I lie next to the sea. It is dead still, except for the invisible
rippling soundless undulations the water makes as it
breathes. There is no moonlight, but it is not pitch dark.
You kiss me everywhere — everywhere, for hours
and hours and hours. My lips are dry, my body salt-
encrusted. You have eaten every bit of pleasure,
yours and mine. I feel parched, dry, in spite of all the
plenitude of water and our body-sweat.
The sand too is sweating beneath us. Every grain
remembers every wave, every caress, leaving behind just
salt, a silver layer of salt as a gift — a talisman of love, of
their inconsistent meetings.
I feel parched like the sea-salt gauze. My tongue is parched
in spite of your lavender saliva, saliva which has changed
from that bouquet to the taste of heather, wild weather-
I look around for light, but I can only see reflection. There
is more beauty in second-hand glaze — sky’s dark light
radiating off your lashes, water’s blue light hiding in your
navel, the beach’s grainy light lying unwiped on your
nipples, and the light’s invisible inner light stored in your
The sea is getting restless. But I am dead still, except for
the inaudible swishing that one can hear when you press yourself
against my heart.
I need to taste the grainy light that you wrap your skin in,
each and every grain that maps the slow deliberate con-
tours of your body.
Under the soft translucent linen, the ridges around your
nipples harden at the thought of my tongue. You — lying
inverted like the letter ‘c‘ — arch yourself deliberately
wanting the warm press of my lips, it’s wet to coat the skin
that is bristling, burning, breaking into sweats of desire —
sweet juices of imagination. But in fact, I haven’t even
touched you. At least, not yet.
The very last drop of rain perched on the edge of her navel
— the last bead of sweat balanced on the feather of her
eye-lash — the last long-wet of my kiss on her skin — all
these demand more, more, more — more wet, more wet —
yearning for more rain, fire, desire, moisture — and the
cool chill of crystal-water, thirst, saliva, longing, rain.
Summer’s dead heat — humidity teasing clouds to shed
rain — absolute stillness — every leaf balanced, tentative,
eager, quivering, aching to feel the moisture on their skin.
Your body scent and strands of long night-kissed hair left
on my pillow — broken blouse-buttons on my bed-sheet —
a disengaged lone eyelash curved, left behind as a
question mark — What happened? —
Reflecting quicksand, mirrors of time — my answers live in
The seductiveness of a slim tall transparent glass tube —
the curved silver juices it contains — is such that it even
makes me forget the news of the birth of a new child.
Human life and inert chemical life compete in insidious
ways, the same way fact and fiction does, desire and disgust
does, as does illness and passion.
Like an aria, it is a curious melody, as distinct from
harmony — a solo part in a cantata or opera. Its inherent
nobility and splendour, its treble and bass, create an enigma
of its own private architecture.
The thermometer’s spine rises, gradually and numerically,
to a height where human equilibrium can just about
balance itself. I stand at its base. The glass-chamber rising
many storeys above me holds a reservoir of finely
granulated liquid that changes its grey silvery shade in the
changing light. Above that, a constriction, then a towering
shot of fine tubular glass hoping to reach a degree of sanity
at the cost of human heat.
Summer is already approaching outside, as my body sweats
gently in appreciation. The heat worn by my skin’s surface
is nowhere near the heat that is slowly welling up inside
me. It takes the finest of touches, a feather-swivel for it to
shoot up the scale. But, at the moment, all is calm as the
storm gathers pace.
I am dying for the monsoon rains — but I am caught.
Trapped in the wrong longitudes these wet dreams are
dreams that would have to remain un-soaked. The hair on
the surface of my skin itches to raise its hood to attract any
pheromone in sight. There is a magnetic lull and hush, a
loud silent sound of breathing, in different voices.
Platoons of clouds clash softly without any hint of thunder.
There are electrical impulses that are waiting, poised to
spark. But the perfect noiseless moment is what everyone is
waiting for. Only the obtuseness of instrumentation could
clarify that, but that would be too intrusive.
The mercury shows its first sign of life — a little trickle,
then a tremor, then a surreptitious u-turn past the erectile
crystal-tissue. Thereafter, complete freedom. It is at this
point that the human’s heartstrings and the chemical‘s soul
marry perfectly. Each follows the other’s actions,
responding on a natural impulse, like the soothing scratchy
sound of ice severely eroding under a ballerina’s silver
skates. Metal matches metal, breath matches breath, glass
matches ice, freezing the heat itself.
I sit — serenely delirious — on the convex tip of the
mercury’s crest. All around me is vacuum — and beyond
that glass — and beyond that a semblance of life and
world. Here the vagaries of temperature do not seem to
matter, a sanitised skyscraper holding the elements of
inertia and energy. Here I feel particularly buoyant, not
because of anti-gravity, but at the hint of rising
This is the third thermometer I have bought in a day, and
yet I cannot trust it. Twice before, the reading shot out
beyond the graduated scale itself, hinting either I was
heated to the point of insanity or it was a case of glass’s
own neutral impotence.
This time I am determined to get to the heart of it, inside
its very core, whatever the consequence. However, when
one is caught in the process of creating a grand score, it
does not matter what the root causes are. Genesis like the
Christian one should remain a Buddhist mystery — then
all religions can command the private power of the
Molten silver — boiled, cooled, boiled, cooled, boiled
— then caressed variously over skin — finds intimate space
that intersects the point of heat — glows, dense and quiet.
One knows the gravity of such events, but not its intimacy,
not its relationship with follicles that create their own
forest-fires with their own human climatic changes.
It is these alterations that marry physics, chemistry,
biology, and mathematics — there is hope in all these
— just like the sine curve’s elasticity and predictability, the
graph’s nodes are stretched straight on the ‘x’-axis, the
subjects collude to a point of nullity. At the point of birth,
there is the death of the womb itself, but one lives — so
there may be hope.
It is at such interstices that art and passion find their true
shape. The unknown boiling and freezing points that I hide
within myself provide the ultimate enigma that even the
most specialised doctors and architects find hard to map.
My body is a terrain that defies the contour of safe plotting
— indices like Celsius, Fahrenheit, torque, are all
inadequate — just as bone marrow count, triglyceride,
hdl, ldl, do not form pretty, explainable equations.
Amid this oratorio, the cold tactility of a three-faced glass
case, its triadic ancient constancy, its contained columned
virility, provides comfort to my talisman. Sometimes even
the most brittle seems to find some soft shape for hope.
Silicates form so many forms — but what I like most is
their stubborn transparency, their supine pirouettes, like the
vicissitudes of mercury — like breathing itself — at least
until they last.
(Excerpted from Erotext: Desire, Disease, Delusion, Dream, Downpour by Sudeep Sen with permission from the Vintage: Penguin Random House India)
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