My Last Few Breaths
By: Prashil Kumar
The night wore a black shroud, gulping the last rays of light away. It manifested in itself, an eerie peacefulness which suctioned my spirit buried somewhere deep within me, over and over again.
I moved closer to my father, nearer to his warmth, so that my feelings anchor, and negativity sail far away, disappearing into the night’s darkness. My father, forty years of age, sat in a plastic armchair – the only furniture in our shack. I gathered my skirt’s flare and sat on the floor, by his feet. His skeletal knees were right by my face, like hammer heads against a human head.
A swirl of saliva, perhaps the partially digested yellow lentil I had for dinner, travelled up my gut, past my breasts, scraped onto my throat and then went back down. I ran my fingers on my braid, like they were frets of Cello, and looked away, at the ground.
My father was a vegetable vendor who smoked cigarettes, and pointed to his heap of green to passersby – “One dollar only.” His sandpaper soles sliced open by linear cracks, rested on top of each other, absolutely still; his feet, together with his static body mirrored the lifeless tranquility of the outside atmosphere.The only exception were his fingers. They moved to tune a battery operated radio.
The veins on his arms, thick and grey, carved their way from his fists to the elbow. Although they vanished thereafter, I knew they journeyed to his heart. Most veins and arteries did – those were fundamentals of biology; I had my sixth form national examinations due in three months.
But that seemed unlikely. We were dismissed from school at around midday. Everyone, the school staff and students were clueless about classes resuming again. The principal assembled the entire school and said: it was over. He stood on an elevated stage, and looked down at us, shaking his head. It was like he was an astrologer, who miraculously knew that all the pupils’ future, including mine, was bleak, that the planet Saturn conspired against us while Mars vexed.
My father left the frequency knob at last. That evening, the news began without the usual formalities. “You are tuned to your one and only, the best in Hindi radio – Radio Fiji. The hub for latest news, sports and entertainment.”
At sharp six, the announcer begun narrating the events of the day. The Parliament had dissolved. Selected Indian ministers had been taken hostage, at gunpoint. Fijian mobs looted Indian homes, and raped Indian women.
That night, my father kept a cane knife by his mattress. I asked if he planned to fight intruders. He said he would. But not before he hacked my head off. Nobody could touch his daughter’s honour. Never before him.
My own mattress gave way that night. It tore in half, slid away, and sucked my body in. I pushed my head back into the pillow. It rose from the sides. I pushed harder. It rose more. From the corner of my eyes, clay poured onto me, while I sunk into a pit. I pulled my blanket over my face and laid still. Motionless.