Friday, September 25, 2009

Rigor Mortis -- A story in many parts

Part III
(Go here for Part I and Part II)

She was also a naturally quiet child. She rarely cried, perhaps whimpered every once in a while. Her eyes would well and hold the tears in for many minutes until Sandhya noticed. Sandhya would then rush to feed her or check her nappy or hold her until she returned to her pose of quiet, wide-eyed contemplation. Sandhya loved her child and yet, marvelled at this little being that had sprung from her in such seething pain. Sometimes, mother and child would gaze at each other many minutes in the same wide-eyed stance.

One night, when she was two, she broke her silent spells with a slightly louder whimper than usual. Sandhya and Arun, both at the dining table, looked up surprised. Soon, she began sobbing, then crying, then wailing. The not-so-new parents checked her temperature, held her up to smell for sudden excrement, tried to feed her, failing all of which they resorted to the usual rocking and error. She didn't calm down for the next two hours. Exhaustion finally caught up, and she slept only to wake up the next morning with the same saucer-eyed calm. The night seemed to have been a dream.

Sandhya knew however. She knew that the baby hadn't cried for no reason. Shravana had visited the previous afternoon. And Shravana was bad news all over. She had come into the house, reeking of resentment and ire. She had poured out her woes and let her anger seep into the many cups of tea that Sandhya poured her. She had yelled under her breath at her husband, her job, her maid and the world. She had derided the government, lamented the roads and dismissed the possibility of any life outside of complaint. And then she had left. Sandhya jumped into the shower right after, trying very hard to peel off the layer of anxiety that she had left behind. She had scrubbed herself hard and rubbed two layers of soap into her peeling skin. She had found herself a bright yellow skirt and a white shirt, brushed her hair out until it shone and creamed herself to smell of tea rose and vanilla instead of the world in ruin. Incense let out smoke trails and the sounds of classical piano greeted Arun as he returned from work. The living room was allowed new doilies and the bedroom new pillow covers. Arun knew better than to question Sandhya's cleaning fits though. He showered and they sat down to dinner at which point Maya began wailing.

The anxiety hadn't left Sandhya. And it must have crept into her milk, she thought. And the baby.