by O Thiam Chin
The two men looked at the body on the bed, and at one another, before looking somewhere else, one at his hands, and the other out the windows. Nobody spoke for a long time, each waiting for the other person to end the silence. The bedroom smelled of unwashed hair, body sweat, and a palpable odour of residual violence. A while ago, the room was forcefully charged, imbued with an unaccountable aggression, and now, it was unnaturally quiet, like the calm after a storm.
The man who had been sitting on the edge of the bed, who had been staring out the windows, got up and moved towards the bright afternoon lights pouring into the room. He felt like he was entering into another dimension, stepping into the warm membrane of lights. He kept his back to the body on the bed. He was the one who had tossed the torn blanket across the body, to hide its nakedness. It was strange, he mused, that a woman’s body could be revealed in so many ways, under so many conditions, to possess qualities that were so extreme: sexiness or secrecy, life or death.
He finally spoke: ‘We better do something before my wife comes back.’
The other replied, leveling his gaze cautiously on the peripheral outline of the woman’s feet, dangling out of the bed, not daring to venture anywhere beyond it, noticing the red, garishly-painted toe-nails, with a controlled voice: ‘Yes, we should.’
Then they were silent again, receding back into their dark caves of thoughts.
The other man took out his crumpled pack of Camels and withdrew a stick. He searched his pockets for the lighter, but couldn’t find it. He looked around, and then hesitatingly peered up at the bed, trying hard to blur out the reality of the woman’s body. Thankfully, the pillow was still on the woman’s face, hiding it from view. He could still see the imprint of the palm on the indented pillow; whose was it, who held it down? He couldn’t remember now; his memory was a blank slate.
Unfortunately, he also caught the sight of her broken right hand that had extended out of the blanket, still clenched with rage and surprise. And near it, the lighter, lying just out of reach. He decided not to smoke, though the itch in his throat was getting to him.
‘It’s getting late. She’s coming back soon. Let’s do something.’ The man didn’t move away from the windows. He remained immobile where he stood.
‘Yup, we better do something.’ The other man got up from the floor, and gathered the woman’s clothes – a black slip-on, bra and crotch-less panties - into a neat pile and placed it on her outstretched hand. He adjusted the blanket to cover her feet. With the dead body fully covered, the grotesque display of lifeless flesh put out of sight, he felt much better. At least he didn’t feel so bothered by it now.
© 2010 O Thiam Chin