Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 1



Wallpaper

Simran Bhakta


Blue. Blue. Pink. Yellow. Leopard. Green. Blue again.

Her index finger wraps around the thick plastic card. An exasperated breath escapes her as, yet again, the page gets stuck on the metallic ring. Maybe she should cut her losses now and try her luck at the next store.

At the thought, a bolt of lightning strikes through her lower abdomen. The pain spreads like roots until it reaches the outer edges of her torso. She grits her teeth, her hand tearing away from the catalog and pressing against the soft flesh of her belly.

She looks at the blue wallpaper, the deep azure hue, and wishes it had been what she was searching for instead.

A breath of relief leaves her as the pain begins to subside, soothing into a throb. When had it all begun?

Her head leans back, and eyes shut close.

#

She watched her father walk through the threshold. The bottom of his feet marred with creases as they bounced against the clean white marble. A frayed hand wrapping under his chin as almond eyes stared out the kitchen window. A thousand variations flashed through her mind, like flickering images on a film reel, as she waited for his judgment. In the most favored variation, he whispers ‘Mastt’. To which she would reply, ‘There’s room for you and Mumi if you change their mind’.

“Galat hai,” he whispered, shattering each reality she imagined, and creating a completely new truth. The kitchen was in the wrong direction, he told her.

She scrambled closer to him. In her mind, she had done everything right. The pool Steve insisted on, built in the north-east corner. The entry in the east and exit to the west. She had even considered the house number, which added to a favorable two.

The kitchen did not honor the sun, he explained. The source of all life, if not revered, would cause her great pain as revenge. But what could she do? The house was built now, its ivory walls unmoving. If he had told her a month prior, she might have even been able to change the direction. But no-

“It’s alright” The soft touch on her shoulder drew her away from the inky depths of her thoughts. “Orange paint wall per lagaao, everything will be fine.” She forced the corners of her mouth into a smile. She could not bring herself to tell him that Steve would not understand. Her husband, with porcelain skin, could not understand their ancient beliefs. Though he claimed to find it charming, she knew in a handful of years the charm would twist into annoyance.

She pictured it then; her husband’s face pinched in displeasure. An intense argument of how much easier their lives would be if she would stop believing in these superstitions. Within her vision was a grain of truth: these beliefs her ancestors created in a different land, were no longer relevant. Their truth dissipated once her parents crossed over to the west.

She watched her father look out the window, at the pool in the north-east, and decided she would pretend he had said what she imagined. The house was ‘Mast’.

#

Her eyes bore into the ceiling, carefully tracing the freckles carved into the plaster in hope that it may distract her from the shriek in her stomach.

It did not.

She grits her teeth as another wave of pain crashed through her. Her belly throbbed as she turned away from the ceiling and curled into herself. She felt as if she were at war with her own body. She remembers her father's words about the sun and wonders if this is its revenge. A phantom pain that haunts her because her actions ran parallel to her mind.

How long had this pain haunted her? A week? A month?

She recalled thinking nothing of the pain at first. As it weaved in and out of her life, believing it to be a sign of her aging body. The beginnings of a metamorphosis into a completely new person.

She muffled a groan as a wave of nausea passed through her, eyes clamping shut. The painkillers did little to help. She recalls the doctor, balding and thin, who insisted on an infection despite her assertion of contrary symptoms.

She was not surprised by the negative result.

#

“I’m putting orange wallpaper in the kitchen.” She told him. Her back pressed against the headboard of their bed. She watched Steve in the bathroom, only moving out of her view as he leaned into the sink to spit.

“Okay.” He nodded, eyebrows threading together. “Is your stomach feeling better?” The ache throbbed throughout her torso.

“Yes.” She mumbled as she twisted away to lie down. She felt him watch her for several long moments before she heard running water once more.

#

She looks back down at the catalog, watching flowers bloom and forests grow. This was the thirteenth store she had visited. Orange remained a forgotten hue, discarded in favor of vibrant blues and cheerful yellows. She couldn’t bring herself to be upset, outside of her current circumstance, she wouldn’t have considered orange either.

She slowly turns to the next page, anticipating another blue-based pattern. But an amber eye stares back. The deep gold cast is surrounded by crimson red, fading into a pure white.

It’s a crane.

Her heart skips as she takes in the solid pastel orange behind it. Her thumb runs over the laminated sheet, passing the winged creatures that litter the pattern. Guests would ask for years to come if she or Steve were particularly fond of cranes. Her lips arc into a smile. She would tell them they were not, in fact, fond of cranes. She would tell them orange was an auspicious color for the kitchen in her culture.

Priya would make it work.



Simran Bhakta: “I am an emerging writer from Texas. When I’m not writing I moonlight as a financial analyst and serve on the Adroit Journal’s managerial board.”




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