The toast was bitter. That is impossible she thought. That just cannot be. It was her mind again. But that was nonsense. The doctor had said she was absolutely fine. One cannot imagine bitter toast. Its supposed to be what you know, you remember and then the mind jumbles it up.
Ya, right. Remember the purple elephant? One cannot hear the word purple elephant without imagining one. She smiled. There she was, arguing with herself again. No, these were not voices in her head. She was not crazy (and what was crazy about a subconscious or whatever they called it these days). This was merely thinking an idea through before articulating it. Simple. Anyway, the purple elephant analogy was wrong – the image comes from the words. The words have to stimulate the idea. There was nothing to stimulate the idea of bitter toast.
She looked around her. The glass windows were streaked. The room pristine. He own little room. Not quite the cocoon she had imagined. Over the years it had become the panic room of the house. Buttons had been sewn on school uniforms. Last minute safety pins on wedding chunaris. Careers had changed after an afternoon on the rocking chair, she listening and humming her interjections. The room had seen chaos, and then complete cold order. More order now that her eyes were giving way. She hated feeling her way to find things – they had to be placed just so. She often forgot her failing eyesight, she smiled. It was almost gone, but she was managing fine. But then, how did I see the streaks on the window today? It must be the bitter toast that started it. Something had been started.
The years were as lightly worn as the pashmina shawl she wrapped around her shoulders, whatever the weather. It was one she had bought for herself from a weaver after years of being cheated by door to door salesmen. Year after year she bought dozens of shawls and steadily gifted them away. Some for weddings, others for births. Lately every visitor who came to her house left with a piece of it. Some got a few pieces of her precious crockery, others the ornaments. She had even given away some of her furniture. The only large piece she held on to was the oak dining table that she had bought at an embassy sale and shipped over. This is where she had her tea. And toast. She glared accusingly at the offending item. It made no sense.
Sense is what she had lived her life with – that was her lodestone. She was the dependable one – at work, at home, in her neighbourhood. She made friends easily, and then learnt to carry the weight of their flightiness, inconsistency. One by one they all came, they all passed through her room, ending up at the dining table drinking hot tea and eating the cakes she had baked in the middle of the night. She had solutions for them, she brought comfort. So much sense – look at how sensibly she has arranged her life. She basked in the comfortable warmth of sense. It brought her everything she had ever wanted. Everything she knew she could have wanted, she had.
Unlike this strange new taste that made no sense.