Afflicting Desires: A Quarantine Story by Isha Sharma

The blog post is a part of ‘Prologue’ — a special edition of Creative Writing Workshop by The Open Space Society. All About Jaipur is the digital publishing partner for the workshop.

“She swiftly slipped into a patient’s gown handed over to her by a petite nurse.

‘I am right outside for anything you require,’ said the polite woman with empathetic eyes before leaving the room.

Myra needed a few moments of solitude, and so, she just smiled back at her. She neatly folded her dress and put it in her brown leather handbag. She was seated on a bed covered with a crisp white sheet. Beside it lay a big steel tray that held some scattered tablets and a syringe. The room was tangibly rectangular, with the entrance door and a large window facing each other at the shorter edges.

‘Wow!’ she said to herself upon noticing the room that was almost monochromatic in the shades of blue: the Prussian-blue couch, the French-blue walls, and the soft, powder-blue curtains.

‘What a choice for the day!’ she thought sarcastically, having seldom liked the colour that she was now surrounded by in abundance.

She let out a sigh and stood up and walked up to the window to see outside. She ran her slender fingers across the windowpane, artistically, as if she were painting again. Dark grey clouds blotted the entire skyscape, and she admired the depth they gave away. Myra was a thirty-two-year-old woman working as a History professor at a renowned university. Her wise eyes and timid frame gave the impression of a woman one would find in a coffee shop, with her head drowned in a book. On weekends, out of her many favourite leisure activities, she would usually paint while listening to Ella Fitzgerald. And yet, that Thursday afternoon, she stood there in the hospital room, not once questioning her decision. She could see the entrance to the hospital; her view in places blocked by trees. The thick glass abandoned the chirping of the birds outside, and she didn’t bother to slide it open. Just as she was about to turn, she saw him sprinting his way through the gates. He had finally come. Several thoughts jumbled up in her head as she analysed how long it would take for him to climb the three flights of stairs. She fidgeted a little. Myra had no answers to the pile of emotions that were now rushing up the steps to confront her. She just waited, and both thankfully but unfortunately, she didn’t have to wait for too long.

The door opened with a jolt, just as she had anticipated. Her brother, Aditya, an almost six-feet-tall, well-built man, three years younger than Myra, appeared at the door. He looked like a storm disguised in the body of a man.

“You put elevators to shame!” she smirked as she tossed her chestnut hair into a bun.

“We can still go home,” he said gravely.

“Yes. After a day. Or maybe two.” Myra announced.

She filled two glasses of water and drank from one. With the glass still in her hand, Myra crawled and sat on the couch.

“Sit. Let’s talk.”

Aditya didn’t move an inch, and she continued.

“You know exactly why I’m here. I’m here to help. Haven’t you seen the situation outside? The streets are empty; this hospital street is empty. Even during the curfews, this area never slept. Whoever you’d find on the roads, they’d be wearing masks and gloves. People are home-bound because we have become a threat to each other. It’s hopeless! It is like an apocalypse has befallen this world. Thousands of people are dying undeserving deaths. And thousands more would. I see no near end to it. This virus was named just slightly over a month ago. We hardly know anything about it. I can’t sit at home thinking about why it has not ended yet. I can’t keep basking in the luxury of our fates for not catching this virus. This disease will not stop if people don’t step up. I am thinking about more people than I ever have. And if it requires me to be a part of this human trial of the vaccine, then I will. I must.” Her words exposed her undeterred self.

Aditya had nothing to back his argument. He knew if the crisis worsened any further, the world wouldn’t be able to distinguish between its days and nights – for both would seem so dark. The tension in the room dropped a little as the researcher knocked and arrived into the room.

“It’s time. Are you ready, Myra?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll be out in a minute.”

Turning to Aditya, Myra reassured him of how well it will all be. He took out her favourite candy bar from his pocket, and they both chuckled. The tailing uncertainty of the moment compelled them to hug each other. As they released one another, Myra left with the doctor for her general inspection and subsequent trial. Aditya went downstairs and waited in the lobby.”

“Thank you!” the twelve-year-old diligent Myra astonished everyone with her story.

“My dear,… how did you come up with such an… intriguing story?” asked her perplexed English teacher.

“I watched a movie on a pandemic during these vacations, and wrote this in my grandmother’s backyard!” Myra delightfully answered, blatantly oblivious to the content of her story.

“And you used you and your brother as your characters?”

“Yes,” Myra said joyfully. “I don’t even like the colour blue!” she further added.

“Well, that’s interesting, Myra… And that was a lovely recitation. But you end your story on a rather mysterious note, don’t you?” inquired the teacher trying to hide her bewilderment.

“Yes, so they may imagine the end however they like,” pointing to all the thirty students intently listening to her.

“Umm… very impressive. Thank you for writing such an enjoyable story. Everyone, clap for Myra.” asked the visibly uncomfortable teacher. Her class erupted into boisterously clapping for their fellow mate. As Myra walked back to her assigned seat, her teacher’s sight trailed her delicate steps, confounded at the theme this little child had taken up. No matter how hard the teacher attempted to contain it, Myra’s story remained extraordinarily eerie.

– Isha Sharma


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