THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

10 in the afternoon

your lips beckon, yearn for disaster

through the looking glass, we kiss

 

© elancharan

Advertisements

Bathroom

(It’s a modern bathroom. The shower is on, though no one is bathing. Hot vapour has rendered the mirror covered with mist. A palm wipes it clear. An intense young face appears, unkempt beard, eyes show lack of sleep.)

Face: [giggling] I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me. {Joker’s dialogue to Batman)

Reflection: Oh, enough! Something original, please!

Face: What’s original, dear selfie? In the multiverse of stories, there is only one plot, conflict.

Reflection: So, don’t borrow one. Tell me one of your own.

Face: Why should that be interesting? I am an ordinary boy or a man? See? My conflict! Today, (checks a mobile) hmm, I am 20!

Reflection: (scoffs) You were dying to grow up once!

Face: That was only to grow wings, or spin webs, or just disappear. (Disappointed, Face sits down on the toilet. The body appears now, partly wet, sitting in a pose like Rodin’s Thinker) Nothing happened!

Reflection: (floats out of the mirror, a little diffused in the mist that’s there in the room, looks down at him) That was cute!

Face: (startled) Didn’t I leave you there?

Reflection: Can you? Don’t even try.

Face: I want to be alone. That’s why I lock myself up. Pa asks what you do for an hour in the bathroom. I say, I fly out of the window and solve world’s problems.

Reflection: He is a simpleton.

Face: Don’t deride him.

Reflection: And you can punch him down on the ground?

(Face turns silent. Looks down. Gazing at his own crotch)

Reflection: Not much to see there, isn’t it?

Face (looks up angrily): As if you have one!

Reflection: I don’t need one. I am screwing you just as well.

Face (covers in his palms): Go away!

Reflection (suddenly polite and friendly): Who shall you speak with then?

Face: I don’t need anyone. I have my characters.

Reflection: Made any lately?

Face: Yeah, one. Last night.

Reflection (excited): Show me, show me!

Face: Nothing to write home about.

Reflection: Posted already?

Face: Nah! Just sent to her.

Reflection (curious): What did she say?

Face: She has not yet opened my message.

Reflection: Who is it?

Face: Who?

Reflection: The character, I mean. Who is it based on?

Face: Her.

Reflection: Wow! That’s (pauses) pathetic! She spat on your face, and you are still ‘inspired’?

Face (stunned): How do you know?

Reflection: Where do you think I live?

Face: That was a misunderstanding.

Reflection (sarcastic): Yeah, your miss had some understanding!

(Face is silent. Gets up and steps into the shower area. Through the shower partition, his silhouette is seen. Standing straight with arms raised, as if seeking redemption.)

Reflection (moving to the shower partition, etched in condensing mist): Praying?

Face: I don’t pray. Praying has not helped me ever.

Reflection: What was that when she slammed you out of her room, and you were waiting outside her door?

Face: That was a weakness; craziness perhaps. There is no alien superpower listening to us.

Reflection: Not even during exams you knew so little about?

Face: That was fear. Hopelessness. That’s not praying!

Reflection (shifts to the frosted window pane, hangs from there like a cobweb): What happened in Tirupati, remains in Tirupati.

(Face tries to slap Reflection, it shifts to the ceiling; vaguely visible now in the mist)

Reflection: Sorry, that was quite below the belt. Couldn’t see any, so…

Face: Enough of your smart ass quips! (Pleads) Can I just not be with myself for a while?

Reflection (eyes rolling sideways) I don’t see anyone. Expecting?

(He doesn’t respond. Reflection swings around; messes with his hairs, pinches his bottom. He seems undisturbed. He increases the shower speed and water temperature. More mist is formed. Both the Face and its Reflection get overwhelmed in the new cloud. A humming sound is heard)

Face (humming): … The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Reflection (mocking, only voice is heard): … gone with the wind…

(Face turns the tap off. He emerges from the vapour cloud. Keeps humming and ignoring Reflection, who tries all tricks to distract him. It wants to engage him in conversation. It doesn’t like the silence. It can’t bear being ignored.)

(Face dries himself. Then he picks up his mobile. There is a text message on the screen – ‘I don’t look like that anymore! Grow up.’ Face deletes the message, gives a muffled cry, tears roll down his cheek)

Reflection (now firmly in the mirror opposite the Face): Crying over the split milk? No use! She is a stupid upstart. What has she common with you?

Face (sobbing): Spiderman is our most favourite character.

Reflection: So is he for the millions of others.

Face: She told she loves me the most.

Reflection: Her limits are not very impressive then. Good riddance!

Face: You don’t know what it’s like living alone. You always have me.

Reflection: You don’t have me?

Face: I need real friends. In flesh and blood, ready to laugh, ready to shout, ready to feel bad, to be trusted, to be betrayed.

Reflection: Aha! That’s original. A broken heart does wonders for an artist, what say?

Face (turns himself away from the mirror): I am not an artist!

Reflection: Okay, so what are you, scientist?

Face: Why do you have to bottle identities up? (Smashes a glass kept on the washbasin to the ground) Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, Miranda… are we bloody brands waiting to be marketed? I hate labelling; we are not slaves to any… we have no masters that we shall bear their stamps on our forearms.

Reflection (laughing): Bravo! Keep it coming!

(Someone knocks on the door: “Betu, what happened? We heard the sound of some glass shattered. Are you okay? You need any help?)

Face: I am alright. Don’t bother.

Voice: Come out now, it has been forty minutes. We are waiting for lunch.

Face (angrily): Don’t wait then. I won’t have the spicy Jhol Ma has brewed. Go, serve yourselves. Leave me alone.

Voice (worried): Take care, betu! Such anger isn’t good for your health, won’t take you anywhere.

Face (mutters under his breath): As if I am dying to reach somewhere. Stupid people! Everyone has to think like them. Everyone has to have the same routine, same drill, same life!

(looks up, rattles off in monotone) Copulation, birth, admission test, school, (Reflection starts echoing him) entrance, college, interview, job, dating, marriage, sex, children, serving, promotion, loans, insurance, medical bills, savings, expenses, growing old, loneliness, death.

Same shit, different assholes!

Reflection (chuckles): That was funny!

Face (picks up a shard of the broken glass): It will no longer be.

Reflection (rolls its eyes mockingly) And you have what it takes to turn it serious?

Face: Are you daring me?

Reflection: I am real. Like you. Like your desire to get bitten by a spider and crawl on the walls. Like your fear that someone may find you incapable of making love. Like…

(Face splashes water on the mirror, tries to make the Reflection disappear. Water trickles down, Reflection melting with that.)

Reflection: You really think you can get rid of me?

Face (the shard in his right hand, targets the arteries on his left wrist): I can. I can. I can get rid of myself to get rid of you. (Looks at the mirror, blood in his eyes) Can’t I?

Reflection (scared, worried): You won’t do that.

Face: How are you so sure?

Reflection: You have no courage. Yet, you are not overwhelmed with fear. People who don’t take a side get forever pulled.

Face: Yes, it needs terminal fear. All doors closed. Spirit drained out.

Reflection: Why do you think that’s your case? Romantic tragedy? Fade up with the System? With polity, society, economy… sodomy. (Face snaps again at Reflection. Throws more water on the mirror)

Face (manic, in a trance): Shoo, shoo, go away… you are evil, very evil. You can’t be me.

Reflection (latching on precariously to the dripping waterfall on the mirror): Think you can make those waiting outside your bathroom door bleed? Believe that you can let go of your dreams to be behind the desks in the Marvel studio? Trust that you can… (Pauses, looks at the mobile on the washbasin, already wet) pass the lust to type another message to her, just in case…

(Face drops the shard to ground, slowly, careful not to make any extra bit of sound. He stares at the mirror. Water has mostly trickled down. The mirror is shining. So is the Reflection)

Reflection: Get out! The movie starts at 2:30. It’s already 1:30 and cabs take the time to come.

Face (Looks up) Thanks!

Reflection: For what?

Face: You know!

Reflection: That was self-defence. If you go, I go as well. I love living here. This mirror is just so cool and shiny. Come back again. (Mock formal tone) It’s such a pleasure to meet you here every day.

(Face wraps a towel around himself and opens the bathroom latch with care. He steps out. He is heard from inside the washroom.)

Face (off stage): Shaving stand fell down. No spectacles, what to do! Why do you have to put a fragile ceramic thing in my toilet? And what’s this? Who asked you to get me a birthday gift without asking…(Voice fades out. So does the Reflection, a half smile perilously hanging down the left corner of his lips.)

Bio:

Tapan Mozumdar has been a practising engineer. Now, he is practising quite hard to be a writer. At 51, the opening of a new vista of writing short stories has been quite fulfilling for him. He was shortlisted in 2016 for the Star TV Writer’s program and Bangalore LitMart for pitching like a new writer. He has been published in the February & April Editions of The Spark and several other online magazines.

He writes short stories, poems, and non-fiction and trying short plays of late.

© Tapan Mozumdar