I splash water on my face. A stinging pain sears through. My eyes are bloodshot red. My face is swollen. I feel so ugly in my grief. I cup my trembling fingers and concentrate on splashing water on my face. As the cold water mingles with the coldness in my heart, another bout of hot tears spurts out. Once again I confront the image staring at me from the mirror.

You! Good for nothing woman! I mouth the line he had yelled on my face. “Parasite!” I add, the tone he had used ringing clear in my ears. Another bout of tears floods my face.

I drag the footstool and step on it. I stare deep into the red bulging pair of eyes that peers back at me. “Your eyes are so deep. I want to drown in them!” had been his favorite line when he was courting me. I always believed him. My fluttering heart believed that nobody would ever love me like he did.

What I didn’t know was that everything ends. Even the cells that make up every pore on our skin is renewed every day of our life. So, by that calculation, we are no longer the same person we were ages ago.  

As if to reassure my new realization, I turn my face, first to the right and then to the left. Small droplets of water hang from my jaw line. I see a tiny crater right on my chin. I am reminded of the biggest acne of my life I got on that part of my face when I was eighteen ~ the confused age, when you are neither a grown up nor a child.

That acne had left a hole huge enough to fit in my little finger. It was there on my face as I stood facing the person who made my heart flutter with million different beats. His sudden declaration of ending our relationship shattered me. Numbed and totally dumb, I just stood there, picking on it as I went through the first heartbreak of my life. Long after he left me, his silhouette leaving the bend of the road, I continued staring at the dusty lane, still picking on that acne. Blood had started oozing out but my fingers just didn’t stop its nasty dance on it.

If you look closely, you’ll definitely find stories on your body. A mark left by a pimple, a cut from the first cooking lesson, scars from the first bicycle lesson and many more. These are all moments we have lived. Moments imprinted on one’s body.

Some moments in my life, I feel my fingers dance on their own will. I’ve no control over them.  Back in the bathroom, where I stand facing the mirror, I find my fingers lifting my shirt and slowly pulling it off.  My fingers weave themselves across my back and unhook my bra. I nimbly take it off, never shedding my eyes from my face in the mirror.

Blood-red eyes stare deep within themselves while my fingers move further down, working on the lower part of my garments. I stand totally naked. Standing tall on that footstool, I can see myself up to my abdomen. I turn my body to my right, just like I did with my face earlier. I notice my breast hanging down. “Age!” I hear my heart whisper. My forefinger traces the line, exactly below the part where my breast lays limp. I lift my chin, a bit. A thick line I had not noticed before runs across my neck. It startles me. I leave my breast and focus on my face, checking for any signs of wrinkles. I do not see any but I am not convinced and I inch closer to the mirror.  

“Oh! Crowfeet!” It is not visible but I can trace it lightly beginning at the corners of my swollen eyes. I stare hard and keep on staring till my own image frightens me out of my skin. I was the prettiest among my siblings. My husband had handpicked me right after our first meeting. He never tired of praising me then.

But, I don’t seem to know the person in my mirror anymore. Maybe, all the cells have regenerated and I am a different person. Maybe, that could be one of the reasons for my husband’s changed behavior.

Knock…Knock…Knock…three hard taps on the door startles me.

“Are you going to stay in there forever now?” My angry husband. His anger glaring from the opaque door makes me sprint off the footstool.

I quickly splash more water on my face and whimper a nervous, “Coming!” back to him. As I turn swiftly to put my clothes back on, I cringe in pain.  My abdomen hurts. My abdomen that appears criss-crossed with hundreds of stretch marks running through it has several blue patches on it. I’ve no time to nurse the gripping pain. No time to linger on the stretch marks that is a badge of a beautiful phase of my life ~ phase of Motherhood. I wear my clothes with a swiftness that is accompanied with fear.

I hear him snort in disdain from the other room. Smell of whiskey wafts through. I sneeze. My nose can never stand the strong stench of alcohol. Before I sneeze again, I run and plummet in the thick covers. I cover myself from head to toe.

Lying on my side, I can feel my sagging breast nestling sadly inside my bra. It reminds me of the little soul who had nursed on it for nine months. After nearly eighteen hours of labor pain, he had come. Silently. Stinking of sweat and happiness, I had asked the nurse to bring him to me. He had been born with an abnormality. His left thigh was the same color as the rest of his body but it was pear-shaped. Many pokes and tests later, the experts in science declared his limited time. The malignant tumor snatched him away before I could hear him call out to me.

Another bout of tears stings my eyes at the memory of the little soul. My husband had changed drastically after we lost the little one.  He blamed my unholy body for not nurturing our little one.

Everything changed after that declaration.

Unholy things are not meant for worship of any kind. My unholy body reminded him of what we had lost and the more he felt the grief, he turned into an ugly monster.

He stopped looking at me, no still looks ~ with disdain. Immersing himself in whiskey, he then sought solace in inflicting physical pain on me. Black and blue marks on my body told the same story of guilt and grief. Guilt that maybe it was my fault that the little one had to be born like that. Grief swallowed me up at that thought.

I cup my right palm under my chin and close my eyes, willing sleep to come. I hear the sound of cars zooming by in full speed outside. Sleep is the last thing on my mind.

I slowly rise, quietly. I hear him snore. His whiskey stench filled snores wafts slowly in the bedroom. I open the cupboard and take out the belt. I look up at the ceiling. The fan waves to me, beckoning me in its whirls. I know, the next day, there would be one more scar on my body, the lines on my neck telling the world a silent story of all these stories submerged in one body.

 

About the Writer

Chador Wangmo, Teacher turned Writer, lives in Thimphu, Bhutan with her husband and three children. She has authored three novels and ten illustrated books for children. Although her work is mostly prose, she likes writing poems which has been well received in the literary festivals conducted by FOSWAL at Delhi and Jaipur in India. She has been awarded an honorary Doctorate in Literature by the Vikram Sheela Vidyapeeth, Sidharth Nagar, UP. She has also been awarded Sidhartha Tathagat Sansthan Sahitya award in recognition of her contribution to literature.