The sky looked like a crumpled, crisp white bed sheet. Every crease reminded her of the night when she and her new lover had thrown themselves on the soft, low-floor, 4-poster bed of a maybe 3-star hotel room across the street, opposite a plush, maybe 5-star Indian restaurant.
Two trams, running parallel but chasing each other, came to a screeching halt. Waiting at the bus terminal, Ana found the sight peculiar. Like a mirage. Something that looks entirely different or even contrary when you look closely enough. The glistening moon—sandwiched between the two now stationary trams that only moments ago seemed prepared for a head-on collision—pasted on her pupils was a white sheet, a painter’s canvas or probably the thin film of blank whiteness that lasts a wink right before the camera click.
Caught in a web, as he held Ana by her waist that night, she had clutched the crisp white bed sheet and made small hillocks like snow peaks. And when he had pulled her head back and kissed her Adam’s apple, her tightened heels had pressed tiny circles on the bed sheet like ripples in a pond from a slight drizzle.
He had a train to catch next morning, he whispered in her ear. Catching her breath, she had said, Will you be back soon? He had murmured an excuse of an answer and she had excused herself.
I must set my priorities straight, he was stern. And her fingers were still busy ironing the creases of the bed sheet, her gaze fixed elsewhere, not on the mole on his upper right cheek. The mole, his mole—a crescent moon—and his wrinkles, a halo. His hair was the night sky and his teeth twinkled like rice lights on a festival night. His breath a mix of smoke and gin. His eyes an endless, abandoned street. His embrace the shelter of a tree in monsoons. The 4-poster bed of the (maybe) 3-star hotel room creaked.
Are you even listening to me? he sounded worked up. Did you ever let me speak? mumbled Ana’s heart. Did the bed creak again or a whimper escaped her parched throat?
Zurich. The streets are strewn with cigarette butts. For a second, Ana wants to rummage through the orphaned cigarette butts to find the purple imprints of his lips.
Not a 3-star hotel room but a one-room apartment. No 5-star restaurant across the street, only a part-time cotton candy seller.
Cheeses of different flavours and fragrances dot the flea market. The bronze statue of an old man wearing a fedora, and holding a frozen rose, stands in the middle of a fountain at the market centre.
The bed sheet is silk. Its lustre almost a mirage. She looks up at the sky again. The sun drowns and the creases dissolve too.
There was no smoke. Only fire, buried in her stone-cold heart.
A self-confessed chai addict, Ipshita Mitra likes to believe she is in an unrelenting love affair with books. A former senior editor with one of India's publishing houses, and a senior copy editor with an English and Hindi language Indian news website, she is presently an independent writer and editor. Melancholia and nostalgia comfort her soul at times of severe helplessness and restlessness. Farida Khanum and Roberta Flack sing her lullabies every night. She likes to write letters and draw horrible doodles. She has been wanting to buy a typewriter since 1989. Her Twitter handle is @ipshita77 Image: "Crescent moon at sunset", Arkhip Kuindzhi, 1908