Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Photo

People were low on cash and spirit this festive season. Where could they leave yesterday for a while and collect a tomorrow when they were ready? The movie-halls did not exhibit any new release. For the holiday crowd, it was either the cool Museum grounds or the hot beach. Very few entered the shabby claustrophobic museum. Most preferred to stay on the grounds, beneath the old trees. Families counted heads and spent carefully. The peanut-sellers and the tea-shops enticed them with small change and bonus amounts. Not even a single balloon-seller was around. Who had money for packaged hot air?
There was a photo exhibition at the museum from Christmas till New Year. The nominal entry charge was removed after the first empty morning. It was a mediocre show. I am not an aficionado of that, or anything. There were two sections, or themes, a black and white series of common objects (underwear, garbage and such) and a colourful set with excessive filters and bewildering fusion. One set was described as neo-or-post-something.
The photo was in between those two collections. I nearly walked past without noticing it. It shows a bedroom (in a home or homestay?). The room must be on the first floor, with wooden floor and washroom down the hall. That’s not from the photo, but the room seems familiar. There is old wooden furniture. A thin white curtain sways in the wind, there must be a balcony with a view of whitewashed houses, sparse green on brown stretching to the azure sky and sea. The focus is on the bed with creased white sheet. A woman lies on her side, facing me.
I knew her. I knew the look in her eyes. There was sadness (did she take some half-joke of mine seriously?), a comforting smile (did I kiss and touch and suck the right spots?), weariness (didn’t she doze off with her head against my chest?) and, a fading light. I stood before her, silently wondering how she could be there.
There were others who lingered, not all. I returned the next day, and the next, and every day of the exhibition. I noticed the other repeat-offenders. They looked more and more tired and sleep-deprived each day.
One lady of sixty brought a friend the fourth day.
“It’s him,” she told the friend, “it’s definitely him.”
“Come on, dear,” the friend said, “there’s nothing there.”
“Forty years I have tried to forget him,” she explained, grabbing the friend’s hand.
“Look,” the friend pointed at the label, “this photo was taken this year.”
“Then, how is he on that bed, looking at me?” she asked.
“It’s an empty bed,” the friend said firmly, “enough of this, let’s go.”

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