Currently, I am a year 11 student in the UK (as of May, 2021) and carrying out a series of assessments for my GCSE qualifications. Note that I have said “a series of assessments” and not exams because I am a member of the ‘educational anomaly’ club, where the traditional format of exams have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus; therefore, we have to do assessments as an alternative. However, that is besides the point, but a little bit of context won’t hurt anyone. One of the areas of assessment is our English speaking, wherein we have the opportunity to deliver a speech on a matter of our own choice. Hence, the following piece that you will be reading is my speech, which encompassed the feeling of disappointment. I decided to post this purely because I had a really fun time writing it as well as delivering it so, I wanted to share it. I really do hope that you enjoy reading it! Thanks:)
What is disappointment?
Our ever so trusted ‘Cambridge Dictionary’ states the definition of disappointment to be “the act of disappointing; failing to fulfil the expectations or wishes of someone.” However, for me disappointment translates to be something a little different. Something a little darker. Something a little more heart-breaking. Something a little deeper. It is as though someone has taken a dagger, bathed it in bitter poison and stabbed it through your heart. And has left you with no absolution and in eternal gloom.
I have a close relationship with my Father. I share a considerable portion of my life with him: my thoughts, my opinions and my dreams. Therefore, his response to what I do, have done and my decisions possess a lot of meaning to me and perhaps ponder on my mind more than I would like to admit. Such an event occurred a few months ago when one could say my life had changed forever.
One evening my sister and I (but we don’t have to focus on her too much) generously offered to prepare dinner. We made chicken schnitzel– and that from scratch: butchering the chicken, preparing our own bread crumbs, baking chips and making a coleslaw as well! So, I’m certain you can imagine how incredibly excited I was to be serving the tenderly-prepared meal to my family, when at the peak of my anticipation, I very tragically tripped over a bump on our carpet and spilled all of the coleslaw on my Mother’s lap! Instant and well-cooked disaster, if you may. My heart was broken just like my dreams for a perfect family dinner. My Mother gave me a look that embodied the words “I will deal with you later” and left to clean her dress, and my sisters helped me to clean up the crime scene. A few moments later, we sat down as a family- amidst the absence of the much-missed coleslaw- and ate our dinner in silence. I thought that perhaps it wasn’t that much of a big deal, but that fallacy soon shattered when before taking his final bite, my Father looked me in the eye and said:
“I am very disappointed in you today.”
And left just like the morning sunrise does.
The rest of the night was like living through an endless storm. My mind restless and tears threatening to fall, I felt myself collapsing into something that I had not felt before. My Father had uttered those words with such terrifying conviction that I was defenceless and had no reply prepared. I could no longer fight it. I had disappointed him. And that was the truth.
I felt like an absolute failure not even being able to carry out such a simple task as bringing a bowl out to the table! If this was my state now, what will I do when I need to serve even bigger things in life? Fall and break my teeth? I imagined a bleak future stretched out in front of me. Ominous clouds against a perpetual black sky with lightning striking in my Father’s words: “I am very disappointed in you today”. I imagined myself walking, head hanging low like a criminal, holding a cold cup of coffee, the only source of light in my life being when I turn on the lights in my room. And even that not always turning on!
What was all this?
Why was I feeling this way? Whose fault was this?
Was it my Father’s fault for expecting too much of me?
No. It was not. And it never will be. You see, disappointment is a funny thing because it isn’t always about the fulfilment of expectations. We humans are always expecting one thing or the other. My Father has the right to expect things from me just as we have the right to expect the Sun to rise every day. My friends, disappointment is about love. My Father said such words to me that day, eye-to-eye, because he wants me to do the best I can in whatever responsibility I take on, whether it be climbing a mountain or simply serving a bowl of coleslaw on the table. And that day, my life did change forever because my Father very cleverly taught one of the greatest lessons in life. That being: to embrace the disappointment and use it as my drive to do the best I can.
On a quiet summer morning, a lone soul went out for a walk. The trees were slowly waking up, their young leaves shying away from the morning light. “The world is mine for these few moments.” He thought as he roamed through the empty streets. The lone soul picked up a flower from the ground that beamed the most under the sunlight and gently placed it in his pocket. The lone soul continued his silent voyage until he reached a lake of scintillating water and sat down on the step leading down to it. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them again. He thought back to the day when his father had asked him what he wanted to do in life and how he had no answer prepared. That question played on his mind for several days like a broken, old record and he hated himself for losing to such a simple ask. The lone soul felt agitated and closed his eyes again. But this time he didn’t open them. Rather, he thought back to the day he fell in love for the first time. The left side of his mouth curved up slightly at this charming thought. He remembered how the girl was a few years younger than him and had eyes like a hypnotizing black night, and had lips like rose petals that GOD had sculpted with His own hands. The young girl had no name, but he called her ‘Gentle Night’ because he would imagine that his pillow was her lap that he laid his head on, and the night sky that he surrendered himself to was her eyes, and the whistling wind was the melody of her laughter. “I wish I could touch her, her soft fingers brushing against the skin of my palms. How complete I would feel.” The lone soul basked in this warm, whimsical thought and gently opened his eyes. A small bird flew by. He marvelled at the bird’s freedom and began to feel caged again. He stood up, breathless. He walked away from the lake and to a nearby mosque, where he prayed to GOD. The lone soul let his heart speak:
“GOD, what is the reason behind my emptiness? Why did You make me so foolish and naïve? GOD, You made me enter this world only to abandon me in isolation. GOD, You make me fall in love and then leave me void of her touch. GOD, You make me realize beauty, then make my heart restless. GOD, am I not a loved child of Yours?”
The lone soul raised his head and wiped away his tears with his sleeves. He went outside and saw that his sandals were stolen. “This world has a good sense of humour,” he thought and softly chuckled to himself. He walked barefoot, still aimlessly roaming the streets. The rest of the world had woken up, laughing at the lone soul’s fruitless expedition. “When will I receive GOD’s reply?” He pondered. And as though the boy’s mind had a voice of its own, the rain started to pour down with fervour and with much needed generosity on the parched land. The boy- defenceless and shivering like a dying, autumn leaf- ran back into the mosque, ruminating on the hopelessness of his little life. He attempted to remember a time where he had wronged someone so terribly that could justify the reasons behind his fractured heart. But the boy’s good soul had failed to. Though the young soul may not have been of any stunning talent, he never believed in the act of deception, even if his life had kept him under the shadows. Maybe he was not cunning enough to think so intricately, but the boy always saw deception as the last resort when all else had become obsolete. He was not there yet.
The lone soul quickly prayed and sat on the steps of the mosque. The rain was still continuing to beat against the morning spirit, and the few people left on the street had covered their heads with their hands and scurried away like ants back home. It wasn’t long until the lone soul was left alone again with only his thoughts and the raindrops as his company. The boy laughed at his loneliness and wandered whether the girl he loved so tenderly was also alone on a rainy morning like him. He envisaged how her sweet scent would mingle with the fragrance of the rain to comfort him against a bad day. He fetched a prayer mat and laid himself onto it. He imagined how it would be easy to mistake him for a beggar at the House of Faith if anyone were to walk past him. The thought of his grandmother rushed into his head, and how whenever she would stroll past a beggar holding his dirt-stricken palm out to her, she would say: “Young man, you don’t need my silver coins, but what you need is love. And unfortunately, I can’t give you that. I have none left.” The lone soul wandered whether his grandmother would’ve said the same thing if she had seen him in this poor state.
The rain had become more violent and his quivering more desperate. The boy hugged himself and began to cry. He screamed and screamed, but his cries became muffled by the cries of the rain. “How selfish!” he thought. For a long while, the only sounds that played in the background were the vehement downpour and the occasional reciting of prayers in the mosque. He wanted to fall asleep, but the cold kept him awake as it stabbed through his damp skin. He contemplated his admiration for rain and all of beauty in that moment and eventually giving up on his life- which now seemed to resemble an oblivion- when quite unexpectedly, his rumination was interrupted and the constancy of his hopelessness was broken by a small sound, trying to speak up amidst the monopoly of the rainfall. The lone soul stood up and looked out of the mosque. And in the distance he could see a beautiful girl cycling up the empty street, ringing her bell.
Though it had taken quite some time to convince my stern Father, my Aunt managed to cajole him into saying “yes” that we could spend a night at her new house. My Aunt, her 6-year-old daughter, my sisters and I. So, we set off on this wonderfully simple journey in her new car on an evening during mid-April. Despite our minds bustling with excitement like a fairground during the summer, the ride was fairly quiet; I suppose we were reserving all of our energy for the night. The longest conversation in the course of the ride was between my older sister and my Aunt, and lasted around a couple of minutes. My Aunt kept on mentioning how grateful she was that my Father had entrusted her with his daughters and how his trust was the greatest gift that she had received since the birth of her daughter. And I could see her perspective on this, I suppose, because I recalled a time when my sister was practically begging him whether she could spend a night with her cousin and our Father- sharing the same kind of adamance as my sister- blatantly kept refusing. My sister even cried herself to sleep that night and her pillow became so damp that it reminded me of the towels in public washrooms after they had been used by dozens of people. But, now that I think about my Father and his habits, it wasn’t a matter of trust with him- in fact, it never was. It was more so the fear of letting go.
The new house looked rather congested from the outside, but both my sisters and I were surprised at how much space there was inside. When exploring the various rooms of the house, I kept on thinking of my grand-mother: she always had a fear of places that held no resemblance to how it looked like from the outside because it reminded her of her past lovers; and how they had all deceived her with their faultlessly polite looks. Though I shouldn’t have, I chuckled to myself. I envisioned how perhaps if my grand-mother were to come, my sisters and I would’ve needed to physically force her into the house, and if we had failed at that, we might’ve needed to return back to our own house, which my Father probably would’ve silently rejoiced in.
My Aunt’s new house was nothing like her previous house. Though amongst all the variety of differences, the biggest difference was that finally my Aunt could claim the place to be her own. The house hadn’t been decorated completely yet, but already I could see traces of her in the various corners of the house: how the bed was slightly angular in its position; how the curtains were tucked away at the bottom; and the residue from her rose-scented perfume in every room. The house held a sort of charming disarray about itself, which contradicted my Aunt’s ‘well-put together’ appearance but created a perfect reflection of how chaotic her mind could be at times- though she never liked to admit that aspect of her personality. As I walked from room to room, I could still smell the fresh paint and feel the haste with which it was smeared across the walls for she had missed a few places wherein the previous hideous shade of yellow was still visible. I was going to hold my hand up to feel the roughness, but I think my Aunt must’ve noticed because she hurriedly stepped into the room- similar to how she perhaps painted the room- and said:
“It’s not finished yet! I still have to do a few more layers.” I could sense the underlying mortification in her voice and gave me a look that said she would like for me to go to another room.
For dinner that night my Aunt had prepared a couple of different dishes; one being her renowned, and much-loved, Red prawn curry. All of us sat around the different items in a circle on a brightly-coloured bedsheet spread across the floor as the dining table hadn’t been arranged yet. Following tradition, my Aunt took everyone’s plates, laid them out in a straight line and served a pile of steaming white rice and in the centre of the mound placed a spoonful of the curry, topped with a big piece of prawn and handed the plates down one by one as we waited like a line of hungry school children at the cafeteria, but only this time the food was worth the wait. As my plate was served, I couldn’t help but notice that my plate had almost double the portion of rice and prawns. Instantly, I tried to recall any recent grand favours I may have carried out for my Aunt and this generosity was her token of gratitude; however, when I failed to retrieve any such memory, I took into account the possibility that maybe it was just out of pure love. No one less seemed to have spotted this partiality and so I didn’t reserve any other thoughts either.
It wasn’t until much later into our dinner that I had managed to grasp at any idea behind why I was given the extra amount.
As I had made my way through the pile of rice and was almost at the bottom of the pile, the tips of my fingers seemed to have grazed across something uneven on the surface of the plate. Initially, I didn’t ruminate over it much, but when my fingers ran along further, I discovered that the crack took up a significant amount of surface than previously anticipated. It was almost like a root of tree, or even the edge of a map of a country, and appeared to be stained yellow by overuse. Again, my Aunt noticed me peering into the chasm on the plate and had a gaze that took me rather by surprise. I was waiting for her to say something like “I was going to throw that plate away” or, “I forgot to switch it”, but it wasn’t until we were alone- just her and I- in the kitchen that she said anything to me.
“I don’t like this habit of yours.” I stopped wiping my plate mid-way and looked up at her, expectedly surprised.
“I’m sorry, Aunt. Is it the way I eat? Or, the way I am wiping this plate right now?”
“No.” Her tone was noticeably sterner than I thought it could be. “It is the way you cannot let go of things easily. Like your Father.”
When I was around five or six, I had a phase where I refused to go to sleep in fear that a one-eyed monster would break through the crack on my wall whilst I was asleep and engulf me in one go. I would throw violent tantrums and even argued- with the limited understanding of an infant- that I would only sleep on the couch or, if my Father was present in the room. I must have been rather aggravating for I remember my Mother giving up and exiting my room with a long, tired sigh, leaving me alone with my Father, who then gently grabbed me by my arms and looked straight at me with an unwavering stare, which only softened as my screams slowly faded away. My Father then brought me a little closer and placed his hand on my shoulders before simply telling me to let go of my childish attitudes. I suppose, those were rather a harsh choice of words for a small child, but he said them to me with such a tender tone and such kindness that I remember going straight to bed that night. I was still living with that fear and didn’t manage to outgrow it until a year later, but I had learned not to react too much- or at least when my reactions weren’t due.
“Are you listening? I hate the way you cannot let go.”
“I saw you look at my walls with disgust; you think you could do better?”
“Your walls? Disgust? Aunt, I don’t understand how you would like me to react right now.”
“Don’t anger me even more now! Just learn to let go, okay? Don’t hold onto trivial details like that smudge on my wall or, the crack on my plate. I can do whatever I want and however I want to.”
“Aunt, I never said anything to you. I think your house is marvellous; even the way you have painted it.”
“Stop! Just stop! Just let go already, okay?”
“Let go of what?”
“Agh! You are so frustrating! Just like your Father you are- can never let go of small things.”
“What would you like me to let go? I’ll happily do it for you- just tell me what it is, Aunt.”
I must have really aggravated her by that point for I remember my Aunt giving up and exiting the kitchen with a long, tired sigh, only to return with a bucket of fresh paint and dumping it straight onto my head.
This writing, which is in the form of a letter, is inspired by the 1988 film ‘Dangerous Liaisons‘, starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead roles, and based upon a French novel of the same name by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. I saw this movie in March of 2021 and shared a very unique experience, intrigueded by the story’s mischievous and deceitful actions. Within this film, the most common form of communication between the characters is through letter writing, and I think this is the aspect of the film that inspired and fascinated me the most. It was so entertaining watching the characters convey their emotions and cunning plans to each other through letters, and eventually inspiring me to devise a letter on my own. The letter discusses an affair, which is perhaps the main focus of the film. However, the names that I have utilized are not taken from the film, nor are the events/the affair. I was purely inspired by the idea of letter writing and the concept of affairs.
I hope that you will enjoy the reading process!
Dear Mr. Whitlock,
I hope that my letter finds you in the greatest of conditions- though I am afraid that by the time you will have reached the termination of my letter, your mood- regardless of its current state- will have deteriorated. I do sincerely apologize for creating a rather inauspicious tone right from the inception of my message to you; however, I would much rather alarm you know than risk a fatal fall of yours at my revealing of the word. I must also explain my certainty at the utilization of the modal verb “will” for I know that you will be devastated by the time you will have embarked upon the last punctuation. Now, kindly allow me to commence.
Last night, I was returning home from the market after purchasing some fresh oranges- that had arrived from an exotic Spanish region- for my Mother’s fruit cake, which she was going to be preparing for our neighbour’s sixth marital anniversary. I am not necessarily of the ‘wanderer’ nature, Sir; however, the weather during that particular hour was so tremendously blissful, I could not but engage in a slight detour of the town as though the breeze had brushed past my neck, whispering in my ear to join her in her epic journey.
My detour had lasted a short period of time, but each moment I cherished with great tenderness like one does a fleeting summer’s dream. I explored the famous campus (that my cousin had mentioned to me quite some time ago now) and saw a few eager students exiting and entering the antique library with a bundle of books. A while later, I escorted myself to the park, where I sat near the lake and even exploited the liberty to indulge in one of the Spanish oranges bought for my Mother as I allowed myself to be entranced by the way the moonlight danced on the surface of the lake. I was always afraid of being left in my own solitude and company, but within that moment, my childish feat had left me as I stumbled upon the epiphany that as long as you are surrounded by unadulterated beauty, you will be fine.
I cannot remember the last time I had basked in such a pure, beautiful silence and I was just about to respectfully take my leave, when quite abruptly my ears picked up on a rather unusual sonic activity; and I describe it to be ‘rather unusual’ for the sound was not complimentary to its natural surroundings. At that current moment in time, I interpreted it to be some sort of feral creature rustling through the pile of leaves; however, now I understand how far from the truth I stood like a lost soul is from its home. I did contemplate going forward with this private investigation of mine and my original decision was to return to my Mother, awaiting my arrival, but Mr. Whitlock, I am sure that you are aware of the intensity of curiosity of a young mind.
The last time I was this terrifyingly shocked at the occurrence of a certain event was when it was announced that our other neighbour (who lives to the left of us, not the right, for whom the fruit cake was going to be baked) had won the ‘Spring Baking Contest’, despite the fact that she had deceived the system by secretly hiring a professional baker to decorate the exterior of her cake. Therefore, you can imagine how unfathomably astonishing the actual identity of the sound must have needed to be for it to transcend the event that I have just detailed to you. And, Mr. Whitlock, it shatters my heart to say that it was and how I was even more stupefied to discover (dare I say) your respectable wife, Mrs. Whitlock, wrapped in passion with her private stableman underneath the foliage of the tree next to the lake. The exact origin of the noise I heard I speculate to be the coarse voice of the stableman whispering in your wife’s ear. The man had his hairless head on your wife’s lap as she intertwined her hands with his as if he was the only man she had ever loved. They did indeed look like forbidden lovers, who were completely lost in each other and no form of navigation could make them return to reality. Now, I am aware that my words maybe harshly questioned for you are a man who has placed great faith in your wife and moreover, I have uttered a bold accusation. But Mr. Whitlock, the way the moonlight shone on the lovers left me certain of their identity; though, I am not glad that that was the case.
Mr. Whitlock, I am not a believer of cheap, dispensable town-gossip, nor do I actively partake in it. However, considering the recent lamentable discovery, I cannot help but ponder back to when you recently had married your wife and how many women in our town would constantly say:
“This wife of his is bound to taint the family name. She is young and we all know that youth brings with it a free spirit that pays no heed to rules!”
I will leave it at that for you, Mr. Whitlock.
I do perfectly comprehend that I have divulged a great amount to you and what you do with this information is up to your liberty; I aspire to become a good citizen and that is sole reason behind my letter. I hope now that you have reached the end, you have not collapsed or have been left void of consciousness for I would detest to be the cause of your ill health. I pray of only good things for you and your revered family.
Saturday mornings in the market were always slightly busier than usual: with the place more crowded; the cacophony more discordant, and more dust interlaced within the air than usual. However, I never complained. I suppose, when the duty of doing the week’s grocery shopping for our household had initially been relegated to me, I found it rather challenging to accept the relentless energy of the marketplace, but I eventually grew to realize that in fact it was this lack of order and discipline that was the charm of the place.
On Saturday mornings I woke up an hour earlier than I did on rest of the weekdays and got dressed, making sure to cover my hair so that the dust didn’t damage the softness of it. Though I didn’t have a particular clothing item for the event, I did create a tradition of wearing the same shoes: my red sandals. The red sandals never really fit into any certain situation with their glittering straps too flamboyant for a causal evening, and the white stone at the intersection of each strap too sombre for a wedding. But when I stumbled upon the understanding that at the marketplace everyone would be too selfish to attain the best bargain for themselves; therefore, too preoccupied to spare a glance for my aging red sandals, I didn’t hesitate to reserve them for that spot of the week. Before I stepped outside of our house with an oversized green bag- which still managed to be incompetent in size for the amount of shopping to be done- I carelessly threw my red sandals in front of me and slipped my feet into them. It always used to amaze me how despite all the scratches and the once striking red hue withering away by the touch of time and dust, I never questioned its ability to carry me to the places I wanted to go to. It reminded of an old woman who used to live next to us that had died a few years ago. The old woman used to be incredibly beautiful during her fleeting moments of youth: her big, round eyes that glistened a light brown at the touch of orange sunlight; her nose beautifully curved like a comma and ending with a softened tip; her small, feminine lips like a fresh petal of a red rose, and her angular face that only served to accentuate the perfectly sculpted features. But as time thoughtlessly passed by, eroding away the treasures of her face and eating away the softness of her skin, she sunk into a mould created by the depths of her own age and time. Her beauty soon became a tale of the past told by the photos in the album collecting dust and her grand-daughter, who resembled her from a very particular angle. My red sandals reminded me of her because both served their purposes well like a brilliant soldier, but once forgotten they never complained yet, continued to fight on because their duty was merely to care for whom they loved. My red sandals protected my flesh from the small, pointy stones scattered across the marketplace ground and carried me back home just like that old woman, who sat on her rocking chair peeling fresh oranges from the tree in their yard for her grand-children until the day she died, despite her beauty melting away with each breath she took and her skin resembling a dried up, crinkled orange peel.
When I was around 14 or 15, a new stall selling sundried orange peels had been put up in our marketplace. At initial thoughts, I failed to understand the purpose behind it for I could not fathom the reason as to why anyone would want to buy scraps that had been thrown away by someone else? But soon, I remembered another woman with paper-like skin who my mother once used to work for. She had a very specific kind of lifestyle that she would abide by with almost every detail of her day etched permanently into this mechanical routine, and she never argued with that. The woman would sit in the same manner at the dining table: her legs pressed together with her back straight as if a puppeteer were pulling her tight with a string from above. She was a difficult person to deal with, and I say ‘deal’ for she had become sort of a burden; an old, cumbersome furniture that simply lied there after all its use extracted out of it completely, but refusing to be discarded for all the historical values it represented. I still remember the way she would serve her servants scraps of food left over from her meal, but concurrently cringe at her own leftovers whilst doing so. She had a habit of having two oranges after her lunch and as she would peel her oranges, she would turn her haughty gaze sideways as she dropped the orange peels to the ground, awaiting her maid to come and take them away. The maid would come and pick up the peels like a beggar picks up pennies from the streets and instead of discarding them in the bin, the maid would thinly slice them, scatter them onto a silver plate and place it near the kitchen window. The orange peels, after having found a new home, would bask in the afternoon sun until all its moisture had been sucked out by the hungry heat and had crispened up like newly washed and dried clothes. The maid would later take the orange peels and grind them into a paste for her Madame. Then, every Sunday the maid would gently rub the orange peel paste on the woman’s face, who lived unbeknownst to the fact that the compliments she would later attract for her rejuvenated skin from other women of her kind were because of the scraps she had previously disowned.
After I purchased all the usual, mundane things that I had to every Saturday, I approached the woman at the new stall. The stall wasn’t conspicuous from afar at all. It had no features that would perhaps give it its own sense of identity: the similar red-blue colour scheme that the majority of the stalls had in the market; the name of the stall, ‘Sundried Orange Peels’, displayed in bold black paint was akin to all the other stalls, and the woman selling these dried orange peels dressed in a dull orange long-dress with an even duller orange shawl covering nearly all of her face. Even the way that the item being sold was displayed across the table didn’t capture one’s attention until the point had arrived when one had to look down in order to choose which one to buy. The orange peels were packaged in a plastic bag and tied with a white thread, and varied in the sizes one could buy them in: big slices, medium slices or small slices. There was no price tag attached because I think the woman realized the futility behind that for it was guaranteed that the buyers would bargain to always lower the price, regardless of some stores strictly displaying the ‘fixed price’ signboard. I glanced at the woman quickly before making my pick.
“How much are the small-sized peels?” I asked, as I switched from holding the bag with my right hand to my left hand.
“What will you be using them for?” I was slightly taken aback to be responded to by a question, but I suppose it was no different from someone replying with a ‘why’ when you ask if you can borrow any money from them.
“Um…I don’t really know, I guess. I haven’t really thought about that.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean to say is that I will probably figure that out once I have bought it, you see.”
“Don’t you think that is a little unfair?”
“Unfair?” I started to feel as though I had entered an argument with my younger, opinionated sister.
“The thing is, when you bought your fish, your potatoes, your chillies, your spices and all your other items, you held an air of certainty- you knew for sure what they were going to be used for and more importantly, the fact that they would not be wasted. Why can’t you be certain about the dried orange peels?” I felt unprepared to be dealing with her increasing aggression. My silence momentarily melted into the persisting bargaining amidst the humid background, until the woman barked at me again.
“Is it because they are scraps that you are not being so careful?” I was reminded of the woman again and how she hadn’t ever found out that the beauty ritual she took the most pride in was because of the things she imagined were lying somewhere in the garbage. I began to wonder how she would have reacted if she did find out and how the other women would react also as they sipped their tea, which would have a perfectly round slice of dried orange swimming in it like a lily pad gently moves around on the surface of a lake.
“You don’t have an answer, do you, young girl? I knew it! I knew from the moment you stepped up to my stall that you wouldn’t! You are as dull and insipid as your disgusting red sandals!”
I had never imagined that my red sandals could catch anybody’s attention. After that encounter, I didn’t reply to any of the assumptions made or questions asked by that woman, nor did I proceed to buy any of her sundried orange peels. I hired a rickshaw and made my way straight back home. On the way back though, anything that contained orange caught my attention: the orange stripes on the rickshaw puller’s gamcha; the red seat of the rickshaw fading out to an orange; the sun in the sky resembling a big, fat orange. Even the air tasted like orange.
As the rickshaw pulled up to my house, I noticed that the orange tree in the yard of the deceased old woman’s house had died. The leaves had lost their vibrant green and laid scattered in a disorderly manner on the ground. The branches, from where many plump oranges used to dangle from like the way the old woman’s earrings used to do, now were empty and dead just like the old woman. I continued looking at the graveyard-like place and spotted a solitary orange on the ground, a horrifying shade of mould eating into its flesh and insects flying around it like witches circle a fire during the night. I thought back to the times when the old woman would peel oranges for her grand-children and how perhaps the orange tree may have lived longer if she were still alive. I thought back to how that old woman would keep beside her a separate plate on which she would place the orange peels, and how she would rub them on her sagging skin in hopes of that even a little bit of her beauty would return. But soon, she stopped doing that when she realized that was fruitless and that she would never be as beautiful as she once was. Thereafter, the old woman stopped keeping a separate plate next to her for the orange peels and simply asked her grand-daughter to put them in the bin in the kitchen.