Saya couldn’t make herself walk into that room. It reeked of disinfected memories and decay which formed a thick fog. She hesitated at the edges of the door, running her hand slowly along the chipped wood right by the hinges. She remembered the day it had chipped, shaking her her head and continuing to stare into the short hallway that would lead her to the man she had married. Now wrapped in white. Now motionless; his grey eyes now closed, his face a picture of serenity. 

His mother brushes past her, hysterical, her dupatta wafting like a black cloud behind her as she throws herself onto her son. Her cries reverberated in the room that she always considered too small to be a respectable space for her frequent visits. As she wails, Saya tries to take a step into the room but her feet falter, her legs as fragile as paper, barely holding up her tiny frame. 

She hadn’t thought that today, a regular Monday would be the day she would have said goodbye to him. She thought it would be a Sunday, as she would storm out, her head high with pride, her small children in tow. Or maybe it would have been a Wednesday, the day he works in the factory 2 hours from home, and she would secretly pack her overnight bag and head out, grabbing her kids from school. But it was only a Monday. A regular Monday. The day she cooked his favorite meal; honey-glazed chicken with just the right amount of sweetness. The day he slammed the door harder than usual when leaving for work because he had been ‘stuck’ with his family all weekend. 

She snaps back to reality as her neighbor places a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. 

Oh Saya! I’m so sorry for your loss. So young,’ she laments, her eyes welling up. ‘We always loved to see you two together. So in love, so beautiful, ohhhh’ she mourned, her voice cracking. Saya moved in for a hug, wondering why at funerals the people attending need comforting more than the people in mourning. 

A neighbor walked slowly into the room to pay her respects to the deceased as Saya remained glued to her spot, immovable in the door frame as if braving an earthquake. She remembered the last BBQ they had attended at this neighbor’s place. There was so much light laughter and casual joking until the topic shifted to the looming job loss in their city. Her husband had bristled, and became defensive, saying that those who suffered, including him, were not let go because of a lack of efficiency, but because of dirty politics. The neighbor and her husband quickly nodded in agreement, noticing his change in demeanor, but it was too late. Saya herself tried to pacify him but he was too far gone. He ranted about his brown-nosing colleagues, the fact that he was clearly smarter than anyone in the room, and that he didn’t need to hear criticism from people who clearly had ‘daddy’s money’, nodding emphatically in the direction of the wider group. 

Her hand came to rest again on the door chip, bringing her back to the present, the stench of death entering her nose. People continued reading surahs quietly, murmuring softly as she heard words such as ‘she’s so young’ or ‘how will she manage by herself’. 

His mother walks towards her, her wails now whittled down to sniffles, as she asks Saya for a cup of tea to calm her nerves. She then sits on the leather chair, always her favorite, as people clamor around her, pouring their condolences, as if they were subjects offering spoils to the queen. Saya turns back to the body, so still, as if it never housed a red-blooded self-proclaimed alpha male. She hears her mother-in-law’s voice, reminding her of her request, but she continues to stare at the body. She then walks slowly towards it, staring at his beautiful face, the face that turned different shades of red when she cut him off, or shades of grey when she wasn’t quick enough to please him. Now just shades of pale peach. She covers his face with the white sheet. She then walks to the door, with the chip that had lost a piece of itself when he slammed the door after himself. She closes it gently behind her.

She then walks through the main gate, a sea of sniffles around her, her legs shaking, stepping out of the home she’d called her own for a decade. One foot in front of the other. 

Photography by:Karl on Unsplash