This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

In Touch

“Why,” I asked for the third time, “is the cat staring at the wall?”
She lifted one eyelid just enough to look at me. “What cat? Where?”

“That cat.” I pointed at the poster she’d tacked up next to the window. “The cat on the poster.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her eyelid had already fallen back into place, and her lips began moving again in their silent cadence.

“Why did you put up the poster?” I asked. “I don’t like cat posters. Or cats, for that matter.”

“Go away,” she said, eyes still closed. “I’m meditating.”

I looked at her. Sitting barefoot and cross-legged on the bed, her palms turned upwards on her knees, dressed all in black and with incense sticks burning around her, she didn’t look as though she was meditating as much as zoned out. I was tempted to ask if she were on drugs, and, if so, of what kind.

“Go away,” she said. “I can still feel your aura, and it’s not letting me concentrate.”

Disconsolately, I wandered into the living room. The TV set was silent, the screen black and talcum-powdered with dust. Ever since she’d begun on this meditation routine, our life together had gone to hell. She spent her evenings “meditating”, and wouldn’t allow me to watch TV or to make any noise because it would disturb her “concentration”. She wouldn’t touch meat or allow me to do so, because eating meat would contaminate her aura with the vileness of blood and death. She wouldn’t put on shoes because she wanted to merge her energies with those of the earth. Except for one night a week, she wouldn’t make love any longer because carnal pleasures detracted from those of the mind. And on that one night, she would make everything so ritual-bound, full of invocations and scented oils and gestures, that I’d lose all my enthusiasm well before we got to the actual act.

It had been going on for a month now, and I was sick and tired of it.

I could leave her, I thought. After all, we weren’t married, thank heaven, and I could afford to rent a place alone. I could pack the most essential stuff in a couple of bags right now, walk out of the door, check into a hotel till I found a small flat, and be back in a few days for the rest of my things. I’d even have done it, but all I needed, except for my razor and toothbrush, was in the bedroom, where she was sitting on the bed, meditating. I didn’t think she’d appreciate my banging around packing while she was trying to “concentrate.”

It was also true that I was worried about her. She’d changed so much in the last month from the girl I’d loved that I wondered what had gone so suddenly wrong. Was she on dope? Had she gone crazy? It’s not even as though I’d seen the signs. I’d come back from work one evening, and there she was, “meditating”. And she’d never answered any of my questions, either.

I found a cloth and began wiping the TV down. I used to enjoy a serial or two, but except for a hurried round of the news channels over breakfast, I hadn’t watched any TV in a month, and I’d probably lost all track of the plot developments. That was something I’d have to buy if I moved out, a TV.

There was a sound from the bedroom, and I looked over my shoulder as she emerged and glided bathroomwards, eyelids at half mast. She looked like a sleepwalker, and I waited for her to bang into the bathroom door, but she managed to open it quite nicely. I suppose she was more alert than she let on.

I went back to the bedroom, which was hazy with incense smoke, and looked at the poster. It was black and white and a coppery yellow, and there was nothing written on it; not a word. The bloody cat on it was only a stylised stick figure, but it looked smug, sitting there looking at the wall. And the wall wasn’t just a wall, I realised. It looked like one of those drawings of the curvature of space, with the lines denoting bricks squeezing together into a hole in the bottom. It was hideous.

I was about to pull it off when I heard her flush the loo, and stepped back in time so that when she came back I was standing well away from the damned thing. “Where did you get that?” I asked.

She took her time folding her legs and tucking up her feet in her favourite position while thinking about my question. “I was given it,” she said at last.

“By whom? It’s horrible. Just look at it!”

“What about it?” She blinked at it with her long eyelashes, which were matted with mascara these days until they looked like a pair of black millipedes sitting on her eyelids. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

“It doesn’t make any sense.” I gestured, feeling my anger rise. “Even if I liked cats, which I don’t, that poster is stupid and meaningless.”

She looked at me with what was either infinite pity or infinite boredom. “But it does make sense,” she said. “It makes sense to anyone who’s in contact with their inner selves, as that cat is in contact with its inner self, and its inner self is the Universe. It’s...” She rotated her hand in the air, searching for the word, and triumphantly found it. “It’s...motivational.”

“ what end? What’s happening to you?”

“I’m just becoming who I really am.”

“Sounds more like you’re on something to me. Is that it? A drug of some kind? You can tell me, don’t worry.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She slipped some more joss sticks, set light to them, and put them in the holders. “Do you want to become who you really are? Come and sit beside me, like this, and I’ll teach you to meditate.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.” The incense smoke was making my eyes water. “Could you please turn the exhaust fan on or something? I can barely breathe in here.”

“I need the incense. Go away if you won’t meditate. Go for a walk or something.”

I shrugged and turned away. I really would leave, I decided, once she’d finished with her meditation. I wouldn’t even tell her I was going, just pack quickly while she was having her ritual post-meditation “ablution”, and leave a note on my way out. I’d stick it to the centre of that cat poster, so she couldn’t possibly miss it.

I’d just made this decision when the phone rang. And rang.

Surprised, I picked it up. Nobody called us anymore outside work, and it wasn’t a number I recognised.

“Would you like to get in touch with yourself?” a breathy female voice asked. “Would you like to know the mysteries at the heart of creation? You will not regret it.”

“What...” I began, but she was still talking, and I realised it was a recording.

“You will get rid of all your problems, mental and physical. With the submission of your conscious will to your inner soul, you will truly become master or mistress of yourself. We are a growing, harmonious community of True Believers in Ourselves. Contact us now at...” She read off a number. “We hope to see you soon.”

I glanced at the bedroom. She was still meditating in there.

I sat thinking for a long time. I thought about leaving her, and I thought about the times we’d had. I thought about the vacation we’d taken last year, clambering through limestone caves and wading through subterranean lakes, bats fluttering in our helmet lights. I remembered the time she’d been scared she was pregnant, and how relieved we’d both been when it turned out to be a false alarm. I thought about the cat on the poster, and about a wall that melted into a black hole.

Finally, I reached for the phone and called the number the recording had mentioned. I knew it was the number I wanted, because I’d recognised the voice. Its owner was sitting meditating in the bedroom.

Maybe I could find out what on earth was going on, and if so, maybe I could rescue her and bring her back. I didn’t think so, but I had to try. And if I, too, fell into the same state, there were words of comfort I should remember.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2011 

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