I have pulled the books off the shelf again. I arrange them in a neat row with the tallest one leaning against the wooden board to the left. The rest are placed according to height. When I have put the smallest one in front, I step back. They look perfect. A warm glow suffuses my being.
It does not last for long because the discrepancy thrusts itself to my notice. Some of the books are ‘fat’ and others ‘slim’ and they are all mixed up, not in the order they should be.
I take them all down to start once more. This time I arrange them according to thickness. The thickest ones first and then the thinner books. Even as I keep the last, the slimmest book in place, and eye the row, I feel a nameless desperation fill me.
This is just not right. The taller books are sticking out from among the shorter ones obscenely, spoiling the order of things. I have bungled again. Perspiration beads my forehead. My hands are clammy. I can feel the familiar panic rise and the beginnings of nausea. Within minutes I am inside the bathroom, throwing up.
When the idea first comes, it feels like cool breeze on my feverish brows. I walk stealthily through the silent house and return with the scissors from the kitchen. I work hard all night.
When mom comes to wake me up, I smile and tell her, they are all equal now. I proudly show her the pieces of my favorite books I have cut off to make them the same height as others. They are all equal now, I repeat. Then I repeat it again a few more times.
I don’t understand why it makes her sad. Is it because I took her scissors? I know she is sad because her eyes fill and she wipes them with the ends of her sari. She then tells me I’ll have to see the doctor today. I nod reluctantly.
She helps me get ready. When we are about to leave and she is not looking, I take the scissors and tuck it into the waistband of my trousers. Just in case.
©Shail Mohan 2015