Rorschach on Parquet

The dress was two-layered, and baggy around the torso, falling straight from the shoulders and held in place at the waist by an elastic band. On a thinner woman, it might have looked airy or draping.

A much, much thinner woman. An anorexic woman.

From the elastic, it fell nearly to the ground – would have, if not for the heels that acccompanied it, strappy plastic-gloss patents in a shade that brought out the florid pinks of the print flowers vividly against the black backing. That inner layer lasted only until an inch above the knees, leaving the chiffon layer – slit high at the sides – perfectly transparent to the skin. The wispy ends wrapped around her ankles in the breeze, getting caught on the silver clasps of the shoestraps. They were far too insubstantial to actually hinder movement, but it seemed like they would cause her to trip at any moment. Her unsteadiness on her feet didn't help matters.

The whiskey sloshed around in her heavy-bottomed lowball glass as she sipped from it, raised it high in the air in salute, moved it in circles as she gesticulated. There wasn't much left in the glass, but small splashes found their way out nonetheless, coating her hand and making faded designs on the pale parquet. The rim of the glass was covered in lipstick smudges, almost all the way around; near the crook of her finger was a neat, tiny kiss print, in rich pink that made it visible from a distance. Her voice, uneven in pitch and volume but rarely pausing except to breathe and drink – echoed faintly along the corridor.

The spills were wiped away almost the second they landed, and the talking could be muffled if it came to that – but her shoes were scuffing the floor wax.

This was the chief worry.

There wasn't much time left to do anything about it. The waxing happened once every three months, and was laborious, requiring several days of work, coordinated meticulously to ensure minimal obstruction of the household's everyday functioning; sections of the floor partitioned and choreographed like a garba or a Broadway musical. The wax was an import, and the workers who applied it were from Delhi. Nobody knew anything about the process beyond this.

There were fifteen, perhaps twenty minutes left.

Warm water was suggested, and the unfortunate speaker roundly abused. Water was anathema, this much was known. Various cleaning solutions were considered, but none could say which was safe and which not.

Five minutes passed. Panic was setting in. Several of the less experienced looked about to faint. Hushed voices became hisses.

And in the midst of it, a small canister was produced by a familiar hand.

A moment of utter silence passed before it was snatched away; a rag was produced, hisses became excited whispers as it was wet and applied and the marks disappeared like magic. Bottled absolution.

This done, a few looked up at the saviour, who had moved on ahead of the train, to catch up with its leader. The procession was stopped by a hand on the wrist, and the crowd caught up as well, spilling around the spectacle.

Quiet, firm words were spoken. A pout was elicited.

The whiskey would not be given up, but a bargain was struck to take the shoes and put them away. House slippers were produced, and the bargainer bent to effect the change.

She watched, and giggled, swaying forward as if the sound came up out of her stomach. Then she swayed some more as her foot was lifted, swatting away an offered hand. When she put it back down shoeless, she cocked her hip, jutting her leg out of the dress's side slit. She giggled some more, and there was a collective gasp as she upended her glass over her shoe-remover's head.

After a moment, with movements perhaps a little more abrupt, the other shoe was removed. The new problem now stood and stepped back, and there was a rush to wipe away the giant yellow Rorschach blot that had been left behind. A towel was offered and used; hair was rearranged. Once-neat cotton, mercifully dark, was dabbed at.

Abruptly, everyone dispersed. The problem was resolved and time was up. The chiffon caught on the door its wearer had been whisked through, and was tugged free. The towel was snatched away mid-use.

And he came walking down the corridor, house slippers soundless.

The scapegoat had already been seen, but no breath could be heard, even in the silence of the arcade.

He moved at a measured pace.

He never turned his head. When he reached the stiff figure standing frozen at the fringe of the path, he paused; sniffed twice, examined it briefly, and shifted his gaze straight ahead once more.

Two doors past her was his office. The sound of his door closing echoed faintly in the silence of the corridor.

The unfortunate took a shaky breath, and walked in the opposite direction; and two left turns later, entered a room and closed the door.

It wasn't as quiet a corridor as the other, but it wasn't a busy one either. Anyone who heard the muffled screams from inside passed on their way after a moment. It stopped off soon enough.

Date: <2016-05-10 Tue> [2014-08-10 Sun]

Author: Sahiti Chedalavada

Created: 2020-12-14 Mon 02:14