F I C T I O N – F L A S H
Jannatul Ferdous Tulona
Roma walked around the graveyard in circles for many hours (supposedly) before she felt like picking a spot (not much picking was really involved as she always sat at the same place, but she liked to think there was). No one was to be seen except a light brown-white dog snoring softly at the gate. She counted the graves backwards and forwards as she circled, forgetting each time how many there were in total. It was difficult for her to remember anything anymore these days.
She had lost two ‘a’s and a ‘y’ on the tombstone, finally becoming Rom Bhattachar, 1958 – 2010. Roma felt like an idiot, for having assumed Death ceases the chapter of withering altogether. For having ignored before that graves too, grew old. She realised her attempt at marking her own grave by following a Christian burial despite being a half-Hindu had been a pathetically futile one. An almost inaudible clink made her shudder. She startled at small things now.
A frown over the warmest brown eyes she remembered ever seeing stared back at her, ghost-struck! They had perhaps, both scared each other’s wits off. Upon realising that the two broke out into titters that gurgled across the graveyard in loud, musical echoes. A crow woke up at this, cawing grumpily in protest.
Roma shifted a bit to make space for her visitor. She adjusted herself there, over litter and cigarette stubs, without noticing much. Her small mouth moved a little, perhaps reciting a prayer. Ink black hair strands danced over her face dramatically. It felt like feathers, Roma knew.
“What happened to…” She trailed off, more lost now than when she had begun to form the question. There were so many things that had happened in between, indeed.
“Look!” Roma held out her wrist like a gift.
She caressed it carefully, trying to fathom the inklings, fascination twinkling like tears on her lashes. She had too, longed for a tattoo her whole life, Roma knew.
“No regrets, in Español.”
“You really don’t have any?” She demanded, her lips curled in disbelief.
Roma held her by the hand loosely to get up. They walked over to the small pond behind the old cemetery. She shivered once, as they looked into their green reflections. They were hideously similar. They were the same; except for the terrifying baldness Roma had acquired at 52. At least only that much the murky water could tell.
“I really don’t,” Roma replied to herself.
They felt a ripple cross their heart. It was way too late, of course, for regrets.
“I haven’t heard a song in so many years,” one of them said to herself. It was only half true. They had no idea how many years had passed since she died.
“I used to be so scared of drowning, remember?” The other asked, not quite listening, looking way beyond the depths of the small pond.
“I don’t remember much, but I’ll tell you this, I’d survived a shipwreck!”
Her younger self looked petrified. At least at first.
“Yes, as per common philosophy, everything we are terrified of—death, loss, love—shall happen to us and all that too shall pass, swifter than summer clouds,” Roma assured her, reading her eyes.
She almost laughed out at her older self’s speech, but couldn’t, staring into her dead eyes. They were strangely solemn.
The sky drew open its blinds and bared a soft, yellow sun as they stood, two invisible statues for a while, wordlessly. They thought a lot about the same things as they remembered in scatters their old visits—why was it always them and no other version of herself? She had died at 52, so yes, it made sense for her to make these occasional visits, but her nineteen-year-old self had been no less lost in the world of the living than an orphaned bird. Why was she here, every time? What time was it even?
They remembered her parents, a stark contrast to each other, when it came to comparing them, her sisters (three loud women who loved to fight), her lovers (young Roma had only one and refused to believe there was anyone else, ever), her husband who was still alive—or at least that’s what she assumed. They had all become colours, in her memory, one running into another, from a distance what seemed a little like a painting. It was certainly, nothing like reminiscence as she knew before when she was alive. Roma wondered if she too was a colour. What colour was it then?
“I haven’t heard a song in so many years,” Roma said again, with a sigh.
Be it coincidence, destiny or closure, as it happened to be, a procession of drums dropped a march past the cemetery just then. Men, children hooted and clapped, an important festival it was of some sort, for sure. As the crowd came closer, they retracted into where lay their roots, in silent steps, in silent longing for many answers.
Perhaps if they had looked back to see the absence of their shadows, they would have been rendered astonished, even elated. As they walked, they cast no shadows (reasonably so). And perhaps, Roma who was older would have pointed that out in another one of her poorly crafted philosophical speeches, that finally, they had attained what they longed the most all their lives, an absolute freedom. But they didn’t turn, as a matter of fact, and the graveyard remained due of another visit.
Jannatul Ferdous is a procrastinator by day, and a poet by night.