Undressing her – Aekta Khubchandani

 

Dissecting meat after it’s been fleshed and cleaned had been a favourite part of his culinary journey. Slicing button mushrooms to slender strips, making them bend and twirl while being cooked added an adventurous flavour to his meal prep. He enjoyed playing the surgeon in an apron too.  A variety of knives decorated the wooden block that glued to the kitchen’s left side and he could sleep in this space with tools and vessels suspended around him like he is in the centre of a merry go round thumped to the ground by force of eternal gravity. And the location of the washbasin being at his disposal was the kind of perks he would live for.

It was a small house with cemented bricks and paint, the smell of Aarya’s Mother seldom lingered in the hall when they sat for dinner. The third chair was always empty.

Tiny toes made way to meet his. She stepped on his toes and there they’d go! One, two and three! He would lift her up, his thumbs pressing her rose chest buds and she would settle herself with her legs dangling over his broad shoulders.

“Good Morning, love.”

“Morning Daddy,” she said before kissing his face.

“What would you like to eat for breakfast today? Scrambled eggs and a glass of cold bournvita?

“But, I want jam toasts and a slice of cheese.”

“Honey today isn’t Sunday. Umm, how about scrambled eggs with cheese and cold bournvita? And tomorrow, you can eat two slices of jam toasts with a piece of cake.”

“It’s cake day, tomorrow?” She asked him widening her pixie dust eyes.

“Your Mum has promised to send us some of her birthday cake.”

Aarya almost jumped, like she was horse riding and wrapped her arms around her Daddy’s slender neck. Her eyes lit up like fireflies shining on a dark night. There is so much a piece of cake can do.

After she ran in to brush her teeth and hair, he washed his hands. First a palm rub then spreading soap foam to the lengths and circumference of his fingers, touching his nails and then a gush of cold water washing it all away. He missed his gloves. He had stopped wearing them at home because Aarya would continuously tease him. She would call him a mad scientist and just wouldn’t let him touch her with gloves on. She called them smelly rubber wraps. It was those modern times they’re living in, where they have an open father daughter relationship. They told one another almost anything and kept their secrets like unearthed treasure chests.

“Aaryaa. Aaryaaa, come get in. It’s bathing time.”

Aarya got in the bathroom with her hair tied and her body still stuck in the night frock. He undressed her neatly like helping a patient in the absence of a nurse. The flashes of him undressing himself at her naked sight slapped his head, time and again. He had undressed her too many times in his head and she still looked like the goddess of Latin poetry every morning. The blood inside him started to whirl and the veins closed up, trapping the flesh to erect and rise.

“Daddy, your fat finger. Is something wrong with it?”

“Is it injured?”

He laughed casually and said, “No love. It just woke up. It’s being funny but it’s not injured. If you touch it, I won’t feel any pain.”

“Do you want to touch it?”

His hands rinsed and wrapped shampoo and body wash in deep corners of her body and she gave him a hair wash. The underlying love emerged to the surface and covered tender contours and wrinkles, every Saturday. No wonder, weekends were their favourite.

Before they sat for breakfast together, he washed his hands.

Between bites and tears of scrambled eggs, they talked about stories of that naughty school boy who she hit last week, of how fast she finished her tiffin and won races against boys in corridors, of her hair growing longer and of how she dreamt to eat ice cream for breakfast on her birthday. He listened to her but his head was in the hospital, digging in intestines like feasting on hakka noodles, feeling the pumping flesh of a heart, with gloves of blood and thoughts of adoring naked dead women. He had even tried to call for women bodies for practice and further experiments but the authorities had denied him of his wishes.

He always believed in beginnings and exploring its innocence. Kaira and he always seemed to be a happy couple. Their first year was full of thrilling experiences, mad fantasies and frequent travels to Pondicherry. They were intensely active in bed, holding one another with more than love and leaning by their flesh. Every organ and space felt firm to hold on to. But it all sagged with time. Sooner or later, he developed a taste of budding organs, the process of flowering to full grown wholesome selves. During his practice period, he worked on intensive childcare cases and developed a soft corner for soft girls.  He spent unreasonable hours at work and she spent time waiting for him. Soon, the waiting hours fell off the clock and she decided to leave. Once she did, she didn’t come back.

“Aarya, what do you feel like doing today?”

“Can we go get ice cream and this can be another of our secrets. We won’t tell Mom or anyone at all.”

“How about we do something different? Something we can’t do on your school days and my clinic days.”

“We could stay home and watch the Shrek series. It’ll be like a movie marathon and we could munch on masala popcorn and sip on bournvita. And Sunita aunty was talking about this ayurvedic massage oil that helps to relax and strengthen the body. I think I’ll massage myself before the movie.”

“What does it smell like? Can I try some too? Will it burn?”

“It smells of tea leaves with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla spice. It’s very authentic. Would you like to? Actually, why not. You should try too. And no, it doesn’t burn. You can bathe in that oil.”

“But promise me you won’t oil skate around the house and make a lot of noise.”

She giggled and said that it would be a fun Saturday. He got up and made way to the kitchen, to the sink, to the tap and to the water. His hands weren’t blood stained as Lady Macbeth’s but he washed his hands rigorously, piously.

In the meantime, Aarya was reciting a verse from the poem she has just learnt in school and she told her Daddy about the fancy dress competition that would be happening at the end of the month. They started brainstorming about various ideas. She said that she would love to be the superman, a dolphin, the tastiest farm strawberry or a bar of Mason & Company’s chocolate. By this time, his imagination had gone wild. He imagined Aarya with a cassette; he had tightly wrapped circles of tape around her rose chest buds forcing the fat to bulge out a little. And there was a gelatine paper to cover and uncover it, a cardboard end at all four sides of the rectangular gelatine to support and suffice this idea. He forgot to add some clothes in this imagination but he saw her smile sunflower wide. They do not reach at a conclusion and decide to take this further next weekend with props and experiments. In that moment, they were both just happy being in their own bubbled up worlds while being together in that one room.

Before he could let this feeling consume him, he got himself up to wash his hands. Again. No matter how many times he washed his hands, the smut swelling up his thoughts still stay and make themselves at home. Sometimes he felt that his thoughts were his ghostly ancestors who had decided to not leave.

Time raced like his hands raced and glided through her oiled spaces. There was reduction of friction, more ease and travelling lengths to unwrap untouched area.

“Ouch, Daddy!” she screams.

“I’m sorry love. Did that hurt? I think my fingers just slipped.”

“I don’t like the massage anymore. I want to this greasy thing off my body, now!”

This was the first time she had refused to something her Daddy had suggested. He washed her oil off with soap and water and wiped her clean. He coated her with an extra layer of powder like an overdone hand written apology note. He pampered her with a jam toast besides popcorn and Bournvita and before they settled in to watch the movie, he washed his hands clean.

It always got better with the tickling at the feet and the food. By mistake, Aarya’s hand touched her Daddy’s bulgy finger instead of the popcorn bucket and she asked him if his finger was doing okay and if the oil helped him at all?

His head was a slave to his thoughts. He had dropped his cards and surrendered long ago. He didn’t try to fight it; instead accepted what came his way. He had seen Aarya grow in his arms and on his lap, from micro toes to tiny ones that climbed his feet, every weekend. It wasn’t possible to age backwards or to stay in a place even if the two were equally happy. The textbooks which would teach her about living organisms’ would be introduced to her at school in a year’s time or two and then there would be no escaping. He wouldn’t want to leave Aarya nor would he wish for her to leave him. His medical license, which at least kept him occupied, there was no way losing that. But there were ways to preserve beauty, to cover and freeze in ice beds and to retain the Aurora skin even after life would surrender to death.

He undressed her and this time, he undressed too.

After the final act, he washed his hands clean.