I opened my closet, expecting nothing surprising. Just the same set of mismatched, undersized clothes I picked up hoping I’d grow thin some day without dieting or exercising.
What I did not expect, was an anorexic version of a human being. Well, not exactly anorexic, as starved. Not actually starved, as dead. And boney. If you were the type that didn’t like to mince words, there was definitely a skeleton in my closet.
The guy, the skeleton that is, walked out of the closet as easily as a vampire out of his coffin looking for his evening snack. He (I call him he, but I could call him she for the gender neutral folks, because at this point, there isn’t too much pronoun clarity) and into my living room, where he picked up my mug of tea and slurped it down, and I watched its contents just sizzle down what had been once his oesophagus, down the cavity that had been his stomach, and right out of the ex-intestines, and through the remnants of a once working urinary tract.
“Hey, you are soiling my carpet!” I shouted at the closet-skeleton.
Now you might assume I’m the shallow kind, because I’m more concerned about my carpet than the starved ex-human that was peeing over it. But I had just dry cleaned these carpets after nearly a decade of dirtying it, and I wasn’t really the clean type, and often had a lot of dead stuff lying around my place. Fungus, Dead rats, cockroaches, cats. A dead human was kind of a first. I almost wondered if it was an acheivement. Which is kind of how sad my life was, when it came to acheivements to be proud of. Besides, closet-skeleton wasn’t dead. He-She was walking around, drinking my coffee, and peeing on my carpet. If things hadn’t been complicated enough, the doorbell rang, three times in quick succession, and it was kind of funny to watch the closet-skeleton jerk at the sound even without a functioning ear cavity. He liked to keep it real, this one, I mused as I opened the door.
I opened the door. It was Aunt Preethi of course, which I should have guessed from the impatient clanging. She came down and plopped herself on my sofa, right across the closet-skeleton, and looked at me with a surprised expression.
“Well?” she said.
I shifted as nervously as a twenty eight year old Indian girl would if caught with a stranger in her living room when a blood relative walked in. Explaining to Aunt Preethi that the skeleton and I weren’t having an affair because I couldn’t ascertain its gender wasn’t going to fly too well with her, I decided. I know, I shouldn’t have opened the door, but if you were acquainted with Indian Aunts of single women in Bangalore, you wouldn’t be famiiliar with the amount of chaos that could be associated with a situation like that, and most of them would include the police, the suicide watch, and of course my mother.
“Well what, Aunt Preethi? I replied, as respectfully as I could.
“Well, are you going to stand there being impolite or are you getting me some tea?”
That brought me to attention. I rushed to the kitchen, and got the kettle going, wondering how she hadn’t seen the skeleton. The stupid skeleton came bumbling towards the stove, almost falling into the fire.
“Jeez, What the hell,” I hissed at the skeleton. “Are you trying to die…properly this time?”
“Are you talking to me, girl?” shouted Auntie from the hall. Auntie had the hearing of a dog, though that was something you would never say unless Auntie was in another continent. WHich is kind of where I wished she would be. Auntie was a pain. And I knew her visits never bode well.
TThe skeleton was now making a hissing sound pointing to the kettle, prancing up and down. Clearly the guy had a tea addiction. NO tea, I mouthed at the skeleton, and grabbed the tea cup and walked to auntie.
“Well, are you planning to die alone in this apartment?” asked Auntie as she waitied for me to pour her the tea. Straight shooter, that was my Aunt Preethi, never wasted time in personal attacks.
“I am hoping not to, Auntie” i said cheerfully, looking at the skeleton who had plopped himself on the sofa beside auntie.
“This tea is sugary,” dhe said grimacing, almost throwing the tea cup on the table as if I had poisoned her. Which I must admit, I had imagined quite a bit. The skeleton’s hand immideatly inched towards Aunties abandoned tea cup. I gave him a sharp look and swatted him with a newspaper. The skeleton yowled, pulling back its hand. Drama queen, I thought.
“Would you like me to make another tea?” I said sweetly to auntie.
Auntie shot at me her classic ‘I’ve had enough’ stare. “I would like you to marry and settle down with one of these guys”, she said, throwing down a couple of photographs on the coffee table, “They are getting older, just like you, as you can see. And I am not a magician, even if some think me so. There are limits to what I can do for you girl. And we’ve all had enough of this nonsense. So can you pick one of them and make my poor sister’s life a bit easier?”
“But I don’t want to get married!” I whined my pathetic response.
“Why?” asked Auntie sharply ”Are you a lesbian?”
“Auntie!!” I shouted, wondered why I sounded so traumatised. Perhaps it had something to do with my auntie saying it. “I am not a …lesbian” I said after a shameful stutter that made me wonder if I was the sixty year old boor in the room.
“Then you want people to think you are one….whats wrong with you girl? Why can’t you get married? I know you don’t have a boyfriend. And I hope you aren’t going to go on about your work.” she said with the air quotes.
“I happen to be love my work, Auntie!” I blurted, “And what’s with the air quotes. Aren’t you supposed to be 50 or something”
“Watch your mouth girl! I am a handsome 48, a fine age to be in if one is happily married”
The skeleton seemed to be flipping through my art portfolia which was on the table. At least someone was getting my work, I thought. Even if the someone wasn’t alive, technically. Then I noticed that my art portfolia was just a cover to keep me from seeing his tea snatching attempt. Asshole.
“Painting isn’t work, beta.” Auntie said switching to her good cop voice, “Unless you are painting houses. If so, I have just the right man for you. This one.“ she said picking a photograph from the table “An architect from Scotland. And guess what, he’s got a house of his own. One that I’m sure you can paint.”
“Enough!” I screamed. “You know what! I have a boyfriend” I shouted. The expression on my aunts face was that of an unsettled faze. It slowly transformed into one of sweet shock, sweet for me that is, as the possiblity that every last one of her spies, the cook at my home, the neighbour next door, my gym instructor, everyone had failed her
“Impossible” she hissed, “I don’t beleive it. YOU lie!”
“It was all right under your very nose all along aunty” I said with a note of triumph, dragging the skeleton to my side, and lugging a hand around it. “Here is my boyfriend. We would like your blessing.“
“This….thing?” asked Auntie, looking at the skeleton for the first time, her eyes wide with disbelief…”This…this is your boyfriend. Oh my God. What will people think, girl! WHy must you always be this stubborn. Can’t you see…he’s sooo scrawny. There is no meat on him!“
“I would advise you to be polite to your future nephew, Auntie” I said sharply.
My Aunts face registered hurt, an emotion I had never seen on that canvas of her face. Then I noticed her eyes go to my legs, then to the skeleton’s legs, to the large pool of pee-tea, that was collecting once again on my living room carpet.