I pulled my jacket closer to my racing heart; walking as fast as my stilettos would let me without falling. I could hear his jeering and whistles; the lewd comments. I was still untouched, but I felt like each piece of clothing on me was being stripped away slowly.
“Arrey. Where are you running off to, Miss? That too all alone? It isn’t safe. Why don’t you come with me? I’ll drop you. Safe and sound.”
He rasped, hissing those last few words into my ears like a snake ready strike; blocking my way. I felt my body’s temperature drop dead in this winter night of December, my face matching the snow that covered the city and heart whose beat echoed with fear, paralyzing my mind. Instinctively, I tried pushing him away, my gloved palms against his coat of shame; only to find pain shooting up my wrists as he pinned me against the bricked walls of the alley; coming so close to me that I could hear his heartbeat and see the small dot of a mole on the left hand side of his beaked nose.
Trying to free myself from his strong clutches, I screamed for help into the vast skies that echoed my cries in response. Some shops would still be open; the time to shut the doors hadn’t come yet. There would be kids playing somewhere nearby in the fields. I tried screaming again, kicking, all the time as he let out laughs of amusement that tormented me.
“Kyun apne aap ko itni takleef de rahi ho, mohterma?”
There was the ruffling of papers on the road, the steady pulling of chains of a cycle. There was a halt in the movements of my tormentor. He’d heard it too.
Was there someone nearby?
But the opening in darkness closed as soon as the light seemed to touch my eyes. And I saw the gleam of pure thrill in his eyes that pushed me further into the void.
Screaming my lungs out of breath, I kept kicking and clawing at him; any sort of bruise that might stop him. That might save me. And with each wound I tried to give him, I was attacked with more fervor and left with a wound deeper. Kneeing him in his masculinity, I felt his grip loosen and saw agony in his eyes leave his lips as a hiss through his clenched teeth. Taking advantage of this weakening, I shoved him against the wall and ran.
Only to hear my jacket rip, be thrust onto the ground as the wind abused my exposed dignity.
“BITCH! TRYING TO ACT SMART, HUH? NOW YOU SEE WHAT I’LL DO WITH YOU.”
The skies bled my tears and became the dome echoing my doomed screams. With every fiber torn, there was a cloud ripped from the sky. With every wail, a crow cried somewhere. The coldness of the crime discolored the winds as it engulfed me in shivers. An agony of an imprint here, and gnash there.
I’d felt the dial of my watch crack as I’d hit the ground, freezing time in itself. Freezing the pain, dragging it for as long as what seemed forever.
“If you love your life, keep your mouth sealed. Otherwise I’ll seal your mouth for forever.”
I watched him walk away with the steps of content and indifference.
I ached all over; on the outside and inside. I didn’t know which pain hurt more; physical or emotional. As I picked up my shredded dignity, I felt a cry rise in my throat. I hugged my knees and cried into the sky that was dark as my smudged kajal. Cried into the night to swallow me. Cried as the pain lapsed, breaking me into pieces I couldn’t join. Cried for it to be nightmare.
Walking down the streets of the neighborhood, I gave a nervous glance behind me. The fear of being followed never left me. It had been a year but still, empty roads, new people knotted my stomach. I forgot what peaceful nights meant, always waking up the same nightmare with my heart crushed in a fist that left me breathless. I remember walking these roads with a smile on my lips and skip to my walk. I remember laughing at jokes, going out with people. But all seemed lost in a land I couldn’t find on the map now. Neither the love nor the people. The only thing remaining was the ache of memories. Memories of a life I once lived. The ache of a reminder that reflected in the eyes of the ghosts of my past every time I crossed the room. The ache of being the victim.