness, never, but instead claim
that we’re quite alright writing poetry about our lonely lives
for heartache is the substrate upon which art thrives
and so we quietly withdraw under art’s aegis
to cold beds and blank pages


2.
i'm completely smitten by the bodies around
as they twist and turn into comfortable postures sitting cross-legged on the ground 
crouching on the parapet hugging vertical shins holding the camera up steady still
bending over the notebook the back a smooth arc the neck flat as over the pages hair spills
the head down horizontal the first two vertebrae like large beads above the t-shirt collar frayed
standing slouching against the wall with just a single shoulder blade touching it
your back a sensuous bow shooting arrows at me screaming to be sketched
hunched over in chairs the chin on the hand the elbow on the knees
leaning over sideways until the long earring hangs free
all straight lines and arcs and lovely shadows deep
if it wasn’t for the sketchbook i’d probably
be mistaken for a creep


3.
the faces absorbed as they contemplate words that resonate
that float about and hang still around us fluttering about shimmering
amongst the back-lit leaves of the raintree or becoming a part of the masonry
forever embedded amongst the bricks and the whitewash in your memory
words barely audible words spoken softly words shouted out loud
words expertly flicked over the heads of the mesmerized crowd
words that caress your skin and get under your clothes
and claw at hearts and choke your throats
words that lacerate or lift weights off your chest
talking of things you love and  things you detest
eyes sparkling in awe at the dexterity
with which they breathe magic into words
and then set them free


4.
i run around fixing things
making sure they run smoothly while my eyes stay fixed on you
i listen to the words that pour forth and think of what they might mean to you
i hang back trying to strike up a conversation but there’s nothing interesting that i do
while you are an accomplished poet with publications and residencies and books and ya, fans too
and you quickly get surrounded by them and i wonder if famous poets too get lonely sometimes
i wonder if you are ever spurned by a lover abandoned by words or deserted by rhyme
i imagine getting to know you and i imagine how if you asked me i would take
great pains to spell out my mail address very very carefully forming each alphabet
for people i’ve heard them say have been known to get


lost for nothing more than a spelling mistake

5/27/18

Prose | The Face Reader | Bhaskar Caduveti Rao



It was my third session with Peggy, the Psycho-Freudian/Jungian analyst with prescription pad, who charged two hundred seventy-five dollars an hour for chitchat. Sitting in her cold, minimalist, all steel and glass office on a stark Bauhausian black leather couch stripped of all edges and meaning made me shrivel and so I took a deep relaxing breath pulling in the prana and spreading my arms along the length of couch. Peggy returned from the kitchenette and handed me a steaming cup of coffee - its warmth was comforting - and sat across from me in a rectangular leather armchair with a polite plastered smile.
Last session, Peggy asked me to write down five rules, spoken or unspoken, that was obeyed by me as a child at home.
“Let start,” she said while I fidgeted around my five denim pockets looking for the list I had scribbled on a torn sheet on the cab ride over here.
Peggy was in her fifties with brown hair, grey dispassionate eyes and the voice of a strict Catholic pre-school teacher. She was dressed in a black suit with a brown-striped top underneath and a golden bracelet with tiny oval watch.
“#5 Do well in school.”
“Was it spoken or unspoken?”
“It was not unspoken,” I replied after some thought.
“Next?” she continued.
“#4 Eat everything on your plate.”
Peggy just nodded. She now seemed as bored by this exercise as I was. I should have prepared better, I thought. I am wasting money by not taking this seriously.
“Your mother enforced it right?” she asked.
“Yes, she did. Where is your mother now? Do you speak to her often?”
“She lives in a small town in South India. Yes, I do still speak to her but not often.”
“Why not?”
“I could never stand the way she looked at me, as if this was my fault,” I pointed at my ankle. “Her pitying, helpless, dog-eyed look. She was so afraid for me. So afraid of me. I couldn’t understand why she just wouldn’t let go. And treat me like she treated Vishu.”
“Why do you think that? Why was she afraid for you, I mean.”
“I don’t know. I just can’t stand pity. It was worse than the taunts of the kids of my colony. So sad, so solicitous. It drove me away.”
“So you left,” she said.
“I did.”
She went back to scribbling in her notebook.
“#3 Avoid bad company.” This was turning out be a snoozefest. I could spice it up, I thought and told Peggy about how my father discouraged my friendship with Sapan because he visited video game parlors that were fronts for gambling dens.
“He was right as usual, father always was. Sapan flunked tenth grade twice and soon after we drifted apart.”
“Your dad mellowed since, you said last time. Where is he now?”
“He is dead,” I snapped. Didn’t she know this already?
“I am sorry,” she said lifting her arms and sat further back in her chair.
“No, no, no I am sorry.” The apology came out as soon as I saw her recoil, ”I am just angry remembering how I wasn’t even allowed to attend his funeral. My visa had expired, and I couldn’t leave the country, if I did I couldn’t have come back.”
There was an awkward paused before we moved on.
“#2 Be disciplined.”
“What do you mean — oh! was your father very strict?” she said.
“Yes, he was like a drill officer.”
Peggy just nodded when a face floated before my eyes. Large swathes of silver hair, shining under an airplane’s reading lamp — the Face Reader! It took Peggy three sessions and 925$ to get where the Face Reader took three minutes.
It was the summer of 1993 —  I was in eleventh grade. I remember father coming home one day with a surprise: three plane-tickets to Madras to visit Grandma. It made Amma smile for the first time in months. No more twenty-four hour train rides in the Madras Mail in the heart of summer. But I loved the Madras Mail. I liked staring for hours at the barren rice farms, at the dry riverbeds and the brown trees coated with dust, at the telephone poles with lines of black crows. I would see the skin of the earth broken under the harsh scrutiny of the sun, the mighty Godavari river that had shriveled into a stream. But not even the sun, hotter than the devil’s cauldron, could stop the peddlers at the railway stations; the chai-wallahs, the bhel-wallahs, the juice-wallahs who would besiege the passengers. Each station had a different specialty, a different treat for me — masala chai in earthen cups, icy watermelon juice and my favorite: sugarcane juice with lots of ice and a hint of lime. As the train progressed into the heart of south India, the treats would change. Now they became brown vadas with red and green chutney, coconut water, curd-rice with red pickle, sweet-meats, and all of it downed with cold buttermilk spiced with green chilly and cumin. The treats shortened the train journey and our full stomachs put us to sleep.
All of that was replaced by the Bombay airport — a giant white building with pockmarked ceilings and gleaming floors ablaze in white fluorescent lights. In the Madras Mail local villagers, fare-dodgers, would hijack our seats with impunity; but the airport was full of policemen with rifles. I remembered the air-hostess, who perhaps sensed my anxiety, flashed me a pearly-perfect smile. The brass name-tag pinned on her orange blouse said: Ranjeeta Nair.
“You know, I can read faces,” she had said halfway through the flight after some small talk, “Can I try?”, she was sitting next to me while Amma was across the aisle.
“Sure? Is that like palmistry?” I remembered Saurabh claiming he could read palms. I didn’t believe him. I thought it was an excuse for him to hold a girl’s hand. All Saurabh said after looking at my palm was that I would have a long life and become rich. They all say that. Astrologers. Palmists. Numerologists. Mother has seen them all.
“Your father is very strict, isn’t he?”
“He isn’t strict anymore,” I retorted turning away as if hiding my stripped self.
“I am sorry, I am sorry,” she mumbled a few words of apology while I wondered what else was etched on my face?
***
I asked Peggy, “Do you think someone’s past can be reflected on their face?”
She was silent for almost a minute, while I began daydreaming about life back home, before the money, before the planes.
“Hmmm. I don’t think so,” She finally said, “Perhaps in case of serious trauma. But even then I doubt it — Okay, so, what’s number one?”
“#1 Never hit Vishu. Unspoken.”
“Oh! interesting, Why? Did you bully Vishu a lot?”
“No.”
“Then why was it a rule?”
“You see, when we were young, Vishu was devoted to me. Vishu followed me everywhere and did anything I asked. This made my parents worried that I would take advantage of him.”
“Did you?”
“No, wait yes, a little; but nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Ok, can you elaborate further on what you exactly understood this unspoken rule to be?” I caught her gaze flickering at my gimpy leg.
“It was understood, time and again that if I ever hit him, I would suffer twice as much. And I did.”
“Did you often suffer the consequences of violating that rule?”
So now we finally come back to my parents, I was dreading this not- your-fault-your-parents-fucked-you-up psychobabble.
“Well not often,” I replied, “but sometimes, but what he did was normal. Parents hit you, it’s not a big deal. I was hit aat school as well.”
“You know,” her voice sounded indignant, “the trauma is the same whether you are Indian or American.”
No it's not, I thought. We are not the same. I thought. I was sick of being fitted into their little boxes. How many Indians, Chinese or Africans did Freud treat before he came up with his ego, superego, Oedipus crap?
“Tell me about a time that he hit you,” she continued
“Any time?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, I just want to say, most kids in my colony got beaten up by their parents much more than I ever did.”
“Just tell me one incident.”
“Well, there was this time he beat me with Mom’s powder puff.”
“A powder puff?”
“Yes, but this one was pink with a long plastic handle, it was used for applying talcum powder on your back. We found one in her room that evening, and started hitting each other with it. With the puffy side, I mean.”
Peggy still looked confused.
“We then powder-puffed the walls of the bedroom making fuzzy six-inch white circles all over. The harder we hit, the more distinct the circles got.”
“I then convinced Vishu to take off his shirt, so I could powder puff him. I will make the perfect mark I told him.
 I saw Vishu’s naked back. It was soft, and unblemished — like him. As I swung something perverse, an anger, a tamasic impulse, took over and I hit him harder than I should have trying to make the perfect circle of powder.”
“With the powder puff?”
“Yes, of course with the puffy side hitting his back; the branding came out perfectly on his back, a distinct circle of white talcum powder on his dark skin. I smiled at my success, but then oooooooooOOOOOO Vishu started wailing. Sshhh shhhh I said, afraid that father in the other room would hear. It only made him cry louder. He was mad at me, he wanted me punished. Our parents rushed into the bedroom. Father took one look at the scene, and his eyes turned red. He grabbed the powder puff from my hands and began beating me with it.”
“With the puff?”
“No. With the plastic handle of powder puff. I was on the bed, my hands and legs were up in the air, I kept saying: I am sorry, I am sorry. But the blows didn’t stop.”
“And then?”
“Then, what?” I said.
“What happened next?”
“Nothing. That must have been it. I don’t remember anymore,” My arms came out from somewhere. I looked at them like they were some strange appendages. I folded them neatly into my lap.
“No, tell me. This is important,” Peggy eyes will drilling into me.
Suddenly a dam within my head. Images crowding my skull.
Amma was trying to stop him. She couldn’t; his rage volcanic.  Minutes passed, perhaps hours. The blows kept coming. Amma finally managed to grab his hand, “You will hurt him!” she said; Meanwhile I leapt out of the bed and fled out of the house. Out of the gates, into the main road. Running as if he were pursuing me, pink powder puff in hand.
“I fled the house,” I finally replied to Peggy.
“And?”
“And what?”
“What happened next?”
“Then it happened.”
“It?”
“Oh, nothing,” I said, “I don’t remember, I was really young.”
“How young?”
“Like thirteen.”
“Then you must remember.”
“I don’t”
“You do. What happened next?”
The room felt colder. I could hear the rain start anew. I could hear it drum against the window, like Peggy’s words drumming against my skull — prying it open.
“I hit a bus,” My breath began to feel constricted.
“A bus!”
“Or something, I don’t remember, I ran into something, and woke up in a nursing home the next day.”
“What happened?”
“I don’t remember, like I said, I hit a bus or something.”
“Why were you in a nursing home? Is that like a hospital?”
“Yes, it’s a mini hospital run by a single doctor.”
“Why were you in the hospital?”
“It wasn’t a hospital, we call it a nursing home,” I snapped.
“Fine, nursing home, what else do you remember? What happened?”
I was in her grip. Her gloved hands were tearing into my flesh, like a surgeon with a knife, probing, cutting open the flesh to get to that ulcer, that rotten tissue, that cancerous tumour, that boil needing extraction, irradiation or cauterisation.
“I just remember my leg in a cast. That’s all I remember.”
“Your leg, which one?”
“Does it matter?” There was a glass wall inside of me was trying to push her away,
My head began spinning.
“It was not his fault.” I cried.
“I never said it was.”
“You did, but it was not his fault, I was born like this. I am this.” I pulled my pant up, to display my banged up ankle.
The rain had stopped. Peggy began scratching in her diary. The room seemed to echo her words. The patient hit a bus. The patient hit a bus.
“You mentioned meeting a Face Reader,” she said, flipping back a few pages.
“I was careless as usual. Never looking around, irresponsible, undisciplined. I ran into the bus. It was my fault.”
“The face reader,” she continued as if she hadn’t heard me, “Was that before or after this incident?”
“It wasn’t a bus. I would be dead if it were one.”
Peggy got up from her seat and walked to the kitchenette.
“I don’t remember what it was that hit me.” I said to her back as she grabbed a glass.
“Would you like some water?” she asked. The bitch. I hated her for sounding smug.
She poured herself a glass. I took the one she offered me.
“Do you feel better?” She asked after I gulped it down.
“I feel fine,” I said, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.”
***


 (image credit: societyforpsychotherapy.org)