The Come Back – Chapter 27

by Anita Menon

Two years ago, Ash remembered how she and a gang of trouble makers,  went about painting nonsensical graffiti all across the town. Full of anger and hatred for everything that had order and structure, these night hooligans had become a source of pain for the law abiding citizens. This gang of no-good-doers weren’t her friends but just people whom she hung out with in the shadows to smoke. Everybody knew her but nobody wanted to be her friend because she wanted it that ways. Her steely gaze and moody aura kept them from getting to know her better. She felt comfortable that way. But art was something she was always drawn to; especially the kind that made beautiful things more grotesque and unbearable. It gave her a high of a different kind.

There was this fountain shaped like an Archangel, covered with pigeon poop, right in the middle of a public garden. The fountain was dry and may not have sprinkled water out of the Archangel’s folded hands for years. But there was something annoyingly peaceful about it that it started to resent the Ash.  So one evening, after the sun had set and the birds had gone home, Ash set out with a can of red paint in her hand. She had no company except for the sense of purpose that filled her mind and got her adrenaline pumping. She looked up at the fountain and quickly climbed as close to the face as possible. With her one hand holding the Archangel’s hand for support, she sprayed the Angel’s face with fresh, warm paint. The can hissed a deep red colour and the angel’s face dripped paint like blood. Once she felt she had done her bit, she got down and threw the paint can at the foot of the fountain and walked away. She saw an elderly couple pointing their walking sticks at her and she laughed loudly and ran out of the garden. It took little time for the Police to find their way to Ash’s home and unfortunately it was the day that Anna chose to celebrate her selection at Cambridge. All of Anna’s friends from school had come home and the party was in full swing. Ash was in her room, keeping away from all the festivities. The police interrupted the party and took Ash away with them under the charges of vandalizing public property. Ash saw Anna looking at the scene and feeling embarrassed. Her friends, left the party at the same time, muttering their sympathies to Anna. Anna’s face was flushed and tears poured down while their Papa was trying to talk to the policeman about what could be done about the release. Ash was released after the Professor paid a hefty sum and the Judge asked Ash to commit to several hours of Community service, under ASBO. The moment she came back home, she packed her bags and left without a word. No one tried to stop her; not her father, not her sister. Only Mrs. P tried frantically tried to prevent her from packing her bags and moving out.  Anna wouldn’t even look at her and her father did not come out of his study.

She passed by the same public garden and was surprised to find the Archangel was still red-faced. He looked gory. There wasn’t anything angelic about him. People passing by the fountain cringed at the sight of the fountain.  The defaced sculpture looked straight ahead with folded hands and sad eyes. Ash thought that it was only now that she could see some character in that sculpture. Her community service hours required her to clean the same public garden and help the Garden’s maintenance team with mundane chores. Each day, she saw the red-faced Archangel and every single time she felt the red faced angel might just take flight to flee the shame it was subjected to by the passersby. But as days passed, Ash observed that people were less tortured by the Angel and some even stopped to look at it for a minute or two. Until several weeks ago nobody even took notice of the grand sculpture and now with it’s red face, it had become the talk of the town. The Garden’s authorities had other pressing matters to look after and hence for weeks, the Archangel remained  red in its face. Something that triggered annoyance and anger a few weeks ago became something of a passion among people and then slowly the rage died a natural death. People were indifferent and no matter how much the Angel besought people to atleast throw a glance when they passed by, nobody seemed to take notice. The Archangel soon seemed to crumble. It felt as if the indifference forced it to perish. The Garden’s authorities pulled it down when it no longer seemed to serve any sort of purpose. Ash took plenty of lessons from this entire episode. Archangel’s story somehow found a place in heart and she felt a lot at peace. She realized she needn’t be angry anymore.

Ash felt incensed from then on to do something creative on her own and she met up some Tattoo artists to study the art; eventually to start her own tattoo parlour.

Today, she sat at one end of the dining table facing the woman who had changed the course of her life. Ash looked at Maya but strangely, her presence did not evoke any anger or dissent within her. She felt indifferent and emotions refused to stir. Maya looked at Ash and as usual non verbal communication transpired between the two. But Ash blocked it and looked at her plate and continued fiddling with her food. With her Papa, still at the hospital, she had no choice but to take it all in her stride since it was her Papa’s wish to have Maya around him. Indifference was Ash’s weapon and somehow she felt this made Maya very uncomfortable. Maya may have expected a volcano of anger from both her daughters but so far she got nothing from them. Somewhere deep within, Ash knew she may have forgiven her mother for abandoning her. Time had done it’s bit. The absence of anger and emotions was a sign. She understood now that forgiveness was indifference. Few years back she was very angry and wasn’t able to forgive her mother. Only now she realized the reason for that insane, burning, all consuming anger and her inability to forgive and forget.

Forgiveness is impossible while love lasts.

She did not feel anything for the woman sitting in front of her. Ash then took the first bite of her meal and enjoyed the well seasoned chicken that Mrs. P had prepared so lovingly for them.