The doors have always been a barrier between me and the rage of my family. They have been my protection. When I used to lock myself inside and hear the yells of my parents and bangs on the door, I felt safe as long as they were out on the other side of the door. As I grew older, my father removed the latches from every door in the house, thus making me feel exposed to the heat of their wrath. Then, my only hiding place was the bathroom. I used to sit and cry on the cold floor for hours till my mother’s tone softened and she pleaded with me to come out but as soon as I did, she’d slap me hard across the face so that I get the price of my impudence.
Even though the washroom is a place demanding privacy, I have lost count of the number of times either of my parents broke into my only place of solace and the locks had to be replaced. While the doors had no locks on them, I used to fill up the big bucket with water and place it against the door, sitting beside it to hold it in place. The buckets were also broken when I did not come out in spite of the slamming fists and threatening voices.
My father used to get angry at me for slamming the door to my room till the hinges broke and he said he would not repair them. Both my parents laughed and mocked me when I said that I needed privacy. According to them, a girl of seventeen should have nothing to hide from her parents.
They have kept me locked up in a chilly dimly lit place without any windows. Even though they have untied my limbs, I feel too weak to move. The air-conditioner’s temperature is too low. They have the remote. They said that I would need it after getting so hot. My mother used to say that everything has its price. I guess this is the price I am having to pay for running away from home. As I look at the door, locked from outside, I feel relieved. At least I am in a closed room all by myself, protected by the door.
I didn’t look back when I opened the front gate of our house and walked out confidently as if I was going to some tuition, even though I was not allowed to take any. My mother had dared me to walk away from them and she watched as I left. My father seemed too engrossed in the sports section of the newspaper to care. While on the street, going through a park I knew to be a shortcut, out of the blue I was blindfolded and gagged. My hands were pulled behind my back and tied up tight with my feet. I did not resist. I was never taught to.
My back is paining. I look up at the clock on the wall and try to see the time through the shades of the light. It’s late. I have been here for an hour since my blindfold was removed. I had been counting the seconds in my head when I was in the car till they brought me here. It took twenty-seven minutes. I was interrupted when they were talking about calling up my cousin brother.
My second cousin from my mother’s side of the family, Diku, is four years elder to me but since we have been close ever since were children, he said that it was okay to call him by his nickname without attaching any honorifics. He is probably the only person I can call family. Recently, he has become annoying, asking me questions about how my parents are doing and if they need any medical help and all. I guess he can’t help it, being a doctor by profession. I have been dodging the questions by commenting on the shabbiness of his apartment. He hardly ever cleans. The bed is half piled up with all his medical books and his room reeks of all the unwashed clothes scattered on the floor.
He had received a double promotion and thus began his internship before anyone else his age. He got offered a position at a local hospital soon after he graduated from Calcutta Medical College. With the sum he earns, he moved out of his parents’ place about a year ago and is currently staying at this two-bedroom apartment and is trying to earn enough to buy himself a decent car. They mistook Diku to be my boyfriend, since his number is the only one saved on my speed dial, other than my parents’.
They are apparently talking to the police and giving them false testimony about me, from what I can hear. They say that this is their home and they would never bring a girl here in a place where five muscular men live. I listen patiently as they read out the number plate of their car to the policeman interrogating them.
This room has only a big table and a bottle of half-finished water. I slowly climb down from the table and seat myself against the wall, nearest the bottle. As I lean back, I remember the warning to be careful what you wish for because it might come true. I had fantasized about being locked in a room all by myself again. Now that I have it, I regret wishing for it. I reach for the bottle and finish off the remaining water in it.
I notice my clothes in a messed up heap lying on the other side of the room. I crawl on my elbows, sliding myself till I reach the white outfit I had been wearing. It has been torn and they probably used it to wipe off the blood when they said “cloth.”
The lower portion of my body is numbed by the pain. Then all at once, the whole portion begins to ache. The bleeding stopped while I was unconscious, I presume. I feel lucky as I calculate that my period is due to start in two days. I lie on my back with my arms behind my head.
“Hey you! Get up!”
I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes. It seems like they got rid of the police.
“Here.” One of them throws a packet at me. “Put these on and meet us outside.”
“See you later sweetheart.” Two of them whistle as they all leave.
I get up and find a tank top and a pair of shorts inside the packet. I rub my eyes and yawn as I begin to put them on. They stink of sweat. I realize that it is a man’s vest and his underpants. Of course they wouldn’t have given me girls’ clothing after all they have done to me.
I find myself to be limping as I stroll outside and see the other three of them waiting for me. Turns out that two of them were staying back in case the police reappeared. The man with a tattoo on his left arm climbs on the bike first and then asks me to “hop on.” The man with eyebrow piercings get on behind me and I find myself to be squished between them. So much for wanting a little sexual appreciation.
The growling of my stomach is suppressed by the screeching of tires as they drive through the night. They talk about wanting another fill of me as I direct them to Diku’s place. They promised me that they’d drop me where I wanted to be dropped because I was neither afraid nor nervous “like the rest of ’em.”
“Wasn’t it around here?” the man with the piercings asks, stroking my thighs.
“Yes,” I say meekly. “First house to the right.”
“Grab on tight,” says the man with the tattoo. “I’ll try not to break the signal.”
I wrap my hands tighter around him as he speeds up. He ends up breaking the signal and is asked by the traffic police to pull up.
“Leave quietly and quickly babe,” the man with the piercings whispers in my ear.
I do as told, once again. I get down and keep walking till I reach the condo where Diku stays. I take the lift to the fourth floor and look at myself on the polished wooden door, before ringing his doorbell. Somehow, they were careful not to lay a scratch on my face. They said I was beautiful. I did not ask them to take me home because I didn’t want to return to the house where I would have to face my parents. I did not want to go through a round of beating for leaving home. All I want right now is to take a nice warm shower and clean myself.
I press the doorbell long and hard as I remember him once telling me that everything I chose to tell him of medical value will be strictly confidential and I can ask him for advice anytime.
He opens the door and scans me from head to toe before letting me walk inside. “Why do I smell cum all over you?” he asks quizzically with an arched eyebrow.
I silently reach for his doctors’ pad and pen down the sizes for my bra, panties, T-shirt and pants. I sigh as I tear the sheet off and hand it to him. He stares at me blankly. “I need these,” I breathe.
“What the fuck is this?” he slaps the paper. “You can’t just cat-walk in here like you own the place in the middle of the night! Why are you out so late? Do you have any idea how dangerous the city is? And why on earth are you in men’s clothing?” he asks in a tone both anxious and scared.
I feel a sharp pain in my chest and the hot tears stream down both sides of my face. “I’m sorry I didn’t notice any of that.” I choke on the last word and before having a complete meltdown in front of him, I manage to say, “I was too busy getting gang-raped.”