Friday, 15 June 2012

Flash Fiction 2012 Longlist, Vandana Jena

Memory Games

Old age is debilitating. But I have done adapted to it gracefully.  Today I love my uncomplicated life in the retirement home, eating, sleeping, watching TV and walking. No visitors. People bore me.   And I can no longer remember their names. I am getting old, I’m almost sixty –five, and Sister tells me. I doze in my rocking chair and see the same dream I have told Sister about.  I see a log cabin on a hill top, with cobwebs covering the ebony door.  Once I clean the cobwebs everything would become clear once again.  

Sister wakes me up.  “Did you take your pills?” she asks. “I do not remember,” I confess. She scowls. “People often forget such things,” I argue what does she think I am suffering from? Alzheimer’s?
I have stopped trusting her, ever since she brought the man with brown eyes to me who took my hand and murmured, “Sunaina.” I shrugged his hand off immediately. Undeterred, he showed me photographs of himself and me, with a child in my arms. “Try and remember,” he urged. How could I? I did not know him. The pictures were morphed of course.  “Sister,” I hollered, “throw him out.’’  I then imposed the 'no visitor' rule. That was a long time ago.

“A new inmate has joined today,” says Sister. I am wary. Perhaps he is the fraud in disguise. I meet the new inmate in the garden reading a paper. “Hullo,” he says and gets up immediately.  I like chivalrous   men.  He has brown eyes, sparse hair and a frail appearance. Sister introduces us.  He mumbles his name but I can’t quite catch it. He is recovering from cancer he says. That explains his appearance. Chemotherapy. I realize.  He asks me about my family. “I live alone,” I mutter,   “And you?’’ “My wife is gone,’’ he responds. “Oh,” I murmur, “When did she pass away?”  “She went away,’’ he explains.   “Some people can’t cope with illness,’’ I murmur.  He mentions a son in the United States.  “He should take you with him.” I say. “I don’t want to go, in case my wife returns to me. The doctors say I have very little time left.” 

“There was a man once,” I whisper conspiratorially, “who kept showing me photographs of himself and me, insisting that we were married. I got him thrown out.”  He winces, and then takes out a photograph which he keeps looking at.  Curious, I crane my neck to see it.  It’s the photo of a log cabin on a hill top….. the same house I see   in my dreams. “I know the place,” I say excitedly, “I went there for my honeymoon.”   At last I remember something. If I could only brush the cobwebs away, I know, I would be able to see my husband’s face. “When?”  He asks hopefully. “It was a long time ago,’’ I mutter vaguely. “I know,” he murmurs, “forty five years ago.”  I frown. How does he know? I wonder.

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