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Love, Routine, and Other Things


Jannatul Ferdous Tulona


It was weird seeing her. The girl on Marcella, sporting a turquoise baggy silk shirt and black pants, disheveled hair, and a disheveled marriage. Almost déjà vu — I recalled imagining myself in the same attire, just this morning.

That is all I have mornings for, these days, sitting on the old chair at a corner of the veranda, staring into the happenings of the street below, never seeing anything more than a blur of colours, distant thoughts, and made up pictures.

Not to lie, one or two times, the thought of free-falling into the road had crossed my mind, slyly. I  wondered who’d notice me first — probably the beggar who sings all morning below my apartment, earning nothing. The thought was still funny, imagining how he’d finally shut up and stare at the pool of blood — gaping, forgetting to pretend being blind.

The thought never lasted longer than my morning tea.

I got up for a bath midway through the first episode of Marcella and dragged myself into the shower. If I could, I’d avoid this part of my routine altogether, but Nimar, my husband, wouldn’t like that. I didn’t like the mirror in the bathroom either, as I’d mentioned to him countless times without earning so much as a grunt.

It was tall and tinted, the glass on it smeared with fungus and lint in a way that made me look green. I had nowhere else to look as the cold water clawed its way down my skin, matting the little hair I had on my head into almost nothing.

“Once upon a time, I had a lion’s mane…remember?” I whispered to the reflection for self-assurance.

Nimar was majorly upset when I had chopped it off. I had politely explained how it was falling off anyways, cleverly skipping the part that it was the only way I could get away from being grabbed by the hair until he’d scrape off a handful.

Nevertheless, the freakiest feature on the reflection was without a doubt, my grotesquely bloated belly. My arms and legs were bony and dirty, while the tummy was as stark as an albino and the size of a tumour. I cursed myself for thinking of “it” like that, but it was inevitable. I could never caress the growing bulge on my torso like they did in maternity commercials all the time, with sincere love.

It mesmerised me though, in a hypnotism such that I could only stare at the alien in the mirror for a long time, forgetting the water was cold.

I cupped the soap from the rack and tried to clean a few marks from below my neck, but it burned. The soap smelled more like Nimar than itself, stung just like him. I felt hopeless. I gave up on cleaning and stepped out of the bath wearing the towel over my shoulder. Just this much effort had drained me to the bone. I couldn’t help but collapse on our bed like a flat tire. I immediately regretted it.

Again, I could feel his hands on my neck like steel, this time invisible. He’d choked me on this bed more than a few times; vividly, I remembered writhing in phantom pain, gasping for air. The déjà vu didn’t last long at all though, it was almost like I was possessed, except, I was just in love. He is not a bad lover after all, I believe. We’ve been together for a decade and a half, quite peacefully on the whole.

To be fair, I guess this was the best I could do, for a husband. Someone who provided, protected, and held my hand, even now that I could barely look at myself. Now that I was barely anything but a well-disciplined pet.

When I met Nimar fifteen years ago, I was a lost woman. Drifting between a job and the fleeting desire to build a family. Nimar, being wiser, older, more insightful, explained to me at the time how we could only play one role in life, truly. I guess if anyone else had said the same, I’d have laughed it off, but he spoke with the conviction of a sage. It did not take much time for me to move into his life, leaving my older one behind.

In fact, it felt like shedding my cocoon and flying into freedom. He let air to my whims and bit by bit, I was all his. 

But he had his terms, and rightfully so, I thought. When his terms were not tended to, Nimar exploded. That was, however, an effective way to shape discipline, I figured, reflecting on my progress. 

I shrugged and got up to dress. It was not a matter of choice, but a matter of routine. A black dress hung in the closet, waiting to be worn. On Fridays, we wore black.

As I struggled to put together the buttons on the back, a firm hand slid down my spine. A shiver shook me, despite the warmth, despite the familiarity. I looked into the mirror, as his other hand gently nudged my tummy. We looked beautiful, I thought, a family of three, perfect, beautiful, in black.

 


Jannatul Ferdous is a procrastinator by day, and a poet by night.

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