There is a star in the sky, it glitters and glimmers all night long. She often looked at it and thought it belonged to her as she adored it from her window. In that little lane, in her dingy room, in the most inconspicuous street and in a city that could be any city in the world, she sat by her window looking up at her star. Rosylenn, as everyone called her, did not have many things to call her own but whenever she looked at the star she felt like it only belonged to her and no one else.
It had been with her almost all her life. It had been with her when she ran away from home. It had been with her when she had fallen in love. It had been with her when life slapped her hard in the face. And today it stood glittering and glimmering right above her.
Below her window, her street was alive. It was the kind of city which sprung to life when the city slept. There were men, there were women and there was all that the heart desired but could not claim.
Altaf had been drinking again. This time he had had too much. He was sitting outside on the road. He sat there with the world spinning around him. He was right across the street outside the bar. He recognized the green coloured building right in front of him. With tremendous strength he got up. He knew he had to climb up a lot of stairs. Today he wanted her. It had been long.
Rosylenn sat by her window. She liked getting lost. It was easier than staying tuned with everything that went about around her. She was lost in her memories, in her past and in her childhood. She remembered a time when life had been simple. She remembered running along the small creek that ran right next to her home. As a kid she had dreamed of flying one day. And running along the creek often liberated her. She craved running along it, tasting the sweet water and jumping in it with no worry in the world. A smile caressed her lips and a tear dropped down her cheek. She allowed herself very few moments like these. She did not like to indulge in self pity but there were times when she just could not stop.
There was a loud knock on her door. She looked at the clock. She was not expecting anything for the time being. The knock surprised her. She went to her door and opened her locks. He stood right in front of her. He was drunk. She could smell the liquor. She unlocked and let him in.
He struggled his way in. He barely could stand on his two feet. He entered the room and lay flat on the bed. He kept mumbling something. She did not utter a single word. She went inside her kitchen and got him a glass of water. She laid it right next to him and went back to her window.
“Wont you say something?” Altaf asked her.
She turned to look at him. He had managed to prop himself up on her bed. She merely said, “What would you like me to say?”
“Anything, it has been so long since I heard your voice! Wont you sing for me?”
There was something about his voice that made her shiver. She felt a huge pang in her heart. She turned the other way to look back at the street. This was not the time. This was not the place. This was not the person. She barely managed to compose herself and calmly responded saying, “I can do whatever you want me to do!”
“Do not talk to me like that!” His voice got louder. She felt an unease she had expected. He sounded offended. He sounded sad.
She went closer to him. She sat right next to him. Slowly she caressed his hand. She smiled and put his hand on her leg. He felt at ease and asked her to sing again. His hand began running up and down her leg.
She looked back at him and asked, “What would you like me to sing, love?” Her voice was rehearsed.
“I told you to stop. Why wont you talk to me like you used to?”
She looked the other way.
“You know I think about you, everyday, Sabrina! I think about your sweet voice, I think about your pretty eyes, I think about your wonderful heart, I think about your smile and I think of you all day long. Dont you think about me? Dont you want things to be like they were?”
The pang in her heart escalated. She got up and walked away. She stood in a corner of the room. She looked at him, quietly. Her silence was piercing him. There was a moment between them where each looked into the others eyes. Her eyes welled up but she did not move a muscle. She looked at him again and asked, “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to hug me. I want you to hold my hand again. I want you to lie down next to me and tell me about how you would love to fly!”
Her gaze grew intense but her tone remained monotonous, almost mechanical, “What would you like me to do?”
“Please come and sit next to me.”
She obeyed and sat right next to him. She felt his hand slowly go up her back. There was that tingle again, there was that feeling again. She shut it off. She had been through this before.
“Sabrina, wont you sing for me? Wont you talk to me? Please talk to me.”
She looked at him. His face had grown wrinkled but his eyes still glittered the same way they had a few years back. He still smelled of roses and wine. His voice sounded heavy. Most of all he looked at her the way he had a few years back. She could see the want, the desire, the love and she could even see the guilt, the rejection and the disappointment. He was still the same. She was still the same. They were exactly where they had always been.
She took a deep breath and looked at him. As she gazed into his eyes she said, “Before I do anything, you know there is something you must do! I do not bend my rules for anyone. You know where the box is, you know the protocol. Do your part then I shall do mine. Roselynn never fails to deliver” and she winked at him.
It was almost as if she had crushed him under a mountain. He looked at her with agitation. She could feel his anger, his discomfort. He shot at her, “you will make me do that as well? You fucking SLUT!” and he raised his hand to hit her. He slapped her once hard across her face and she fell on the floor. She felt all her blood rushing to her face. She felt her face fire up. She could not hold it in any longer. She got up and pushed him back hard. She almost felt like fighting back but she knew she had to restrain herself. She felt it all come up, rise up her throat. Before she knew it she screamed, “If you ever hit me again, I will kill you! Do you understand?” Her voice resonated among the walls. Her finger was pointed at him. She was angry.
“You cant do anything. You are a woman who cant do anything. Who will you call? The police or that friend of yours who sits downstairs? Remember, I am the man you married! I am the man who took your virginity. If you remember I am the man you spent your nights with. I am the man you had a life with. And now you wont give me what I want?”
She stood there looking at him. Her eyes were red with anger. She almost wanted to kill him. She opened her doors and asked him to leave. She just said, “Altaf, you are also the man who brought me here. I want you to leave. Go, right now!”
Altaf kept looking at her. He was agitated. But she sounded firm. He could not reason with her. He could not persuade her and he could not force her. He felt desperation. He felt helpless, almost powerless. Soon his anger melted. There was regret. He fell down to the floor and began weeping. Through his tears she heard him say, “Sorry. I am sorry. I cant stand it. I cant stand seeing you everyday like this. I see you every day sitting by that window looking up at the sky. I cant believe what I did. It was a mistake. Can you ever forgive me? You must understand I had no choice. Please, just talk to me once. You send the money home, you send the money to me. But home is not the same. Just talk to me. I cant stand this. I cant bear it.”
She coldly said, “You always had a choice. You just chose to let me go. All that you say means nothing to me. You are just saying that now, let the liquor wear off, so will your guilt.”
He continued weeping, his wails had muffled up. He looked at her and said, “No, I mean it. Cant you hear the honesty in my voice?”
“I heard it the first few times you did this and I fell for it. It is the same every time. You are gone as soon as your liquor wears off. We both know why you are here, so stop pretending. I don’t make concessions for anyone. You know what you want. Do not take me for a fool! Nothing you say makes any difference. Either you get up and leave me in peace or you take what you want and then go away!”
“You once said you loved me. How can you treat me like one of them?”
“we all say a lot of things we do not mean. You know better. I said what I wanted to. You know your options. The choice is yours” She went back to her window. She sat on the sill looking outside. She took out a cigarette and started blowing smoke into the air.
He sat there in self pity. He looked at her. Nothing worked this time. She would not budge. She was different. She did not belong to him, not anymore. He had broken her. He felt it inside him. He sat there for a while staring at her. He got up from the bed, went across the room to her cupboard. He opened the topmost compartment and took out an old red box. He knew the combination. It was the day they had met. As he dialled it in the box opened with a click. He saw all the money in the box. He felt guilt again. He took out a thousand rupee note from his pocket. And put it in the box. She saw him do it. As soon as he had put the box back with the money in its place she got up from her place. She went and closed the door; she covered the window with the curtains.
She turned to look at him. She was a different person. There was a smile on her face, the kind that invited him. He looked at her as she drew closer. “Can I call you Sabrina?”
“Rosylenn! I am Rosylenn now.”
She embraced him and pressed her breast against him. She felt his arms envelope her in a passionate embrace. She felt his breath grow faster. He started kissing her on the neck. He looked at her and drew her close. He was about to kiss her lips when she retreated. “You do not get to do that!” He conceded. He could not fight anymore. He accepted her rules. He had to.
She knew her words killed him. She knew it but it did not matter anymore. She had died inside the day he had sold her. There had been a time when she was Sabrina, Altaf’s wife. They had moved to the city to make a life for themselves. She had married him against her parents will. It was all like a fairy tale, a fairy tale gone wrong. But she remembered how two thugs had entered her home forcibly. They had grabbed her from her bed and dragged her away. Altaf witnessed the entire scene helplessly. He sat in a corner weeping. He kept apologizing to her. She kept screaming his name. She wanted him to save her. As those men grabbed her and dragged her outside she saw her husband do nothing. He kept apologizing and kept saying, “this is the only way!” That was the last time she ever saw him. The rest was a haze. She had resisted for quite some time. It was all in vain. She was beaten up, drugged, raped, hurt and forced to do a lot of things she never thought she would. There was a different man every hour. Her pimp used her to retrieve all the money her husband owed him. She lived it, horror by horror.
But that was almost a year ago. Today she was a famous prostitute. She entertained clients on her time. She earned enough to survive and support her family. She lived in her world now. There was no pain anymore. She ceased to feel things anymore. There were occasional moments when some residue would rise up and make her feel something. Now life was only clients, money and a cigarette.
As she felt him undress her, she felt her body shiver a little. His touch still rattled her. She had loved him once. Now she did not know love. All she knew was lust. And lust was what earned the bread. She knew the money he put in her box was her own. She felt that pang again as he kissed her all over. She felt that strange feeling or whatever was left of it as he went inside her. But all that it reminded her of was the day she had been dragged out of her own home like a dog. And the feeling died.
As the night grew older, his hour got over. She got up and looked at him on her bed. He had passed out. She lingered for a moment looking at him. She had not let him kiss her even though he was the only man she had ever kissed in her life. There was a lot she wanted to say. There was a lot she wanted to tell him that night. But she knew how things would eventually end up at.
She got up, dressed herself and then went outside and called her pimp. Soon Altaf was thrown out of the room on to the street which had brought him inside.
“No more for tonight!” she said to her pimp.
The pimp nodded and left her at peace. She was back at her window, back to her cigarette. This time she felt cold tears running down her face. This time she did not stop herself. And she wept ...