|| In Deathbed ||

The old man lay in his deathbed, and everyone knew that. Everyone wanted that his last wishes should be fulfilled. Asking him about what they were was out of question, though. The old man also knew that his last moment was nearing. The doctor had not held out any promise, merely mumbling that he still had time to go on. But he, the patient himself, had little with which to go on. His memory had been failing, and in the last few days since he started feeling the cold creeping over him from the extremities of his body – his toes and fingertips and his nose and his earlobes – he knew that his flame was about to be snuffed out. With him would be gone some of the loveliest moments of his life still burning warm in his memory. Their warmth yet kept the creeping cold at bay. Therefore, he pampered them, those memories, allowing them to overcome him at any time of his waking hours.

These memories were all about the lovely women he had met in life at some point of time or another. Some were beautiful, a few plain and some quite nondescript. Still, in each one of them he had discovered an inner beauty that far surpassed her outer looks. Each face had lit a candle in his heart, which he had gone and offered in the temple to whichever happened to be the deity of the day, thanking Him for giving him this power of perceiving beauty. Sometimes, he doubted whether the beauty he perceived was real, emanating from the woman’s mind, or was it just a phantom that his own mind imagined. He had not known it until one day something unexpected happened. And now the memory of that day came to haunt him.

He had been a successful doctor, and women came from far and near, drawn by his reputation. It was rumoured that he looked into the eyes of his patient, and found her inner strength, which he just had to energize for cure to happen. And so, patient after patient came to see him, and calmly waited for their turn. When patient’s turn came, she just went up to him, sat down, and turned up her face to him like the sunflower to the sun. He looked at the face, and seemed to breathe in something. That something was her inner beauty that only he saw. The humblest, the plainest, and the homeliest found him giving an attention that they scarcely expected. They all went back, elated that they would find cure and peace.

On his part, he catalogued every face, and put it away in the chambers of his mind. Later, he ruminated over them with his inner eyes, feasting upon them with a passion like a pilgrim nearing his destination feels – who, as his arduous journey comes to end, begins to lust to return to his life of sin, hopeful of redemption by another pilgrimage.

One day, as his assistant had announced the name of the next patient, he had immediately recalled her as one of his most beautiful patients. So many times in the past, as he had looked at her turned up face, his heart had frozen, afraid that once cured she would never revisit. It now elated him to think that she was there one more time, thus giving him another chance. He had felt so because every time she had so bewitched him by her beauty that enfeebled by his burning desire to possess her, his mind had almost shut down and paralyzed his power to look within her. When she had left, he had found an empty film in his mind that had not been exposed.

That last day he had arranged his tie, buttoned up his jacket, and filling his chest with a deep breath, he had asked his assistant to usher in the patient. She had come in, but rolling on wheelchair. There had been no face to hold up. In its place he had seen a face ravaged by fire, a pair of large dark glasses covering most of the lumpy sagging flesh loosely bound in wrinkled skin. And the ground had vanished from under his feet.

Now lying in his deathbed, he felt remorse. If only he had not desired her so much, probably she would not have been ravished by the fury of god’s passion, and he would have had a picture of her inner beauty in his mind’s gallery.

He now understood why he needed to die, and why the cold crept up on him.

© Indroneer / 02 December 2013