A Mouthful Of Silence


I am ritually impure. Before Fajr breaks in I should ablute. It’s Friday, that makes it doubly rewarding. Or punishing? I don’t know. I’ve spent this night reading a pick from my priced collection of books on literature and Kashmir.

Somebody is already up downstairs. Maybe grandmother. Maybe father. Who knows?

I usually spend most of my time in my bedroom. The ensuite not yet workable is used as a store room that houses crockery and tool boxes, which means that I’ve to go down and use the common bathroom which is unusual for me at this time of a day, rather night. It’s 3:00 am. But, I have to.

While I course my hands over my body, a strange ache overcomes my being. Strategic in the way it handles me. The belly, flat now, shall one day bear me a bulge, a sign that I am producing a baby. Maybe this?. But no, that wouldn’t invoke such feeling in me. Ridiculous, when I have always wanted to be a mother. Oh dear, so much. Meanwhile, I unbolt the tap(s), water silently landing in the yawning bucket squatted underneath. I have turned both, hot and cold, supplies open. I check the temperature of the water with my finger which feels hotter than my wont. Digital thermometry, Baba would say. Should I adjust the flow?

Now I check it at the outlet instead of the water being collected beneath. It feels strange. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold. Alternatively, without a mistake. Hot Cold. Cold hot. Is that a thing? I should look it up. Or our mixer is getting old. The elephant headed Jaquar mixer. Disabled enough. Or did I twist one ear too much?

Before long enough, I will let myself play with the stream. Cutting the streamlined column, forking it, allowing it to spread over my fingers. I love the warmth, the cold. The lukewarm promise of some affection. I will close my eyes till it fills the bucket.

Yes, the ache. Where does it come from?

I let myself be drifted along the thoughts. Floating over provinces. Apparitions.
The stench of the autopsy room. A mortifying cold look behind the mask. Unorthodox ruthless surgical clutter of scalpels and blades. A pair of scissors as well. A girl lying flat on the cold steel table/bed. Lifeless from head to toe and back again. Feet facing a small sink with a still smaller brassy battered tap which is constantly, without shame, leaking. Incontinent. A group of students dressed in white aprons craning their necks over each other to fix their gaze onto the table stand at a distance from a raised stage.

Unnoticeably I’m in the spectre too. I’m rather closer to it than the rest. I see Baba, younger though, in the group of students. He looks different. Am I dreaming?
She’s naked up to the last feature. Nothing is covered.  Absolutely nothing. Except that her eyelids are tightly apposed. Perhaps she’s too ashamed. Who knows?

I almost see her breathing, moving her chest and belly. Up down. Up down. . It so seems to me (Baba,as well). You? No?Ok let’s just face it, she’s already dead. Her lips have turned deep purple and her entire body is as stiff as a log of wood. Her mouth is frozen too. A mouthful of silence. Her wrists were angled and amulet-ed. Sensing the tension, everyone assumes a forced silence. The only sound is from the frantically leaking tap. Tip tip tip. Still shameless. Somebody twist its neck, once and for all.

Soon instructions are spat at the men in mask. The instructor is a young man in his early 30s. Younger than what Baba is today. Spectacled and sharp. A scalpel is raised,wielded,pointed,pressed,then dragged along the length a little longer. Still longer. LONGER.  Here is the first touch of a cold scalpel with the cold body on the cold table oozing out cold thick blood from just below ‘her’ chest where the scalpel has started unzipping her. Her? Or it? I’ll stick to ‘her’. Cold cold. Beads of sweat trickling down the faces hanging over white aprons. Hot hot. The stream of water from the elephant headed jaguar. Cold cold. Hot hot. Cold eyes scaling the horror,hot bodies sweating on a cold day. Cold hot..

Incisions run deeper, yet deeper. Deeper than deeper. Skin. Fat. Fascias. Fat. Muscle. The yellow pad of fat again. ‘Omentum’, the instructor approved with a nod a voice that came from the enshrouded group. A gaping entry into the abdomen. A thorough inspection of the visceral workshop. Some parts are bottled up. Some are left behind. At this, the girl in steel table/bed seemed far less human. She must be regretting of having chosen a poison to kill herself. Poor her. The tap is still leaking. Or weeping? Somebody console it.
They start sewing her up.

Here my hand is drowning. The silence has been broken. By the rush of leaking water over the floor. By a far away dolefully pronounced Adhaan. And by the cacophony of young students driving back to their college in a bus, not aproned this time. Not sweating. Not silent either. They are talking about a mouth and a mouthful of silence.

And me?
After I’m done I pray Fajr. Baba, later on, asks me how, and why today, I woke up so early without him waking me up.

Two mouths, a mouthful of silence.

The author is potter by passion, medical undergraduate by compulsion; can be reached at muhamad.obaid.rashid@gmail.com.

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