I am her. I dance. I slowly stretch my hand out, hold my fingers together intimating a flower bud. When I open my fingers outwards, the flower blooms. There is a lotus in the temple pond with wet waxy green leaves. The blue sky breaks, I hear the thunder, and I feel myself get drenched in cold water.
I look into the mirror, I see her, but it’s me. There are gold jewels around my neck studded with stones of emerald, ruby and sapphire. There is a tangerine colored bindi on my forehead. I look at the old gilded frame of the mirror, the intricate curving designs on it. I am in the past, in the times of kings and palaces. I look around, everything seems hazy, yet I can clearly see.
He pulls my clothes off me. My chest heaves, and I breathe deeply. I can smell him, like garlic, all over me. He is in me, something gushes through my body. I tilt my head backwards and run my fingers through his curly black hair. I see the mulberry red curtains of the canopy bed fluttering.
I push him away, he pulls me to him. He holds my head in his hard hands and thrusts into me. I want to scream, but she doesn’t. She closes her eyes and tears run down my cheek.
My head feels heavy. I taste the salty water. I’m drowning. She doesn’t want to save herself. I feel the numbing cold pierce my body, but there’s nothing I want to do. I try to stop thinking.
I’m moving to the music of the flute, in front of the temple’s silhouette against the dark blue night sky. Everyone’s watching me intently. My eyes dart, my hand gestures various symbols, I look into the eyes of the man sitting on the throne of precious stones, with peacock feathers spread out behind him. He raises his brows and bites his lower lip. I bow to him and throw a handful of lotus petals at his feet.
I want to scream, I’m naked again, I want to break away, but I’m under him. She closes her eyes tightly and bites the insides of her lips.
Heavenly music plays, of drums, of lutes. She’s dancing again, graciously, like a celestial being. I see her for the first time. She’s outside me. I’m not her, anymore.
He holds her firmly by her hips; she struggles to get out of his grip. He squeezes her flesh like an animal and bites her bare shoulder. She opens her kajal-lined eyes. I look into her pained eyes, an abyss, and it pulls me under.
I’m twirling again, deep in the ocean. I feel heavy in my heart. My eyes are closed, but I can see her gold bangles glitter in the yellow-orange flames of the lamps.
The sky is black with sparkling clusters of crystal pink, turquoise blue and blinding white. I gulp for air. I open my eyes.
Writer: Sindhu Rajasekaran
Illustrator: Laura Dixon