Two lines. Two violet lines.
Positive! That’s what the test kit said.
Double lines mean pregnant.
This shouldn’t have happened. Not now- when everything was perfect.
Not the bright screaming shade, more like stubborn acne marks. In the past, it used to be white. A dazzling porcelain, out of place, midst flaky walls, cobwebs and low-watt bulbs. Much like her. Then time happened. The whiteness faded under the occasional blood stains and frequent regurgitation. And soon, it was ugly, basking in the ugliness of everything else. Much like her. Rosy stared down at the starchy gloop boiling in a concoction of acidic bile and expired milk. As the sink refused to gulp down yet another day’s vomit she realised that it was too late. Tiptoeing out of the bathroom, careful not to wake thamma (grandmother), she unplugged her phone from the charger and went inside the room that belonged to her. Everything inside the room, however, belonged to him. That room was her safe place- her ten by ten piece of heaven. And the night was her saviour, the only time she could reveal her being. That little sliver of moon peeping through her window did not judge her. And the dogs, homeless, free from the solitude of home-quarantine, weren’t taught to be condescending. But she remained aware; the rusty window grills had been painted over, inside they were rusted still. She grabbed those bars and pressed her face against them. The dim-lit street lamp exposed her bruised arms. She caressed its reddish brown as a blunt pain gushed through her lips. She had never felt so alone. It was this part of her, the lonely needy voice in her head which made her do it. Or perhaps there was something growing inside of her. Something absolutely different, exploiting the organismic fear of the unknown. She grasped her phone and opened his message thread. Hesitation weakening her fingers, she typed-
“I think I’m pregnant”
Ijaya rearranged the artificial violets while the water boiled. She believed this would save her marriage. A cup of lukewarm water infused with freshly squeezed lime and a dash of honey. She had been working out for quite some time now. As a medical student she knew exactly how cruel female metabolism could be, and where it tends to dump excess fats. No more Oreos for fat old Ijaya- she thought. Her morning routine included a myriad of exercises from lunges, squats, burpees, planks, side planks- she tried everything that annoying app told her to. It did work though, and it was becoming visibly prominent through the bulge of her saree. Sometimes in the kitchen she would subtly brush her butt cheeks against his morning wood, pretending to reach for the tea jar. In other places too. She would bend over the crockery cabinet and fidget with the china. Most times she would leave the bathroom door open while taking a cold shower. Once she even quietly slithered into the room naked and soaking wet, only to find his husband in front of the mirror, cupping his balls in a rather awkward manner. Prasad, however, seemed oblivious of her wife’s advances. Obscure online erotica had failed her. Or maybe the damage had already been done. Like fucking a machine- he had said. At least she was not asexual anymore. She probably never was. Rummaging through a dead human’s intestines can have that effect on a simple virgin – an anti-aphrodisiac if you will. Ijaya had only recently discovered her libido. And with it she discovered man’s vulnerability over the female form, along with the irresistible scent of pheromones and the art of seduction. Now that they were quarantined together in the privacy of their homes, she could flaunt her new found knowledge. And curves.
It was the briefest of moments. But it lasted, an addictive red beaming through his iris, piercing through to her soul. The red caught his eyes at every alternate thrust, while the blue, green and yellow danced on his bare back. With every rotation of the disco bulb she felt both of her insides devoured- body and soul. In that moment she had decided to let him do it. As she wrapped her arms around his perpetuating torso, looking deep in his eyes, she moaned for his climax. She grabbed onto his love handles and pushed his orgasm in herself to find a warm release inside her belly. He wanted to pay extra for it, even offered to buy the pill. She refused. This time it wasn’t kink for her. It was something else, something more. Something she had never felt- a feeling yet to be discovered. And taking money for a pill felt insulting to her. “Don’t worry, I’ll take the pill” she said.
All of this was two days before the lockdown. As of now she was just trying to understand this ‘something’. The text she had sent last night was a testament to this unexpected predicament. Him not replying, or at least acknowledging for that matter, only increased her confusion. Clueless, she decided to remind him again and typed in another message, “Please reply. We need to talk.”
Ijaya was stunned at her own image. Making her way from the accentuated bust, she slid her fingers down the violet corset, and around her rounded hips. The girdle amped up the intrigue in Ijaya’s broader frame, while the violet popped against the slight husk of her skin. She never imagined herself looking so desirable, so feminine. As she admired herself in the mirror, she became confident that this would be the kryptonite to Prasad’s superman. Men are weak – her mother had said. Then this ought to bring him to his knees – Ijaya thought. And it did. At first he was hesitant. He skimmed her body intently before producing a wicked grin. I didn’t know you had a naughty side- Prasad had said. I don’t have sides, I have secrets-she replied. And after that Prasad pounced on his wife like a kid unwrapping his birthday present. Only difference- there was nothing innocent about him. It wasn’t anything like their first night. He pinned her down, his grip sweaty and firm. Almost piercing through her fabric he ploughed her, manhandling her like a rag doll. The blanket of sweat on his forehead dripped down from his chin and meandered between her breasts. Ijaya’s screams, disguised as moans, were muffled under his savage kisses, and her ripening senses ravaged under his merciless onslaught. He was what the erotica sites would call a ‘magnificent beast’. At the verge of his orgasm he put his grip on her throat and choked her with both hands. Pulling out of her, Prasad reached for her drying mouth, gasping for air, and shoved his member in it. Ijaya looked in his eyes, dazed and shocked, as he emptied in her oesophagus. She couldn’t find anything majestic. Only a beast.
The formerly faint crack on the mirror had fully cleaved in and the red varnish became visible along its diagonal. On the top side Rosy saw a face, one which the world found beautiful. The bottom side showed her thighs- a ring of discoloured bruising on both.
“It’s done! The holder was broken, so I changed it”- it was Rosie’s electrician, the only person in her locality who didn’t hesitate to enter her house.
“You’re a saviour Basuda. How’d you do it? No one would believe you’re actually blind”
“I see so much more without them!” he said sipping on his tea.
“Like the excited lizard hovering over thamma”
Rosy hoisted her sight over the wall adjacent to thamma’s wheel chair to find a wall coloured lizard, who would go unnoticed if weren’t for Basuda, eyeing the red chillies being dried in the sun. Though fascinated, she let out a subtle, but not too subtle, scoff in his direction, hinting an unimpressed gesture, in hopes of keeping him late enough for lunch.
“That wasn’t good enough. Try again”
“How about the fact that Thamma has had an unfortunate dinner last night” he said to which Thamma felt embarrassed and hurried out of the room, while Rosy burst out laughing.
“…..and what about the joy in your breath every time your phone chimes, and the disappointment in your exhales which follows” Rosy suddenly stopped smiling. She realised how some things are too apparent. The potpourri, a token from him, couldn’t stop his lingering smell from breaching her senses. And even the imported perfume, another of his gifts, failed to hide the stench of cheap soap and desperation. How could they? Almost everything in her room had a bit of him, more than anyone else who’d been on her bed and inside her flesh.
“You know what’s odd? “Basuda asked.
“I was the best electrician in town. I’d be treated like a minister, if not more. But I couldn’t see it then. I lost my sight, only to realise that I had become invisible as well. ” Rosy looked at her phone screen once again- No New Messages!
“You and I both, Basuda” she chuckled, resignation prevailing in her voice.
“It was the summer of 86. I was summoned to the Royal Ghosh Villa to inspect a British era antique fan. What a beauty it was! But it wasn’t working until, of course, I fixed it?”
“What was wrong with it?”
“The dumb fucks didn’t know that it ran on kerosene. It was an antique, which in today’s age, is invaluable”
Rosy allowed herself a soft laughter.
“So you see it doesn’t matter who you are or how much you have. Some people just cannot tell the difference between a real diamond and a fake one.”
“I don’t think that’s the word they use for me.”
“They don’t, ’cause you’re not.”
“What am I then?”
“A British era kerosene ceiling fan!”
Ijaya noticed a subtle violet emerging around the wheatish tone of her neck. His ways had become more aggressive. Few weeks into the lockdown, and he had goaded her into every position he had read about. The butter churner, valedictorian, seashell, cross-booty, cowboy, wheelbarrow, leap frog- none of which included the simple act of hugging. Ijaya saw in him a hungry animal, ready to eat her whole. And he had quite the appetite. Twice, sometimes thrice a day. Her loins went numb, but it looked like Prasad was just warming up. His ideas of foreplay felt something out of an adult spoof. He would force her to refer to him as “Daddy”. Sometimes there would be rigorous slapping, and almost always some kinds of suffocation were involved. She didn’t have the nerve to refuse.
Ijaya wanted to save her marriage. Only now, she couldn’t understand the purpose of it. All the ties of togetherness, of a knight in shining armour, of chocolate kisses in moonlit parks, of coffee conversations on a rainy window, of happiness and respect- everything a hollow promise. The greed of a false paradise had landed her in hell.
“How does that feel, you fucking slut!” he would shout. Ijaya would never respond.
“They took you by the ass as well, didn’t they?!”
‘They’ were her past partners. Even though she had never been with anyone else, her naturally ruptured hymen indicated otherwise. Ijaya used to believe that Prasad’s hostility and bitterness towards her after their first night came from a place of sexual dissatisfaction. “…yes they may be weak, but they need to be kept happy, you understand? “-her mother had said. But now it occurred to her. The problem was entirely different. Didn’t warn me about this one maa- she thought to herself. Seemingly, pleasing her husband in every way was supposed to be salvation, her honest hell. Or at least that’s what Prasad believed. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t; rather he believed he shouldn’t allow her to leave the house when Ijaya wanted to volunteer at the hospital.
“No.” Prasad said firmly. And that was it.
“That’s right…my locality has been declared a red zone” – Rosy informed Titli over the phone.
“Funny….. You can leave the red zone but no matter what you do, the red zone doesn’t leave you, now does it?”
Rosy stared into nothingness as she sighed on the microphone.
“Stop it! I ain’t feeling sorry for you, especially when it’s over asshole clients.”
Ijaya didn’t know what to say. The moon had been an unfriendly crescent today. Her safe place didn’t feel safe anymore. She stroked her belly while thinking about him. He was not just another customer. It was a secret within her that she felt too afraid to reveal, even to herself.
“Stop sulking over that jerk. These idiots, who would pay extra for unprotected sex because ‘Condoms are for pussies’, are now afraid of infection. No! It’s for your tiny dicks you fucking morons! Anyways….don’t worry. There is a simple solution to this”
“What is that exactly?”
“Just tell him to pay up, if he refuses, threaten to expose him to his wife”
Rosy knew Titli was right. The dumpsters of society, reeking of the vices which are swept beneath the rug, are now the most touched untouchables in the wake of global frenzy. It was money she needed, but not what she wanted. Slowly, but bravely, she was unravelling that unfamiliar feeling that gutted her insides on that godly night. She wanted him to acknowledge her and the warm sensation expanding in her stomach. Perhaps she was asking too much from the universe. But she owed herself to try. Last try- she told herself. And so Rosy tried for the last time, “I’ve been feeling something I haven’t felt before because of you. I think I love you. Please call me”
The presence of HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin in a woman’s urine is an indication of pregnancy – Ijaya stood in front of the bathroom mirror naked, staring at a dark triangle bending shape into her insides, recollecting that particular lecture in college. In commercial test kits, two violet lines appear if this hormone is detected, which would mean the result is positive- She grew restless waiting for the results. The kit said five to ten minutes. She had never actually imagined this happening. Learning about it in medical school was different than experiencing it in real life. The worst part was she didn’t want it to be positive at all. She cursed her misfortune. Was this every woman’s fate? Or only hers? Only mine- she jeered.
However, my fellow students, if a man takes the test and results are positive, which is rare, it indicates, even though slightly inconclusive, an acute case of testicular cancer- Ijaya believed the test would come positive even if she were a man. And for a moment she wished that she had been one. It was ten past nine. The time had arrived. The result in one hand she prayed to all the goddesses her mother worshipped. From the corner of her eyes she looked at the Indian style potty and wondered, in fear, how on earth she would ever manage to defecate and pull herself up with a baby in her. Thankfully, the prayers worked, and her concerns were kept aside for another fateful day. And after checking and confirming for the umpteenth time, she tossed the result towards the pan.
“You said what! Have you lost it? He made you think that you were pregnant for God’s sakes” Titli yelled over the phone. Rosy shuffled in her tattered red sofa and silently listened to her rant.
“I think I really do love him. And it was just a scare, I took the pill just in time”
“Repeat after me Rosy! I am a sex worker. That’s all I am to him. That’s all I’ll ever be to him!”
“You don’t know him like I do. He’s different”
He was different. She had seen it in his eyes; the addictive red which had a window into her soul. It was true and it was pure. All of it. Titli’s voice was just another of the countless cynics. Their love was like that piece of moon and the vagrant dogs- accepting and compassionate. She didn’t expect anyone to understand. After a while, everyone just became background noise. Titli was no exception. Twenty minutes into the call, Rosy realised that her phone was chiming. Four New Messages. Rosy was on cloud nine. He had finally replied. Her stomach felt giddy and her limbs trembled as she opened the messages. It was happening. Things were about to change.
“I told you to take the pill!
I know what you’re trying to do, you whore!
You with your bastard have forgotten your place!
Never contact me again.”
And just like Icarus, Rosy fell on her face. The wings of desire melted under a hateful sun. Her heart exploded as red pain oozed out of her spirit. Nothing was true. Nothing was pure. Only red prevailed. But why her? The strings of his carnal depravity, shackles of both him and everyone else’s, controlling her like a disgraced puppet, only because of her naivety. Icarus just wanted to fly. Did he deserve his eventuality?
Rosy picked up the phone reminding her that she is a survivor. All these days she was trying to decipher the code to her heart. Little did she know that the ‘something’ yet to be discovered was love. But not for him. For herself. For she was not red. Even rust eats on the surface, chemically changed by nature, robbing it off of its lustre. But she wasn’t a metal bar. Or a diamond even. She was a kerosene ceiling fan. She deserved to love. And to be loved back.
“I took the pill.
I was sick, not pregnant.
And now I finally know my place.
Fuck you! You pathetic tiny-dicked rat.
You don’t deserve my love
You don’t even deserve my shit!
I hope your sorry balls are cut off!”
The first rays of the sun hit differently on her violet bruising. Ijaya felt different as well. Last night she had refused to ‘please’ him, even after a convincing beating. The thought of bearing his child, and to raise one in his repugnant shadows was terrifying to say the least. And the terror had rattled her to the core. She sat with a cup of hot chocolate and a packet of Oreos on Prasad’s side of the bed. She had discovered her libido, and in an unforgettable series of events, a love for her arching belly. Perhaps today she would join back at the hospital. She grabbed Prasad’s phone to call her senior, munching on her Oreos, when she noticed it. Seven New Messages- Rosy. Ijaya hesitantly opened the thread.
“What the fuck Ijaya! You are pregnant?!” Prasad came running furiously from the bathroom. “Two lines. Two violet lines. Positive! That’s what the test kit said. Double lines mean pregnant. This shouldn’t have happened. Not now- when everything was perfect.” Prasad thought.
“I thought I was” Ijaya retorted.
“I’m not an idiot! I found the test on the pan while peeing. Two violet lines….. you’re fucking pregnant.” Prasad claimed as he threw the test in her face.
Ijaya was riding on various levels of disbelief. One thing she was sure of was that the test had come negative. She looked at his phone. Then at the test. Back at the phone. And, in a sudden fit of hysteria, she started laughing.
That was the key.
“How long after peeing did you notice it?” she asked.
“Five to ten minutes, while brushing……how does that matter!? How dare you hide this from me?”
Ijaya kept on laughing. She gulped her drink and took out her medical coat from the closet; a candid friskiness in her movements. She quickly dressed herself in a salwar kameez and tidily bundled her hair, along with a fresh mask and a pair of surgical gloves. In between she burst in abrupt spurts of laughter.
“Where do you think you’re going? Answer me first!” Prasad advanced towards her with his arms raised.
Ijaya only laughed harder.
“HCG, my dear, HCG!” Ijaya sang and walked towards the apartment door. She felt happy after a long time, even for Rosy. She realised how both Rosy and she herself had discovered love for a monster. Luckily, Ijaya discovered Rosy, and in the process, herself. She was only thankful, for the eventual ‘un-discovery’of her love, and had a very strong feeling that so was Rosy. She hummed her way to the front door and looked back at her ‘sick’ husband to find a baffled Prasad staring into his phone. Ijaya only laughed harder.
“One little thing before I go, I would suggest you spend some time with your balls. They are about to be cut off”