Story

Published on: May 03 2016 by Administrator

Story

As she slowly woke up, her eyes adjusted to the familiar scene of the brown door with its ugly yellow handle positioned directly in front of the bed. She just stared at it for a while, soon feeling uncomfortable because of her poor posture. She shifted in her bed, attempting to find a more relaxing position. It was a wonder she could fall asleep in it—the bed was hard, the pillows equally hard though she knew that couldn’t be possible. The bed was wooden, but pillows could not be wooden. Who had ever heard of a wooden pillow? She shifted again this time to face the wall, pink in colour like strawberry flavoured bubble gum.

She had been fully awake for quite some time already, but could not bring herself to get up. “Why bother?” she thought, wishing the day would just pass without her having to get up! She closed her eyes again, forcing sleep to come. Sleep, however, is a good friend, and won’t let her sleep more than she needs to. She could try harder, but sleep was also as stubborn as she was. Today, she gave up without much fight.

She stares at the ceiling as she finally gets off her bed. Thank God at least the ceilings are white. They aren’t intentionally white–the painter just didn’t paint over the varnish at all. At least they are not pink. Her room is small fitting only a cupboard, a dustbin, a bed, a chair and a desk. She had also managed to squeeze in a small rack beside her bed and a coffee table in the centre of the room, which she surrounded with odd cushions, and that was that.

She checks her homemade clock on the wall, smiling as she remembers the day she made it. Realizing that it was already getting late, she hurriedly gets dressed and runs out of her hostel room. “No breakfast for me today!” she shouts at the hostel kitchens. The cook answers with a nod before turning his back to her. Having breakfast and dinner daily was a rule in the hostel, but the cook didn’t care for it and the residents took full advantage of the situation.

The hostel was one of many in Kathmandu. It had a name you forgot time and again because it wasn’t catchy, nor meant to be so. It only had a name because it needed a name, and so was given that of “Kailash Girl Hostel.” She thought the name was slightly grammatically incorrect, but she didn’t bother correcting it. Of all the residents in the hostel, one of them had to have suggested fixing the name’s mistake to Ms. KantiDevi, and like everything else the suggestion must have been met with an “uhuh”. “Uhuh” was Ms. KD’s catchphrase. Everything could be responded to with an “uhuh.”

‘There was a mouse in my room.’

‘Uhuh’

‘She stole my phone.’

‘Uhuh’

‘The paint is peeling off the walls.’

‘Uhuh’

Ms. KD was kind as a hostel owner, though. She made sure the food was healthy, the rooms were cleaned, that the fee was very reasonable, and that the residents could and would always pay up on time. She knew that most of her residents were girls trying to thrive in the city and could not afford much given their salaries. She thought of herself as a kind of social worker. A social worker with a ‘kind of’ appendage attached before it. She would never let anyone live there for free and she would never let anyone live there on credit. She didn’t do credit. She herself would rather go hungry than eat food on credit. This was also her thing.

Having successfully left the hostel in a hurry, she now zips through the streets of the nation’s capital. Running is not something she will consider doing, no matter how late she might be, because she has never seen a woman run through the roads before. Not in Kathmandu, not in her village. She gets to work barely in time. She is a sales assistant at a clothing store that sits on a lane just like any other clothing store on any other lane. All day, every day with a smile on her face she waits on customers and points out the next best thing to buy if the item they want isn’t the right size or the right colour.

Today there aren’t many customers, so she can just sit on her stool and look out of the display window of the shop. A car passes by; a car just like his. Her heart beats fast and she runs to the door. The nameplate is wrong and she stands at the door for a while, just staring out. She feels drained. ‘Not again,’ she thinks to herself as she returns to her stool. Now she is angry with herself, very angry, and she reflexively punches the wall. Her knuckles begin to bleed and her hand throbs, but now she is not so angry anymore.

She remembers the last time she punched a wall. She was back home then, in her village, in her room. She had just been hit by her father; her mother crying throughout the ordeal and her older brother just standing there watching the entire scene. Her father had every right to be angry. Reasonable as she was, she had expected it. She had fallen in love with a city-dweller after all. A city dweller who came on a vacation to her village in his shiny, new blue car. She had thought then that he was in love with her. Maybe he had thought that he was in love with her, too, at the time. He had told her he would marry her if she came with him to the city, so she had done just that. That night, after she told her family and faced their refusals, she packed a bag, crept out of the house and took the first bus to Kathmandu. Once there, the rest of the story played out just as you would expect. She ended up in the city alone, in a small room in the Kailash Girl Hostel, working as a sales assistant in a clothing store.

That day she returned to the hostel tired. It had been a long day. She said, “No dinner tonight” to the cook who just nodded again unbothered. She lay on her bed waiting for sleep to take over, reminiscing about minor things that did not matter. She must have laid there for a long time because she could suddenly hear the clock go ‘tick tick’, but she didn’t bother to check the time. In the city, with all its noises, you could only hear the clock after nine. ‘Tick Tick.’ She remembered the day she had made the clock.

The day she made the clock had been a public holiday and the store was closed. There was a very surprising knock on the door. She didn’t know anyone in the city and it wasn’t the end of the month when Ms KD came to collect her rent. She never had any other visitors. Opening the door she saw her older brother. Her worst fears were confirmed. Her family knew. He must have told them. He wanted her to come home. “We can start over,” he said, but she said no. She couldn’t go back; she feared what people might say, but mostly she feared going back to the way she was before. Working the fields, cooking and cleaning. She had forgotten how harsh they felt. Living in a room with no job other than maintaining the house. All the time just counting the days until her 24th birthday. Soon after that she would be living in her husband’s room with no other job than maintaining the house. So, when her brother invited her back that was all she could remember. She said “no,” and he said, “There is no turning back from this. I won’t come again. Nor can you ever come home again. Can you survive on your own? ”. She didn’t answer the question. She just said goodbye.

She wondered if he would reach the bus stop in time for the 4pm bus. Then she realized she had no way of knowing. She didn’t have a clock that tells the correct time. That day, she could have just bought a clock, but no. She went to the hardware shop and got the parts she needed. She stuck the battery at the back of a cardboard and attached the hands of the clock to the small machine. Then she drew the numbers on the clock. After that, all she had to do was switch the battery on and ask the neighbour resident for the correct time. She had made a way to tell the time all on her own. She could make her own time. She would make her own time, in her own life, whichever way she chose to make it.

 

Prakriti Shree Tuladhar

Class of 2018

Filed under: Fiction