Would you like to come with me? I live just down the road. Yes, the road that leads to the lane. The road where there is a traffic snarl and people scream and get out of their vehicles and say, “Move!” when everything is at a standstill and nothing can move, because bumpers are sticking to bumpers obscenely. The lane has a fancy building on one side, there is a waterfall that sprays water on passers-by like an unseasonal shower, it tries to mimic nature, but the smell that comes from the grey street is full of a gutter that has opened up like an oozing wound. The gutter carries dirt. Filth from my home, other homes. Filth that we keep inside us till we decide to discard it. When do we know? We know. Our systems are designed well. We discard things – defecate, throw up, scrunch, crunch, scrape, mop, dust. Reminds me. I don’t know how to discard feelings. Like, should I put my finger deep in my throat and barf and say, “Out with you”? Will it go away? But the feeling is hollow. It is like throwing up a balloon. Nice. The image is nice. It could deflate inside, pricked by the very thought of regurgitation.
Would you still like to come with me? I live just down the road. In the lane there is a gym. Swanky cars are parked there. People come out, sweaty, as though they have done hard labour. They wear expensive track suits and carry designer totes. They protect themselves with shades that cover their faces. They look like they are trying to hide their identities. Maybe they have identities to hide. Maybe they are famous. Maybe they are not and want to appear so. Maybe they don’t care and those sunglasses are in vogue. Oh, I wear them too. I am hiding my eyes from the sun. No, from the mirror. No, from you.
Would you still like to come with me? I live just down the road. There is a new gate. The watchman sits in the little cabin. He will look at you carefully to see if you deserve to be let in. If you are with me, he might recognise you. He might not recognise me. If I am wearing those glasses. Or if I look away from him. He does not have to watch over me. I rarely meet him. If he asks you where you want to go and you point towards me, he may still persist. Then you will tell him, and he will put his hand under his chin and wonder. Then he will ask you to call on the intercom. There will be no response. Because I am with you. You forgot? People do.
Would you still like to come with me? I live just down the road. The lobby has a rather colourful motif. Then you wait for the lift. You enter and confront yourself. There is a mirror. You press the button which indicates the floor. There is a red one for alarm. I always keep that in mind. One never knows when the lift will stop. It does stop at the wrong floor. There is a defect. Anything that takes you up tends to have a defect. It isn’t easy reaching anywhere. You will step out gingerly because the lift also has the habit of stopping a little before or after the floor, the few inches where you can fall. Then you ring the bell. It is a nice sound. Especially when no one rings it. The door is a beautiful rough-hewn wood. I will fumble in my bag for the keys. The keyhole always plays truant and I have to straighten it. Then I turn in the key and it opens. Go to your right. The curtains are drawn. I knew I would be late, so I have prepared for it. The lights are switched on. A yellow glow in a blueish room. Will you have tea or coffee? Something to munch? Will you see the dents in the walls? The newspapers huddled like old women who have forgotten about their own wrinkles? Will you notice that I keep a lot of little things on shelves? Some are chipped. Will you ask me to sit with you? I know you are the guest. But I still don’t know whether I am the hostess. Why are you here?
Would you still like to come with me? I live just down the road. Which road? I don’t know. If you know the road, then tell me. I will be there. To remind myself that I also live.