Rag by Mehreen Ahmed

Being gracefully checkmated wasn’t my father’s forte, just as consistency, wasn’t mine. I watched my parents play chess every day with a tad of scepticism, wondering if they really enjoyed playing the same game. My mother could win hands down. My father lost every time. He scowled and pressed his lips. He was a bad loser. Just watching them was a pain. The same arguments over those moves on the chessboard; rattling and downing the pieces with a bang, even knocking the chessboard over sometimes. My mother quietly just gathered the pieces off the board and folded them away, while my father stalked away.

In those days, I wore Naagras. They were royal shoes with a narrow pointy front bow. I went to some really dark places in them. Both boredom and romance took me into forbidden forays, as I sought newness. I really didn’t know what I expected. A nuanced romance that would explode a life of taste and colour. The more I tried, the more disappointment my adventures brought me, flat prairies of no exciting relationships.

One summer’s afternoon, however, I sat reading Tagore’s The Last Poem. His definition of love and marriage eluded me. The essence of true lovefascinating and dangerous, he compared true love with an ocean where the mellow heart must be allowed to immerse occasionally. Marriage, on the other hand, was washed away with sullied water, fetched every day, and used every day.

Then I heard footsteps. Our neighbour’s son Sunny, ambled through the garden.

“Are you reading Tagore’s The Last Poem?” He asked looking at the turned pages.

“Yes,” I answered.

“How are you liking it?”

“I like his views on love and marriage,” I said.

“Hmm, Interesting take, say, do you think Madame Bovary could change?” he asked.

“Seriously? No, I don’t think so. Her boredom was too deep.” 

He noted my terse answer. However, I continued unabashed.

I had roped myself in defence of the Madame Bovary types of the world. Suddenly, he pulled me towards him. His lips were pressing hard and hot on mine. I had the strangest vision in his arms. I felt a connection.

“I have been there. Done it, many, many times.” I cried and unlocked myself from his arms.

“With the same person?” he asked.

“No.”

“Aha,” he chuckled.

We entered the house together. Our parents chatted on the far side of the verandah. Sunny joined them for a drink. I went to my bedroom and stood by the window. The pomegranate tree was in full bloom. True love didn’t exist. But, I felt something today. Maybe Sunny checkmated me. One kiss, could this transform me? I braced myself for a fall.

I texted him asking for a date. He responded promptly. It was in the afternoon again in our garden shed. I walked under its foliage and waited. A desire swelled in my heart. He carried me and he walked towards the shed.

After about a quarter of an hour, I saw through the tiny shed window, a crow flying in and sitting on the shed of the corrugated iron roof. He dropped a patch of faeces lather on its edge before it flew away with a caw. Sunny and I spent nearly two hours here. I began to feel it, the passion, the romance, and a rash desire for Sunny, like bubbling water on a scalding pan rushing to the centre to form one whole. Sunny was the one, the only love of my life.

Sunny looked at me and asked, “What’s up! What’re you thinking?”

“Of you.”

“Really? Do you want to marry me?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Hmm.”

“Hmm? I asked.

“Not sure, if you’re committed enough.”

He lit a cigarette and made a smokey ring as he puffed it out through his pouty lips. The penny dropped for me. Sunny was right. I wasn’t marriage-worthy. This passion would relinquish; I was another Madame Bovary in waiting.

[First published by Thorn Literary Magazine]

Biography
Mehreen Ahmed is widely published and critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review,DD Magazine,The Wild Atlantic Book Club to name a few. Her short stories are a winner in The Waterloo Short Story Competition, Shortlisted in Cogito Literary Journal Contest, a Finalist in the Fourth Adelaide Literary Award Contest, winner in The Cabinet of Heed stream-of-consciousness challenge. Her works are three-time nominated for The Best of the Net Awards, nominated for the Pushcart Prize Award, two-time nominated for Aurealis Awards. Her book is an announced Drunken Druid’s Editor’s Choice.

Image: unsplash.com

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