Taj Mahal
Ron Morelli

"There is something painfully obvious about his infidelities," she ponders sitting beneath a canopy of tightly knit leaves, which form a plain weave against the mid-day Calcutta sun. She is not happy to be here. Not so much to be here in the garden, but rather to be here in this country. Already the days have dragged on, and despite his promises that all would be better, that this would be the one adventure to bring them closer together, it has done just the opposite and driven them further apart.

She tries not to dwell on it too much, leaning against a tree whose bark is not as dark as the heart that beats within her breast. She enjoys the melodrama. It is a slow acting poison she takes daily.

She isn't sure what his name is, just that he works for her husband. Names are not important here. What is important is that he kisses her roughly on the mouth, that she feels the spite and sweetness from his lips mixed and mingled on her own. She wants to be ravished by him in this garden. She wants to feel his dark skin against her white, wants to feel the lightness of his heart clash with the heaviness of her own. Isn't that why she's really here? To commit an act of sacrifice and defilement to the temple of marriage?

This will be her memento for this trip as he roughly holds and fondles her. She urges him to rip her blouse; the violent tear of the fabric a haunting remembrance in her ears. She doesn't want to leave this place wholesome anymore, as if she ever was wholesome to begin with.

"Harder," she yells at him. Somewhere in the garden a peacock is screaming, birds have taken flight. She is angry at his clumsiness, at her own stupidity to believe her husband could be faithful, and her gullibility that this trip would be different from all the others. She has detached herself, or tried too, from it all; right here and now in this garden.

When it is over with, it is over with. She makes no amends, neither does the other man. They part, quietly and quickly. She fingers the rip in her blouse, she savors the story she will tell her husband over cocktails tonight, or deep in bed with him as he dreams of his mistress and she dreams of her misery.

And when it is all over, said and done, by action, word and deed; she will not be happy or sad, she will merely be indifferent and both of them will be far too forgiving of the other one's vanity.

First published: August, 2003
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