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Things to Do after They're Gone

Mimi Mondal lives and writes in Calcutta, India. One of her stories has been published for the Artemis Rising event of Podcastle, and a few others are hoping to receive some love soon. With her affinity for cats, dogs, travel, a decent scotch, and communal harmony, Mimi often likes to imagine she is so unexotic as to almost be exotic. She is currently attending the Clarion West Writing Workshop (Summer 2015) and can be tweeted at @Julychildren.
I find you under my bed one night when I am looking for a lost suitcase, curled up and desolate as if you were just a dead tree. You shrink from my reach. I have no idea how long you have been there. I wonder if you can tell.
I stopped dreading you when I was ten. Ten years it took me to get over the unseen monster under the bed who kept me from getting out after lights-off. I wonder what you wanted then; what you want now. I wonder what you eat. I wonder if you will eat me.
But you only want to be.
I go to work in the morning. On my way home, I pick up Chinese takeway for dinner. I put your food on a blue porcelain plate and slide it under the bed. The next morning, it is still there.
You are still there, too.
You, mere flashes of eye-white and teeth in your solitary kingdom under the bed.
Where were you two years ago when, that fateful night, my dad had stormed into my room--a different room--and punched my face so hard that my thin nose was mangled forever? I have not brought up a son to wear eyeliner, he had said. Get out of my house, he had said. Out of my sight. Out. Out. You embarrass me.
Did the scent of trickling blood make you drool?
That night, did you leave with me--a skinny, smarting, clueless boy with his hoodie drawn over his eyes, all his favorite things crammed in a backpack... and the ghost of an illusory childhood trailing behind?
I had slept on an old school friend's couch that night. I slept there for two more months, did her dishes, cleaned her apartment, flirted with her boyfriend, until I had a job and enough money to rent a place of my own.
I have no idea where you slept.
I read you poetry by Baudelaire and the intrepid ghazals of Ghalib. I want to build up in you a vocabulary of desire. I hope you are listening.
Lying on my back in my bed, I imagine you and me as two sides of a coin, the twisted tails of a king rat, a pair of Siamese twins conjoined at the heart. I bare my teeth at the ceiling, revert to the world the pain and frustration it had piled on me. I go to sleep and dream of the two of us, under the bed, entwined in a dance for eternity from which neither of us can escape.
Waking up is like breaking the surface.
Sunlight hurts my eyes. I cannot recall whether I'm alive or dead.
I find you gone the morning after I bring Alex home. I have picked up many men in all these years--the longest stayed for three days--and it never seemed to bother you. But now you have disappeared. No word, not a scratch on the underside of the bed for me to start looking.
Alex stays.
He cooks a mean biryani and is gardening begonias on the windowsill. He shifts in his sleep, and sometimes I wake up tangled in his limbs, gasping for breath.
Sometimes, late at night, I rescue my pillow from under his weight, and crawl under the bed.
My dreams swarm with Siamese twins.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 30th, 2015


This story came to me in a dream, and in the groggy minutes immediately after waking up I imagined it might become a poem. (It refused to do so.) I keep feeling--as it always happens--that the dream was more vivid than the story itself turned out. I'd like to drink every night whatever I drank on that particular night, but I don't seem to be able to recall it at all.

- Mimi Mondal

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