by Tamoha Sengupta
Tamoha Sengupta lives in India and is currently a final year student pursuing her B.Tech degree. Anime is the other world she wanders off to when she is not reading or writing stories. Her work has also appeared in Acidic Fiction. Her twitter home is @sengupta_tamoha.
“Yes, Ma’am we can remove all your scars.” The lady at the receptionist smiled expectantly up at me, her fingers hovering over the keyboard. “May I know your name?”
“Jiya.” I said.
She nodded, typing in the letters that held my name together. “You need to tell me how many of them you have, Ma’am.”
“Eight.” I said. I had been prepared for the question. I’d spent the whole of last night, checking and re-checking how many, in case I missed any.
“Ok. And you’ll also have to say how you got them.”
“How I got them?” I repeated, my voice quiet.
“Yes. We’ll remove the memories and the corresponding scars will vanish. Soon you’ll have unblemished beauty.” She smiled, and I noted the flawless skin on her face. Her words echoed in my brain.
Remove the memories?
A scar above my left knee, a testament to the trials of my first bicycle ride when I was six.
A scar just below my right toe, from where I‘d treaded on broken glass from Mother’s favorite flower vase.
A scar on my left thumb, when the hammer had missed the nail I’d been driving into the wall to hang a photo of me and mother. Both of us laughing, snow-capped mountains far away in the background.
A scar on my right thigh- left behind from the accident that nearly killed me and mother. A memory of almost-death that always made me make sure to tell mother I loved her, at least once a day. And make small cards just to see her smile.
All memories—gone? Vanished scars in exchange for lost memories?
“Ma’am?” Her voice was calling me from a faraway place. I blinked at her, trying to comprehend her words. “You need to list the memories, Ma’am. And later, when we’ve clicked the pictures of your scars, you can tell us which memory caused which.”
I glanced down at the paper she was extending toward me, a frown on my face. It reminded me of the scar on my forehead, just above my left brow, the one that had been caused by my drunken father hurling the paperweight at me. I still remembered the way Mother stood up to him then, how she cradled me and took care of me till she was sure I was fine. My hands unconsciously rose to the faint reminder-my fingers lightly tracing its shape.
The receptionist smiled. “Ah, yes. It bothers you, right?”
Bother me? It made me thankful that we’d walked away from the tyranny of my father soon after. It taught me to never take freedom for granted, and be grateful for being able to talk and laugh as loudly as we wanted without fear of being hit.
“Don’t worry, Ma’am. They’ll be gone in no time. You’ve come to the right place.” Her words cleared the haze in my mind.
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
Leaving her with a confused look on her face, I turned and left, my fingers caressing the latest scar- a long, crooked gash across my right cheek — attained as I’d tried to wrench the knife away from a bandit who’d broken into our house a couple of weeks ago. This scar was what had caused the man who apparently loved me to recoil in horror and disgust. This was the scar that had made him say “I’ll take you back when you’re beautiful again” and had led me foolishly here, of all places, thinking that I’d found the solution. And now, this was the scar that had shown me that his love had been false.
When I reached home, I saw that my mother had still not eaten lunch. She had been waiting for me to return, the food ready on the table in front of her. Seeing me enter, she stood up with a smile, her eyes glowing with warmth.
“You’re back. I was worried, Jiya. Where’d you go without telling me, sweet?”
I shook my head, smiling as I approached her. “Nowhere important. I’m finally in the right place. What’ve you cooked for me?”
“You always know I’ll cook at least one of your favorite dishes.” she said, pulling me towards the table and her laughter and love filled the remaining insecurities of my soul and washed them away.