Unclean

A haunting story about loneliness   – By Priyanka Gopal

I

Standing on the cement jetty of Goa, on a crisp Wednesday evening, i am not alone.

There are a few anglers with their fishing rods casting bait into the dark water.

The night is young and the distant yellow lights of cheerful cafes behind me cast a gleam.

It’s peaceful, the silence occasionally cut through with a smattering of laughter from the diners.

As I look at the water, I feel myself drawn towards it.

I tear my eyes away.

And irrevocably, my gaze is drawn back to skim the surface of the water, and I summon the strength to ponder what lies beneath.

I have a fear of coastal water and its depth. I also find myself seduced by the crashing waves.

In my mind’s eye I can picture myself walking and slowly sinking, dissolving into the salty spray and rising over in the mist shrouding it.

The gentle splash that echoes every time a wave hits a breaker is hypnotic.

I let go. And take another step. Into nothingness.

II

I stroke the soft, fluffy white fur of the cat. I scratch behind her ears, and her cheek.

Before thoughts can form completely in my head, I forget what I was thinking.

I am not conscious of how many loops I have gone through.

Conscious. That would be the key word.

The weed tastes like peppery fried egg. The after taste is a little too oily for my palate.

But I forget I was thinking this.

Sometimes I attempt to write down what I am thinking.

But when I come down, off the haze, nothing makes sense.

Or maybe the green alters my perception of sense.

As I take a drag of the cigarette, I realize I do not remember when I lit it.

Half of it is burnt with a long crumbling stick of grey ash, barely hanging on.

Sometimes it seems easier to go through the motions of your vices when you are high, without a second’s thought.

And it’s easier to forget everything else.
Everything that matters.

My fingers feel warm.

I hold my hand out in front of my face and lose myself in the whorls, before I make an effort to hold on.

The cigarette’s burnt to the filter.

I stub it out and I cannot recall how much of the smoke went to waste.

Hell, I would have inhaled it in any case.

I lie back and close my eyes.

My heart beat is fast and thumping so loud it scares me.

What would happen if I were to die here, now and how!

I pass out.

***********

I cling to the porcelain toilet bowl and throw up again.

My head throbs and I can’t seem to focus.

My eyes close as my head slumps forward.

I rest my head on the crook of my elbow, resting it on the brink of the toilet seat.
***********

III

I trace the tattoo on my thigh.

“Unclean” it says.

People ask me why I got that written.

Who’s pure these days, I ask.

Rotten in both body and soul.

Most times I think, something will kill me.

Maybe, like the ads, if I do something often enough, I could get sick with something.
And I imagine the smoke eating away at my lungs, burning and choking it cell by cell.

I picture the weed scrambling my brains.

I think of what a drop of ink from my tattoo would do if it got into my bloodstream.

Pay a visit to my heart?

My heart would ask- who are you?

And the ink would say- I am a drop of the unclean.

I trace the scars on my wrist.

It’s not what you think.

Assumption.

I may look forward to death, sweet death, but I am too materialistic and cowardly to enter its door by my own volition.

IV

Unclean. Unclean. Everywhere it is  unclean.

My room. My heart. My soul. My space. My thoughts.

Unclean.

I scrub and scrub.

I scrub into the inked words and try to remove it.

I had found love and I had lost love.

Nothing was pure anymore.

Not my heart, My soul. My space. My thoughts.

You change and you change and yet you stay unclean.
Once soiled always shy.

I have bagged the empties and tossed the remains of the bottles of liquid courage into the communal bin downstairs.

I have cleaned and mopped every inch of my room.

There is not a speck of ash that remains.

I tried to deserve the love, I did. I worked hard for it. I swear upon it.

But he!

Oh the bastardness of it. That rat!

He worked hard on his back, double time.

What do you face in this life!

Cheats and maggots give you trust issues.

Liars and bastards who hurt you.

The heroes are already taken and the scum is all that’s left.

The thieving underbelly of the city crawls with these slicked vermins.

Unclean again. The city, these men, this life.

I rip my tee-shirt off.

It has a cheery image of Minnie mouse. But the print is scraped and bare in places.

The distressed look they say. Unclean and un-new again.

They give something new a history, force-feeding the information into its appearance.

It is meant to comfort you, soothe you.

But does it really?

Where are the joys of breaking into something. Creating your own personal history with your own memory prints.

The jeans you tore when you skinned your knee. That tee-shirt you ripped fighting with your brother.

The faded out patches on the knees of your cargos.

I step into the tub, into the hot water.

I douse the loofah with liquid soap, and I commence scrubbing myself.

My skin is raw and tender, pink, with red scores in places, from the harshness of my all-natural scrub, doubled with the nylon synthetic strings of the loofah.

Clean is everything I want to be. New-born and innocent. Impossible?

I do not crave richness and spaces, nor travel to places.

All I want is a fresh new start on life.

Healthy, happy, heartful.

I once was empty, but now I am not.

I am filled with the weirdly wonderful glow of self-righteousness and directional ambition.

With a new narrow focus on life.

I scrub and I scrub, why do I not feel cleaner than before.

My heart is full of thoughts of purpose.

My future is what I can see.

But cleanliness does not come to me.

I scrape the ink, I gouge my flesh, I scrub and scrub and scrub.

I wipe away my tears of pain.

And then the first trickles of blood begin to drip into the waters of my bath.

Red, red blood.

And the more I scrape, the redder it gets, the water is a pool of watery blood.

The more I scrape, the more I scrub, I rip my old scars open.

More and more, my blood, it drains and I still feel so unclean.

And then there is a lightness to my soul.

And I scrub and scrub and clean.

V

The last time anyone saw Maria, was 2 days ago.

At first, we thought she had gone somewhere for the weekend.

And then Gina, in passing, mentioned her door was not locked from the outside but within.

I went upstairs after breakfast and knocked. But there was no answer.

I called her on her phone, and I could hear the harshness of her ringtone break out within.

I pushed at the door a little harder and I was surprised when it opened.

And then I remembered, she had complained about the broken latch in her room to the warden last week. How do I know this? She complained to everyone, when it broke, She complained when she told the warden and called her a fat lazy pig. And something much worse that I do not care to repeat. And she complained when the warden did nothing about it.

She was always one for complaining.

And whining.

Her room was spotless. That was odd.

And there was another oddity.

The drapes were pulled open and the warm sun cloaked the room with yellowness.

Maria loved the dark. And she loved the dark side of life.

Calling her name, I peered into the verandah.

But she wasn’t there.

I walked towards the bathroom.

I pushed the plastic door.

It did not budge. It was locked from the inside.

I hammered the door and called out again, and again.

There was no sound.

As I pushed against the door, I felt this coldness at my feet.

And then, for the first time, I looked down at the floor.

I rushed to the warden.

There was cold, black, blood.

VI

The warden called the police and they took their timing coming.

They sat down in her room and had tea and biscuits.

They asked the warden to fill out a form and spoke to some of us, and took down our statements.

A missing person report was filed after 48 hours, they said. And it was about 52 now.

They took their time to talk, and feed, and at long last, they were done.

For now, they said.

They went upstairs to Maria’s room.

***********
Everyone was talking about how shocking her death was.

How young she had been.

Her rudeness was now spoken of as honesty, her ruthlessness as determination, her bitching as sensitive.

It was almost as if she was sainted after death.

Like the dead always are.

It is almost impossible to think of how bad they were or how miserable they made people.

You can always try. But you can never succeed.

It is almost as if death has this magicality to change the livings perspective of you.

The dead are always respected, and spoken of in hushed tones.

When they found her, her body was swarming with spiders, larvae and flies, the more gruesome of us relished in saying.

Her nudity was enshrouded with their hairy legs and the wispy wings and their rounded fleshy bodies.

The air was buzzing with insect activity.

The bathwater had spilled over, and her blood was all over the place.

It speckled the white bottles of soap and shampoo next to the tub.

It had splashed over the peach towels in her room.

The black candles that she favored had long since burned out leaving odd molten puddles on the cracked, stained floor.

Her ear phones were still plugged in, but the i-pod had long run out of charge.
Her skin was scrubbed clean off they said.

Her loofah, was still in her hands, when they found her.

The young dying, is a shock enough, and someone who was normal-by what today’s standards of normal are-killing herself, had shocked everyone.

For who knows what is running through the mind of someone you know.

Who is suicidal and who is not.

Which is worse? Hurting yourself or hurting someone else?

Should you be jailed for attempting suicide?

Can you be capable of suicide if you were mentally stable?

What is mentally stable?

Suicidal, is everyone.

That man on the road, your teacher, your aunt?

This world makes you want to end it, for the clarity that this world has bestowed upon us at a very young age, helps us to see things as they are, and not veil ourselves, or cheat ourselves into believing otherwise.

Such is life.

So am i.

 

Priyanka Gopal is a 29 year old artist. A self confessed dreamer she claims she has ” Mood swings between anarchical punk and crazy hippie ”  🙂  Bohemian Rhapsody mirrors her take on life