My acquaintance with Tvesa had been simple. We were born into the same town. This town. I still live in. An assemblage of congested places. Of many houses. And their windows. If you had to meet the sun, you had to be on the roofs. The sun-rays never penetrated beyond that. The lanes and by-lanes of our town were always a mingling of overlapping shadows. Shadows that went right through your skin. Poured in through your eyelids, even when they were closed. Landed right into your veins. And flowed with your blood. My acquaintance with Tvesa was amidst the many dissimilar shadows of our town.
In our childhood we both knew to fly. Our childhood was a collection of a multitude of moments we had spent suspended in the mid-air. We jumped from roof to roof. All children. In the sunshine. Tvesa jumped along with us. She was not yet a girl. At times, we held hands as we took a leap. The moments we spent mid-air seemed endless. Against gravity. The wind rushing forth from all sides. We flew. Yes, it was flight. Not a jump. A flight. Sometimes, an instant can be hours long. By the time, we had landed on the other roof, it seemed we had told each other an entire folk tale that our grandmas had told us. Telling a story mid-air. That feeling fascinated me even years later when I started writing stories.
We unlearnt flying in a few years, like all children do, by realizing the risks of falling. We learned growing up is an understanding of risks and knowing to be afraid. We stopped being children. We had become boys & girls. A group of erstwhile buddies demarcated by a thin line called sex.
That's when we abandoned the roofs and started frequenting the lanes. The shadowy lanes. We always used to walk in herds. A gang of boys. A bunch of girls. While walking down the shadowy lanes in our herds, we spoke louder than the proximity called for. Always. Perhaps, we were afraid of the shadowy lanes devouring us. While walking down the lanes we looked up sometimes and found the roofs had been reclaimed by newer children who knew to fly. Much like us. In the past.
We were not sad, however. Our fears had become stronger than our nostalgia. Our fears were also an invitation. To a world unknown. And forbidden. Soon enough, I realized I was not much different from the shadowy lanes that we used to roam through all day long. Crisscrossed. Trying to go to newer places but returning back to the same old town. With its inherent options and an incapability to choose. Trapped forever in its eternal curse of the shadows. In our growing up years, choice was never an option we had. I had become a lane in this assemblage of congested places we called our town.
Tvesa had become a shadow. Elusive and illusory.
Rubia. The girl born out of death. Like remains of a tale already told. Stayed with us. Rubia. Was my return. One night.
Our tale really starts with a gust of wind. A fluttered window. And.
Rubia came. Her hair untied. Laid haphazard. Crisscrossed. Like the lanes of our town. One of which she must have taken. If. Rubia came. Rubia walked down the window of my room.
She said she was tired. She said she wanted to sleep. I said she could lie down on my bed. She said she'd like that. She did.
Rubia fell asleep on my bed that night. A sound sleep. But she wouldn't close her eyes. Reminded me of lizards. How difficult it must be for a lizard to know if it's still alive. Or dead.
While Rubia slept she kept staring at a certain point of my ceiling. I don't know what really engrossed her so about that particular point.
I went and slept beside her. It wasn't a sound sleep. I dreamt of a stormy night. I saw the window of my room flutter in a gust of wind. And I saw a woman I barely knew standing there in my room. It frightened me.
"I'm too tired. I've got no place to sleep." She said.
"I have to sleep." She said.
She was evil. I knew. I wanted to take no chances.
"You may rest there, if you wish." I said, pointing towards my bed.
"O, thank you so much. You are so kind." She said.
She went and lied down on my bed. She fell asleep. That's when I decided to pick up the knife from my table. I walked towards her. Slowly and silently. And I was about to stab her when I saw her face.
It was Tvesa. Sleeping peacefully.
That's when I woke up. I woke up to find Rubia still sleeping beside me. Her eyes wide open. Still. What was she afraid of?
She woke me up before it was dawn. She said she had a dream in which she couldn't recognize herself. She said she couldn't differentiate. She didn't know who she was. And.
She didn't know who she is.
Tvesa said she wanted to come out in the sun with me. It was an intent. But our intent is not always what lures us. For our intent, in most cases, is simply an idea stripped of its uncertainty. Intent is a premeditated thought about a future that, we have deduced we'd like to choose. But like I've already said, choice was never an option for us. Me. Or Tvesa. And therefore, even though Tvesa would've liked to believe that it was the premeditated future that would interest her, it was exactly that interest that made it equally disinteresting for her. Let me tell you how.
Tvesa had become a shadow. It was not what she had chosen to become. Never. In fact, I'm sure she would've preferred being the sun, if she could afford to choose. Our premeditated future is like a straight line. Like walking on the edges of a wall. You've to maintain balance. And go where the wall's supposed to go. Tvesa was walking on a wall that passed through a shadowy darkness. She was lost. Darkness opened up a new word to her: possibility. Possibility is a dream of the infinite. And eternity. A door to the unknown. The untraversed. It was different from the premeditated future that interested her. The world of possibility was different because it had nothing to interest her. The mystery of apathy is undeniable. Tvesa said she wanted to come out in the sun with me. But her apathy held her in. Tvesa had to become a shadow.
At night, the lanes glowed in a soft green haze. When, by chance, I came across Tvesa on the lanes, her face always shone in the green light. I don't know about her eyes. She never looked at me when she was with some other man. And most of the nights I saw her with different men. Walking down the shadowy lanes. Jubilant and uncomplicated. I sat at the corner-side cafeteria. Alone. Watching the constant toiling of all the green people. And their shadows. Equally green. Oftentimes, I searched Tvesa in the shadows. Single shadows. Overlapping shadows. Tangled shadows. I didn't know where to find Tvesa. She was rarely there at home. I didn't like it. Neither did I like my disliking. It made me all the more helpless.
"You don't look at me," I often told her when we met.
"Your body is your eye," she always said.
I didn't know what she meant. But it made me happy, somehow. And I didn't know why.
There were many places Rubia could go to. She claimed. Float above the clouds. Sit inside the fire. Lay deep underground. And elsewhere. Too.
She could walk inside herself.
As for me, that was the only place that frightened me. I was afraid of living inside Rubia. Drawing a home. Inside.
Rubia was a maze. Untangled. A maze. She had no answer to.
"Why do you think you don't know yourself?" I had asked.
"Why do you think I might know?" I had asked.
"Why do you think there might be an answer?" I had asked.
I had asked. And. She had no answer. To my questions.
Oftentimes, when I wrote some tale. Rubia came and invaded them. Stepped into them. As if my tales were some flowing river. Unnamed. She first dipped her feet in the waters. Studying the temperature. And then. Walked right into it. Those nights. My tales were infected with Rubia.
Oftentimes, when I wrote some tale. I also abandoned them. Midway.
And I wished I could abandon Rubia too in the same way. But she slept, every night, holding my hand. Pressing them tightly. Closer to her body. She slept. Her eyes open.
And. While she slept. Did she close her body? Was Rubia's body the only eye she had, like Tvesa had claimed long ago?
Was evil Rubia also invading my memories of the sacred Tvesa?
Tvesa also claimed oftentimes that your skin is like time. If you don't spend it with someone, you don't spend it at all. Until you'd have none left. And so, she spent her skin in different spaces. Oftentimes, when I walked into some place, I felt the fragrance of her skin still lingering in the corners. I tried to collect most of them and brought them home. So that I might have access to them when I chose to. And one of these days, I thought, when Tvesa would come down to my place she'd love to see my compilation of her fragrances, collected from all the scattered places in our town of shadows.
Tvesa never understood the concepts of an imaginary skin. I told her that our skins might be intangible too. That there are skins that can only be felt with our eyes closed. Like when we prayed.
Tvesa and me had never prayed together.
There were two houses on opposite sides of the street. One was a little oblique in shape, the other - a little pointed. In our childhood that is how we identified the houses. 'The Oblique House' and 'The Pointed House'. We were to visit one of the houses. Tvesa's parents took her to The Pointed House, my parents preferred The Oblique House. We grew up and like everything else in the town of shadows, the houses too became two options that we couldn't choose from. The rules of the town were the same. You had to be where you had been. So, we kept on visiting the different houses.
Our interpretations of the skins were different. But we did share our skins with each other.
"If I die tonight, would it be me that'd be dead?" Rubia asked.
"You cannot die. You were born out of death."
"What was the name of my death?"
"Death doesn't have a name except itself. It will have causes though."
"What was the name of the cause of my death?"
"I don't know. In fact, what would you do with a name?"
"I want to identify my death. Identify myself."
"You already have a name. Rubia."
"Is that a perfect name?"
"What is a perfect name?"
"A name that suits the meaning of the person who bears it."
"People don't have any inherent meaning to them, much less their name. Names are perfectly random."
"Is Rubia a random name too?"
"Yes. Perfectly so."
"So, if I were to be named Tvesa, you would have still called me evil?"
Rubia was evil indeed. I felt like killing her too. For different reasons, of course.
Murdering Tvesa had been a conscious decision for me. I wanted to remove the veil of skins that separated us. I never understood why she was free to share both her tangible and intangible skin with the men who visited The Pointed House. And why, when she did the same with me, she would make me promise later on that I'd not utter a word about any of it. Our shared sensations were always shrouded in a condition named silence. Condition: The only option you are allowed to choose from many options.
Death has names.
Tvesa's death was a suicide and a murder. She had peeled off her life and me, her skin. Made her unrecognizable. Unknowable. Unknown.
Her corpse had been found on the streets. Unclaimed. Unnamed.
Death has names. And.
Names are not random. At all.
Each of us is destined to die twice. Our first death causes our lives to end. Causes our body to stop functioning. It's a biological death. And then there must be a social death too. A death in which our corpses must die.
Tvesa's corpse was a debate. A debate that seeded from responsibility and ended in a name. A debate in which the shadows tangled and untangled themselves. Over and over again. A long, long debate between The Oblique and The Pointed House. It was later concluded that she be called Rubia and thereby, The Oblique House shall take responsibility of her social death.
Tvesa's biological death was to be succeeded by Rubia's social death.
At night, the lanes glowed in a soft green haze. When, by chance, I came across Rubia on the lanes, her face always shone in the green light. I don't know about her eyes. She never looked at me when she was with some other corpses. And most of the nights I saw her with different corpses. Walking down the shadowy lanes. Jubilant and uncomplicated. I sat at the corner-side cafeteria. Alone. Watching the constant toiling of all the green people. And their shadows. Equally green. Oftentimes, I searched Rubia in the shadows. Single shadows. Overlapping shadows. Tangled shadows. I didn't know where to find Rubia. She was rarely there at home. I didn't like it. Neither did I like my disliking. It made me all the more helpless.
"You don't look at me," I often told her when we met.
"Your body is your eye," she always said.
"If I die tonight, would it be me that'd be dead?" Tvesa asked.
"We cannot die. We are born out of death."