Monthly Story, June 2022


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Image → A.Savin

Rasa → Raudram (रौद्रं): Fury. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: red, Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow

Archetype → Creator

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Nicole watched the homeless man by the Colombo rail from under her long bangs and lowered eyelids. This man’s hair seemed to have somehow been dried, blown and sprayed to perfection from nothing but the Colombo heat, salinity of June air and the monsoon winds. Thinking about how she failed to create the same beach waves at her hairstyling course exam that morning, Nicole felt something searing painfully in her gut; It shaped a toxic orange feeling.


When the world hands out what you’ve bled for, to someone who doesn’t even care, what the hell does that even mean?


A familiar voice inside Nicole’s head started a monologue of everyday injustices, stinging against her threshold. It was a chili-red coloured voice that always triggered the memory of sour mangoes in her taste nerves.


Seeing the homeless man’s beach waves had also scratched Nicole’s faith in the world. Things like the heatwave that passed through the city this morning (altering the very dynamics between keratin and water particles) and the model’s hair appearing surely vitamin-deficient no longer seemed like coincidences, but pitfalls set up by a conniving world. A few hours later, by the time it was her stop, something in Nicole was screeching in unison with the train coming to a halt.


Nicole hated coming back to her parents’ village where everyone knew her as ‘Nimali’—the given-name that she no longer identified with. Head lowered, but eyes scrutinizing from behind her long fringe, Nicole found offence in how the villagers on the street had the same hair—oiled and tied back or combed to a side.


Can a homogenous bubble be called life? Isn’t sameness a state of death than of being alive?


Nicole's chili-red voice muttered all the way home, prickling the sides of her tongue with a pleasurable sting. Her mother was standing by the gate, waiting. She showered Nicole with questions about lunch, breakfast, the house keys, laundry, reducing the length of the fringe, the exact temperature in Colombo... Nicole answered everything and nothing with ohs, hms, nuhs, and mh-huhs.


Is it still home if your instinct is to escape it?


Nicole walked in with her mother following two steps behind questioning what she’d like to eat. Sitting on a kitchen chair with hands quietly clasped on the table, zoning out from her mother’s string of questions, Nicole seemed almost composed. But, she had a scream welling up inside. Nicole knew this scream; It always came in a voice of deep burgundy and brought on a metallic taste on her tongue.


When her mother started asking about the hairstyling course exams, Nicole could no longer take it. She covered her mouth and ran into the bathroom. The trail of her surprised mother’s voice shouting in the background—about getting a bladder infection from holding it in for so long—came to an abrupt end when Nicole locked the door behind herself.


Between aspirations and expectations was a hellish place.


Hands clasped tightly over the mouth, Nicole watched her reflection in the bathroom mirror as the silent scream unraveled inside. It felt as if the burgundy-coloured loathing was being spewed all over her interiors. From the burgundy-bathed inside, came another voice—a new one Nicole had never heard before. It was an ugly shade between purple and wine red and induced a tinge of bitterness at the back of her tongue. The new voice spoke heavy and monotonous. It dropped words like a shaman’s drum beats inducing an altered state of consciousness; Words that Nicole couldn’t bear to hear; Mediocre. Dull. Forgettable...


In a moment of noxious revulsion, Nicole grabbed the little trimming scissor inside the jar with tweezers, combs and clippers. With shaking hands and short scissor blades inadequate for the task, she cut off her long, thick fringe in careless, irregular strokes. Nicole felt the weight of the entire year that she spent devotedly growing and shaping her fringe dissipate into air as the cut hairs fell at her feet.


Maybe it’s best to get nothing free from the world, and owe nothing free in return.


Nicole swallowed the last of the bitterness as the wine-purple receded, and a jagged hairline hung like a torn curtain above her face.



Read the previous story


 

The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.



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