It is a never-ending maze. I am exhausted. There is no way out. I have circled around all doors. Every time I end up in the same place. The sun is about to set. It is going to get dark soon. I could get lost. Time is running out. I need to escape.
How did I end up here though? I try to think. There was a man. Him! He shut the door behind me. He was a rude man. He does not speak much.
Wait, there was someone else with him. There was a girl. It’s them. They are a team. I know what they do. They steal away young girls like me and keep them in dark places. I am scared. The girl must have befriended me. She was good to me. But where did we meet? Think Jane. Harder. I close my eyes to focus. I am good at remembering. Mom said so. I remembered birthdays, marriage anniversaries, death anniversaries…all sorts.
Was it when I celebrated my birthday in the park? She must have given me candies and played with me in the sand box. Later, she must have lured me away to some lonely corner. I should have listened to my mom. She had asked me to stay away from strangers. Especially if they offered candies. Now she is going to get mad at me. She must be waiting for me. It’s going to get dark soon. My mom said, when nothing works, pray. I need to fold my hands and close my eyes. My palms. What did I do? They look weird.
My palms are red; no brown; or maroon? I rub it. It does not come off. I need to wash it off. With soap. It must be the mud. Mud from when I fell on the puddle when playing tag. My knees still hurt.
Or is it chocolate? I liked to lick chocolate off the wrappers and get my hands dirty with it. Mom does not like me doing it. But I love chocolate. Delicious.
Or could it blood? I touch my forehead. Nothing. My arms, shoulders, neck. Nothing feels bruised or wet. Where did this coloured thing come from? Think. Think stupid Jane!! I need not panic. It can be washed off. Everything can be washed off. If nothing works, bicarbonate of soda should work. It works on everything. So, my mom said.
It’s getting dark. I need some light to find the bicarbonate of soda. The colour on my palm is making me sick. It smells disgusting. Light, light. Fuck, fu…!! Oops the “f” word. Mom said it’s a bad word. I should not say it. But she could when she is mad. Grownups can. They are allowed to say all bad words- the “f” word, the “s” word. There must be more that I don’t know. Well, I am mad now. I cannot find the light. So, I can say it. It’s cool. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Mom is not here to hear it. No one is here to hear it. I feel like a grown up. I can scream as loud as I can. It is too quiet in here. I am scared. It is dark. I need light. Light. Light!
“Dad, its dinner time. I can hear mom. She must be awake from her nap.” Mira lightly nudged her father who had fallen asleep on the couch with a photo album.
The bright sunny day in the middle of winter had marked the perfect start to the pre-wedding ceremonies in the family. Jane had been quiet most of the time clutching on to a photo album. The glint in her eyes frequented the otherwise blank, sometimes confusing stare. Her husband, Ashok made sure he checked up on her in between attending the guests and so did the soon-to-be-bride, Mira – Jane and Ashok’s only daughter.
Once upon a time theirs was also a ‘happily ever-after family’ like any other in their street. Until that muggy day in Summer, when Jane had gone knocking on a ‘wrong’ door after her morning walk. The Summer heat had come to her rescue with being the perfect shield for the beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead, the red ears and parched throat.
It was then that she had felt it coming. Coming fast and hard for her. Just like it had for her mother.
It was just the beginning when the realisation comes gushing through right after the blunder. It makes you feel embarrassed, helpless for a while and then the control comes back. It would be so much easier later when the realisation just disappears altogether. She knew it. She had seen her mother struggle with it and then slowly the struggle shifting to the family. Precisely why she abhorred it.
Jane began restricting herself to indoors as Summer gave way to Fall. She would sit for hours helplessly staring out of her window at the colourful leaves separating themselves from the branches. How she wished she could glue them back. Back to where they belonged. They did not deserve to be trampled upon. Neither did her memories. Memories of her mom, her childhood.
She would often hold the album close to her as if trying to freeze the memories in them. Her favourite being the one where Ashok, the gawky brown skinned migrant boy stood beside her with Mira in his arms. His smile lighting up the big city skyline. His warm smile is all she needed to take to the dark grave with her. Afterall, he had promised her, he would take good care of himself, so he lives long enough to be forgotten a thousand times.
Jane looked up, shifting her gaze from her coloured palms as Ashok opened the door and turned on the lights. Mira followed.
“Chocolate, blood, mud?” Jane looked confused as she held her palms up to Mira.
“The Henna looks so pretty on your palms, Maa.”