Inside the blanket 4/4 The warmth of my home washes over me. There is certain haste in my step as I approach the familiar door, the door that’s the sole source of my happiness, the door that leads to my true self. My smile broadens even more, when I hear little snores from the other side, as I quietly open the door, careful not to wake him up. I see his tiny head poking out of the blanket. He has had the blanket for the last six years since the day he was born, the day he arrived like a breath of fresh air to my suffocated self. He stops snoring and squirms his eyes open, surprising me yet again with his uncanny ability to sense my return, even in his deepest of sleeps. “Ma, I got a candy for you.” he breaks out into a wide grin, showing his missing front tooth, as he points to the bag lying beside his bed. “Thank you, dear” I exclaim as a laugh escapes my mouth, “now sleep”. I wipe the drool from his mouth before he submerges even more beneath the blanket, with a satisfied grin in place. As I watch him, all the suppressed feelings come gushing, the helplessness, the humiliation, the inhospitableness, the gazes and the stares. However, things are different as these feelings don’t drown me out like they would have done a decade ago. For now, I have a purpose. I have a reason to battle this world. I have hope to confront the helplessness , I have happiness to beat the humiliation and I have kindness to muffle the inhospitableness, all wrapped inside the tiny blanket before me. I drop my coat and get in beside him. As I begin to close my eyes, I hear the clock, the birds twittering outside. And as the first rays creep inside the dark room, I close my eyes.
Inside the blanket 3/4 Exhausted, is what goes across my mind. “You know, you can take a day off, now and then”, Christine speaks in an apprehensive tone, as if reading my thoughts. I try to give her the best reassuring smile I could muster, but being someone who has known me for the last decade or so, she isn’t fooled. However she drops the subject, sighing out with exasperation and goes to collect her clothes. My eyes hover over the clock, that’s hardly visible beneath the cobwebs. Quarter-past-three. I think I’ll get the last bus, which is a relief as I don’t have to wait for the manager to drop me. The cold October wind pierces my body through the various holes in my coat, which are not usually visible to the naked eye, but fails to fool me as chills run up my spine. Thankfully, the wait is short-lived as the bus arrives. I climb into the almost desolated bus, except a homeless man sleeping on the backseat. I descend myself to one of the seats near the window, and close my eyes, trying to find solace from the cold metal, and make an attempt at emptying my mind. But before I could get consumed by sleep, my destination arrives. I walk through the same lane, same neighbourhood, that I had walked for the last decade, ever since I came to the city. Did any good come out of that decision? I wonder. Yes, there is indeed something, I remember. A smile forms on my lips, this time a genuine one.
Inside the blanket 2/4 It’s almost ironic how acclimatized I am despite how loathsome this appeared to me in the beginning. I smile , remembering my high ideals when I first came to the city, a young girl of twenty-three. But soon enough, I was forced to realize that my ideals were not going to sustain me, and decided to do whatever my fate offered me, and it offered me this, a pole dancer. Suddenly, I become aware of the fact that my body has stopped moving. I look around and see that the other dancers have already started leaving the stage. As I start descending from the stage, my eyes skim over the crowd. My gaze, as always, is returned by lust filled stares. I make my way through the room towards the door, refusing the various customers, who start asking for my name, laugh when some of them confess, and telling them off, in a voice that is dripping with salaciousness, a voice I can’t even recognize anymore. The unwelcome brushes against my bare skin, is something we are forced to familiarize with. My face relaxes and a tiny sigh escapes my lips as the door finally closes over the thirsting crowd.
Inside the blanket 1/4 “Janet, are you all right?” Christine asks me while we are changing. “Yeah”, I shrug. She gives me a reassuring smirk and a pat on my back. “Get ready”, she says and walks out of the dingy room. I drop my clothes into my bag, and sit in front of the mirror. The wrinkled face of a woman in her mid-thirties stares back at me. The signs of ageing are quite obvious, the sunken eyes, the sagged cheeks, the dilapidated skin. I begin with covering up the blemishes on my face and then the various scars on my body that I have acquired over the years, an occupational hazard, as one might say. With each scar, a memory surfaces on my consciousness, despite my futile attempts to bury them. As I see the marks fading with the application of the concealer, I desperately desire one for my soul too. A sharp rap on the door breaks me out of my reverie. I throw my bag in a corner and then come out of the room, into the dimly lit hallway. I stop in front of a wooden door. I can hear men. I try to imagine the people that might be gathered, some clad in business suits, some drunkards, some trying to escape their troubled homes, some homeless, vastly different, yet the same. I take in a deep breath, plaster a luscious smile and walk out into the crowd. I am greeted with jeers and leers. The room is filled with a smoke which hangs low and threatens to drown me, making me move faster, I join Christine on stage and grab onto the pole, my last straw. Then, my body starts moving on its own, it being accustomed to the music. It starts to twirl, jump, lean, turn, mechanically. I smile, give a wink, a kiss to the cheering crowd.