‘You are better off without me. And he, the son of a bitch! I will see to him.’
He got out of bed and switched on the television. I was discarded.
‘What am I to do?’
‘Whatever.’ He did not turn to look at me.
‘Are you putting me out of your life?’
‘That’s what you have chosen to do.’
‘What choice did I have?’
‘The choice to say no.’ In the flickering light of the television, his grin was sombre, mirthless. ‘Stay if you want to. I cannot take you back. For me, you have ceased to exist.’
I turned to stone with my outraged modesty, with the remnants of my dignity, with the unwillingness to clarify, or to confirm.
I turned to stone, not out of calculated coquetry to win him back. My petrifaction was my protest against my perceived arousal, my husband’s demand for purity at all costs, at his acceptance of possible rape but not my shocked compliance.
‘If he can stand up to say you were unwilling, I could consider taking you back.’
I’d rather be a stone.
Aaliya visited me when I was packing some bags.
‘What’s this? Where are you going?’
‘Cleaning up, not going.’
‘Did you say sorry to Aditya?’
I had to look at her for this. I had to see the question in the depths of her eyes. She had to see the answer in my words.
‘Sorry? For being imposed upon?’
‘How could you give in?’
I pushed the open rucksack with my left foot. ‘You mean I welcomed him with open arms?’
‘N..no, but if it was rape, you could have said no.’
I smiled. I had to. ‘Tell me, Aaliya. How does one demarcate? Where does the line of rape end and consent begin when one has no choice? I took the scars on my mind instead of on my body. Is that what you want to see? The scars of my torment? The proof?’
‘Why didn’t you report it?’
‘And then? Take this private inquisition to the public fora? Who would believe me? Do you believe? Does Aditya believe? Come on, Aali. You know better than that. He is God himself, the invincible, irrepressible heartthrob of this nation and he enters my home and violates me. Is this what I tell the world?’
My laughter rings in my ears. ‘I did not advertise the post of rapist, if that’s what you mean.’ Poor girl, I didn’t mean to humiliate her. After all, we go back a long way, school, college and then theatre. ‘Why he? Ask Adi. He will tell you. That’s what’s gnawing at him. Adi cocked a snook at him when he won me. I was the prize and the prize has been desecrated.’
Aaliya stood by the window, a picture frozen in time. Like Aditya later that night. He too stood by the window, as if that aperture would give him respite.
‘What do you plan to do now?’
‘I thought you were leaving.’
‘Where should I go? Will my going away make me unreal, render me null and void? To whom?’
‘At least I won’t have to see you before my eyes every day. Spare me that torment. When I see you I see the other too, the one you brought into my room, my bed, and claim to be innocent about.’
‘Would you have had me violated on the street rather than on your bed? Does the setting determine whether the act is acceptable or despicable?’
‘This is not an intellectual discussion and it does not absolve you of your guilt.’
‘Guilt. Yes, guilt indeed. I gave in knowing I had no way out.’
‘People won’t think so.’
‘The walls around me have pre-existing niches, Adi, and your ‘people’ are waiting to fill them with pre-existing goodies according to each one’s taste. Only I know what fits. I could say he raped me and go on to admire your brawn as you bash up his handsome face. I could, if I wanted to, prove the rape. I choose not to prove anything. It’s my word against your ideas. The choice is yours Adi, not mine.’