Chapter 1: PORK
Through the haze of momo steam, Rockson eyed her on the balcony of The Eclipse. Soon she’d need a cigarette and stride downstairs to the alley. Heels clinking on cluttered whiskey bottles, she’d look around for him. Sweeping the tables of his uncle’s roadside eatery, Rockson would hold out his fake silver-cased lighter. Her smile would be taut, giving away her gratitude in pinpricks — just enough to repay the kindness, not enough to lead him on.
“Wash the pork, you runt from my sister’s cunt!” Rockson’s uncle’s heaving beer-belly eclipsed his morning romance.
Shouldering his rag, he went about defrosting meat, still mooning over Kunzang. She elusively stood out to him from the flock of Bhutanese and Nepalese hookers at ‘The Eclipse’ — a small, gang-run pleasure hotel in the thick of New Market. From his spot on the opposite footpath, Rockson spent his working hours mooning over her funny, spiral tattoos or the colour of her tall, cascading hair. The smell of poultry fat and the chitter-chatter of customers sank to a muffled nothing every time she appeared on the balcony.
Today, as he picked chunks of ice from the pork, Rockson felt a sudden glow of resolve inside him. No more clearing leftovers and kneading dough! He needed to man up: take her away from the pimps and hit the mountain roads. They could open up a small shop by themselves. The stench of kalkatta would never reach the tiny attic of their dreams, flourished by snowy peaks and drifting clouds… Dumping the meat on the kitchen floor with a thud, Rockson made up his mind.
Chapter 2: BEEF
By midday, the clamour of New Market is a full-blown orchestra — hawkers bellow in choir, taxi horns fill in for trumpets. Warm slop trickles down titled rice-pots, swamping restaurant backlanes. Pedestrians are dizzied by microphone feedback.
A taxi stops at ‘The Eclipse’. Buddha, a blind, sex-starved adolescent is helped down by his best friends — Jiten and Sandy. They walk up to an old man in a pink, polka dot shirt. Thumbing lime paste into snuff, the man nods. As it all begins to sink in, Buddha senses a ticklish excitement in his legs. Hands lead him up a flight of wooden stairs — loud and hollow — and then into a room that smells pleasantly of jasmine, lavender, something like that.
Chapter 3: CHICK
Self-abortion is an art: it demands a steely insistence that cuts through the cushions of self-pity. In the throes of pain, whimpers and mewls become indistinguishable from the moans of orgasm. And in a similar climax, there lies a puddle in the end, soft and gelatinous, thwarted in its meanderings.
Coming to senses on cold bathroom tiles, Kunzang felt calm and releaved. She quickly mopped up her bodilies and flushed the blood. Shuffling over to the balcony of The Eclipse, she watched storm clouds retreat. Rockson caught her gaze. No need for a cigarette today, she thought.
“202,” someone wishpered into her ears. “Get to work.”
Buddha was seated on the bed when Kunzang entered. She had never done a blind man before; lame, deaf, mute, acne-splattered, bad-breathed, obese, anorexic and albinoid, even junkies, fruitcakes and muslims of Jaanbazaar — but not blind. Strangely, she felt reassured. Her regulars would have rammed her vagina regardless of the stains of blood and the cramps in her stomach. With him, she might stand a chance.
“What’s your name?” She feigned politeness.
“Buddha.. and you?” He held out his hand.
She clenched it and sat down beside him. A teardrop landed on his wrist.
“I can’t let you fuck me. Please, don’t tell this to anyone outside. They’ll kill me!” She said it all at once, appalled at herself.
“Why not?” Buddha surprised himself with the tenderness in his words.
“I had a baby in me. Just washed it down. You can do anything else you want. Please, they cannot know…”
Buddha sat wrapped in silence, caught up in the fragrance of the room, gathering his words.
Chapter 4: SOUP
At the brink of being moved, Buddha heard the door break open and Kunzang shout in bewilderment. Horrified and poker-faced, he was suddenly positive the room smelled of sandalwood and jasmine before something hit his skull hard and cold.
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“Why the fuck did you hit him?” Kunzang shouted in delirium at Rockson.
Standing over Buddha’s collapsed body with a rolling pin in his hand, Rockson tried to calm her down. “I’m here. I’m here for you. I will take you away with me. You need not slave for these fuckers anymore. Get your things. We have to rush!”
“Are you fucking crazy? What the…”
Before she could make sense of anything, four hotel thugs entered the room and punched, kicked, clobbered, thrashed and battered Rockson to dough. One of them bashed Kunzang’s head in into the dressing mirror. They picked Rockson by his collar and dropped him from the balcony. He fell onto the garbage cans in the alley, breaking a few bones. Afterwards, the thugs sprinkled water on Buddha and honourably carried him down. Handing him over to Sandy and Jiten with a generous refund, they apologized for the ‘inconvenience’.
Once inside the taxi and passably conscious, Jiten and Sandy handed Buddha a pepsi and looked at him in ghostly bewilderment.
All Buddha uttered was… “Where am I? I can’t hear anything! I can’t hear! I’m deaf!”
CHAPTER 5: MOMOS
Nursing the runt from his sister’s cunt that night, Rockson’s uncle broke down sniggering over his tears. The gang had trashed his small momo shop and banished them from the locality. He toyed with the idea of writing to the Hawker’s Union. Throwing his hands up in despair, he left the medicine kit by Rockson’s bed and went for his nightly bottle.
On the terrace of The Eclipse, Kunzang sat gawking at clouds drift over a glum, blurry moon. Blood had clotted in her insides; she had glass-cuts on her forehead. The day’s burden got to her bones and she lit a cigarette, on her own this time. Hunger growled in the deep cages of her stomach. She looked at the moon again, round and white. She could eat it in a gulp: steamed or fried.