The Dreamer

6 Aug

The red cigarette of Isabelle still eluded her. The beret, the blue gown, the chained hands, all looked down upon her with contempt. She had cut each part of that Eva Green poster, pasted it all in isolation, in different parts of the room, all beyond the reach of her hands, as if to remind herself of her own inferiority. Only her eyes could reach them. The cigarette-less Isabelle, with the crack extending from her lips to beyond her face, betrayed the mossy patches she tried to hide behind Isabelle’s feigned anguish and her golden brown hair. Today the contempt and naughtiness Isabelle’s downcast eyes emanated seemed to engulf her, as the elusive blue smoke of her un-ashed cigarette.

She had first fallen in love with that cigarette. Stuck between her lips, the redness was bleeding to plain ash, grunting, moaning through all the joys between her lips. Stuck to them; resolute not to fall off the tender hooks which still breathed life in her. The cigarette always looked away from her, as the glitter of parvenu from shanty existence. It was that unattainability that lured her to be one of its unseen fumes, to be puffed away, after the one deep inhale of reeking pleasure. It was that glamour of aloofness which led her to the mouth which smelled of secrets and forgetfulness and sounded of spring thunders.

If only forgetting was so easy.

On a wet September afternoon when her blue kurta still hugged her from the chillness of the just concluded rain, she felt at one with the glistening road, the fragrant earth, the reddish brown bricks and the shivering leaves, and he sat at a concrete side rail under the giant tree, a cigarette in one hand rested against the rail, while the other slowly scratched an imaginary line out of his face. She remembers that seeing him had at first tormented her, as if she was thrown out of an illusion of familiarity and oneness with the world and being the only one in the world, to an invisibility she couldn’t bear for its insignificance. His eyes were lost to scribbled images within himself, his fingers uncaring of the wet earth. If only he had touched the earth, if only its wetness had got to him, he would have noticed her as she would creep into him through earth’s veins. If only he had touched the earth, she would not have felt the need to conquer him, his sights, his probing touches.

It was still weeks before he first offered her a coffee. The lightning nights of late October reminded her of fury in nature, in herself. The clashes in the heaven, the numerous wings of Mikaaiyl and his army of angels, woke her up each night to flashes of crimson brightness in her abdomen piercing its way up as a band of misery around her forehead. A war demands a vanquisher. And honorable death.

The first time he invited her for a coffee her high pitched chirpiness was drowned in his silence. She spoke of her love for poetry, the turquoise floral print slippers at the nearest mall, the sleep inducing coffee versus the waking up coffee, the latest design on the ten rupee phone recharge coupon, her passion for collecting others’ stick-it notes from their doors… He smoked one cigarette, passed half of another to a friend.

The first time he spoke to her, he spoke something about a war and a book. He spoke to her about the air and fury, and she wanted to hear of the earth and its wetness. He spoke to her something about a thousand flowers; she wanted to hear about the oneness. He spoke of the cures of the future; she was still missing the familiarity of the past. Yet, he spoke very little, and she wanted to hear more.

The red beret on Isabelle jeered at her. If only forgetting was so easy.

The single coffee gave way to double coffee. He spoke about emancipation and body. She was puzzled how her body could be the end of the whole cosmos within her. He spoke of her headscarf, and being generous with shame that the world may drown in its own scriptures. She, of the written words’ life and inevitability. Now he spoke of oneness, she of difference.

On a cold December morning she deemed it unfair that an extra piece of cloth should separate her from millions of colder companions on earth. She felt the urge to be, once again, one with the world and with him within that one shroud of humanity, to dream together of warmer crimson skies. His sight will be hers now, and so will his probing touches.

Isabelle’s chained hand feigned captivity. In this war of sights and smells, the vanquished and vanquisher were just role plays.

And honorable death, an empty signifier.

(inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers)


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