Lies in White
I hated the color white.
I hated its every offspring.
And today I was stuck with my ivory white sneakers, because the black ones had decided to lose their soles.
“Let’s go!” my little brother shouted as the cars flashed past.
Before the words could reach my ears, he had sprinted over the zebra crossing.
I could feel the wave of anger welling up inside his insolence.
“Wait for me there!”I screamed at him.
White lines on a black road, the illusion of safety, I thought to myself as I waited for a moment of sobriety to present itself while cars whizzed past, lashing gusts into my face and hair. White had always been the color of lies and fake smiles for me. Soothing ivory white plastered over the rough grey walls underneath felt like a cover-up and the means to conformity. The overrated mythical purity of the color underselling its artificiality in bounds.
White was after all the color non-existent in nature.
The absence of light revealed a shade that existed while white remained the unachievable tint, the obvious sense of perfection.
But, not for me. I reached my grinning brother who was standing in the island dividing the street in opposite directions. I took his hand in mine, preparing to cross over to the walk ways.
“I am not a kid! I can walk myself.” He said eyes blazing in indignation.
In cue of my surprise, my hold relaxed and he slipped his hand free. In a moment he was bolting through the street.
You are so dead, brother!
“You either do as I say or you go home!” I said to him once I managed to get to the other side, my voice a modicum louder than I expected it to be.
“Don’t shout at me in public.”
My reprisal had attracted the attention of a sweaty jogger.
“Then you will do as I say.”
His fingers were so quick that my dull eyes failed to register his little fingers unscrewing the top of the Fresh Milk bottle and before I could say no, the ivory liquid had found glee over my face.
I hated milk.
I closed my eyes swearing at him, striving to clean it in fervency akin to that of removing acid thrown into my face. Its putrid smell filling up my nasal cavities as I tried to block it out by breathing through my mouth.
For all its pure whiteness, I hated milk. It was the sign of us pilfering away the physical
manifestation of the motherly love of an animal to its calf so we could quench our own selfish protein-vitamin needs and the occasional spilling over the other’s face.
And my brother knew my distaste all too well.
“You are so dead!” I said opening my eyes.
He wasn’t there.
I figured he was into one of his tantrums again.
I walked on, expecting him to come beside me any minute.
I smiled, hearing his feet lazily dragging his shoes over the pathway and turned to show him I wasn’t angry.
But it wasn’t him.
It was a dull-eyed ageing man on his evening walkabout.
“Ved” I called out, “where are you?”
He did not reply.
I walked back to where he was just moments before.
The spilt milk now having lost its whiteness was spread into a dark blotch on the interlocks.
My breathing grew heavier, sweat streaming over my face under the evening heat.
“Ved! Stop this damn game.”
The dull-eyed man. He was wearing a white tracksuit.
A throbbing reverberated in my head as if a hundred little men were smashing tube lights on my skull walls. I walked into the tall shrubs and thistles on the side, eyes poring over the thick grass, not wanting to see what I feared.
“No… Please no…” I muttered walking through the green as thorns tore into my skin, the pain numbed and unfelt.
“Where is my brother?!” I shouted at the people passing by.
They walked away quicker, afraid I might sink my teeth into their necks.
My knees shook and I fell into the carpet of weed.
I closed my eyes trying to shut away the images of a life without my little brother.
“Open your eyes, bro.”
The sound of speeding cars and restless birds had faded away into a metallic silence, broken only by the screeching of a rubber sole on a dry floor. The smell of the grass and wet mud had been replaced by the reek of disinfectants and some unholy form of putrefaction.
And, of course, the inescapable odor of milk.
I opened my eyes.
White all around.
The open evening sky had been swallowed by a white room. My dark clothes transformed into white ones. My once free body now bolted to a sparsely cushioned bed, its white sheets wet in my sweat and spilt milk.
“Now, drink your milk.”
The male voice edged over to the bed. His fingers guiding a straw into my mouth.
“Where is my brother?”
“You must drink your milk or we will force it in. It’s for your own good.”
“Where is Ved?!”
“Who is Ved?”
“My brother! Where is he?”
A man cowered over me, his face seeming to dangle just above mine. His overly white teeth revealed in a fake smile.
“You have no brother, my friend. Never had.”
“You lie!!” I spat at him.
He walked away.
“Try to sleep away, my friend.” His rubber soles squeaked as I pictured him hesitate in the doorway, “Maybe, dreams will be kinder to you.”
The steel door clanged shut, its sound resounding on the white walls.
I closed my eyes again, the taste of a lucid nightmare stuffed in between my teeth.
This was a lie.
This was all a lie, I thought to myself, as I peeled away the ivory white walls and stepped outside.
Lies in White – Aarya, Kerala
Lies in White