The ceiling fan plays with the noise. The sobbing my wife hears shapeshift between a hushed constant crying and the pure white noise.
I open the door. My wife holds the threshold as if the structure will crumble down on its own.
On the stairs, our porch light shows, lie some sanguine plumes. Perhaps predators find a pigeon. Perhaps it denotes something else. Is not everything a metaphor for another thing?
The house number Fifty-six belongs to Rita. The summer that came before the virus spread made her a widow and a single mother.
I like the fire-sprinkles the iron workers birth while welding metals. They veil reality. They add Bollywood songs to the mundane existence. Dreams to a saunter. There are a few workshops in our neighborhood.
I dislike those sparks as well. They remind me of the freak accident that killed our neighbour, Rita’s husband.
Rita gave us the bits and pieces of the puzzle of loneliness – her marriage against her family’s blessings, apathetic kin from her husband’s side.
When the blue and white-walled hospital took her as an untrained nurse, we often babysit her son.
It was not easy. No one can do a good deed without bleeding a little.
Then this year, the virus threat provided Prisha (my wife, and let me introduce myself – Joy and our daughter – Elora) an excuse to uninvite Rita’s son. We felt relieved that now Elora might forget those f-words and the cockney.
And let me introduce the sword of conscience that we carry in our household.
We read our daughter a tale of one man who enjoyed the taste of burnt potatoes from the storage that caught fire and waited for another inferno. Her favourite story. I cannot find a reason behind her choice.
It was not easy. You cannot read a story without finding morals or a simile.
The following moment another thing will consume our minds in another blaze.
Yesterday, when the police arrived we put two and two together and decrypted the local news-flash – ‘Running bus in a Hit & Run: local nurse dies while crossing the Hospital road.’
She must have left her son locked inside the house in company with the constant television and bags of chips. See, I could not cease to judge them. See, the same ashamed me nonetheless.
See, nothing. Hear, nothing. I assure my wife and me. They took away the son.
No one is inside.
In the basement poet writes –
You already have arisen to the steady sobbing.
“Do you think her son is still locked inside?”
I step out.
Night has left its sanguine plumes on our staircase;
its predator moans in the darkness; spring mates
in the pollen-ridden milieu with humid heat.
No sniveling I hear.
Your hands have the threshold in their choke-hold.
The throbbing in our hearts is singular and dead
by asphyxiation. I say, “No. They took her son away,
Rita went to her job the other day and didn’t return.
Her three years old son remained bolted inside.
We would not babysit him since we found F-words
lying around in presence of our own child.
Illustration Nick Victor