‘…That night too, Rudra came home and cajoled me by saying, “Good girl, unwind a little, don’t keep yourself so stiff, soften your body a little,” and entered the path he had opened up. In that dark room, made darker by my shut eyes, when I was openly bearing the agony Rudra inflicted on my body, bearing the pain – suddenly like lightning a sharp pleasure spread through my body from head to toe. With the shock of that bolt of lightning I dug the ten nails of my hands into Rudra’s back. I gasped for breath. Panting, I asked “What happened!”
Rudra did not tell me what happened. Murmuring endearments like dear precious jewel he collapsed on top of me. That night, not once, but several times he brought me to orgasm. With this pleasure the nerves of agony gradually grew inert and inactive. I continued to moan, but this time with pleasure. I was now experiencing the pinnacle of pleasure.
At one point while I was still moaning, I noticed that Rudra was no longer beside me. He had not been there by my side for quite a while.
“Where are you?”
In the darkness a single point of red fire glowed. The fire was moving.
“Aren’t you going to sleep?”
The red glow went out, the cigarette smoking was over, yet Rudra did not return to bed. My unruly, obsessive body wanted him intimately close, I kept one of my hands on his pillow, wanting to hold him in my arms when he returned, and sleep for the rest of the night, imbibing the scents of his body. I called again, “Where have you gone!”
There was a smell of anti-septic Dettol in the room.
“What’s wrong, what is this Dettol smell!”
“I am applying Dettol,” came Rudra’s voice out of the darkness.
“Why, what happened?”
“I have an itch.”
“Do you have to apply Dettol for that?”
“I am applying an ointment as well.”
“I don’t know.”
“Switch on the light, will you? Let me see where you are itching, and what ointment you are applying.”
Rudra switched on the light and saying, “Coming”, took the ointment and went off to the toilet. Under the lights I tidied my dishevelled sari, and sat waiting. When Rudra came, I examined his hands and legs and; there were no signs of scabies.
“Where are you itching?”
Without replying Rudra switched the light off, and lay down. Lying next to him, I placed a hand on his chest and said, “I can’t find any scabies.”
“It is in that area.”
“That area, which area?”
“On the penis.”
“On the penis.”
“Why are you applying Dettol?”
“It will help.”
“Has any Doctor told you so?”
“Who gave you the ointment? Some Doctor?”
“No. I bought it myself.”
“Will this ointment work?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why are you applying it? Permethrin cream has to be applied for scabies. Is it itching a lot?”
“Yes, it is. Even a boil has appeared.”
“Not so small.”
“It shouldn’t be big. Why should it grow big?”
In my enthusiasm as a doctor, I sat up, switched on the lights and said, “Let me see what kind it is!”
Rudra kept lowering his lungi. The hair on his body grew gradually denser as they moved downwards, till they reached the cold sexual organ. At the base of the genitals was a red flower. No one had laid out my bridal chamber, on this my first night, with flowers. No roses, no marigolds, no hibiscus or jasmine. This flower on Rudra’s manhood had bedecked my first bridal bed of flowers. Yet, I had seen many penises like this one. This ulcer on the penis was a very familiar one. At the hospital, in the venereal diseases out-patients department, the male patients lowered their lungis and showed ulcers exactly like this one. These ulcers were identified by the Doctor’s dealing with sexually transmitted diseases or venereal diseases as Syphilis chancre, and were the chancres we had seen many times from a safe distance. Although Rudra’s ulcer looked like a Syphilis chancre, one ulcer could surely resemble another one! There must be many harmless ulcers, which looked like other ugly ulcers. There must be, my heart said, there was.
“When did this appear?”
“Just ten or twelve days ago.”
“Does it bleed?”
Whatever other disease Rudra may have contracted, there was no reason for him to be afflicted by Syphilis! I thought of all the other diseases it could be. Was this Eczema or psoriasis? Or maybe it was Penile penile papules! Or reiter’s syndrome! Or even pemphigus !
“Do you have any pain?”
Rudra shook his head. “No.”
This denial destroyed the possibility of all the other diseases. The Syphilitic ulcer also caused no pain.
“Doesn’t it pain even a little?”
Rudra was thinking. Think Rudra, think some more, if you just think a little more you will surely realize that it did pain.
But Rudra again shook his head. “No.”
“Have you slept on any stranger’s dirty bed? Or used anyone’s towel?”
He again shook his head. “No.”
A writer called Razia Begum had spent three months at a tea-garden in Sylhet for writing a novel about the tea-garden workers. Was it possible that Rudra had visited a brothel for writing poetry or a novel, and had used something there, like a towel? Had touched something in a toilet, and from these places the Syphilis virus, treponema pallidum, had travelled to his hands. Although I knew Syphilis did not spread like that I still asked, just in case it had! By chance if the virus had entered through some gap or hole!
“Have you been to prostitutes for some reason? For the purposes of your writings or something?”
“Why, no I haven’t!”
I was looking for other reasons, reasons for ulcers that looked like this. Searching. Searching. This was Rudra’s first intercourse with someone, just like mine. That is how it was supposed to be. That was what love was all about. One saved oneself, for the person one loved. I stared at Rudra’s ulcer. Then how come this ulcer! This ulcer did not look like any other! Even if it was Harpes Simplex or genital warts, these too were sexually transmitted diseases! Suppose this was Syphilis, from where did it enter into Rudra’s body if he had never been to a brothel! I was absorbed in deep thought. I touched the ulcer, and examined it from the left and right side. I looked at the form and shape of the ulcer. I looked at its color.
It looked exactly like a Syphilitic ulcer. My eyes confirmed it, but my mind couldn’t. But there was no reason to contract Syphilis. Then, how could it be that! A crease appeared between my eyebrows.
“Have you had any relationship with a girl?”
“What nonsense are you talking?”
Rudra pulled up his lungi. His ulcer got covered.
“Go to sleep, will you. It is very late.”
It may have been late, but my sleep had vanished. I was anxious to know the cause of this ulcer. Without any intercourse why should such an ulcer have appeared!
“Have you shown it your father?”
“You have it for over two weeks. Why haven’t you shown it to a Doctor?
“If you apply ointments without a test, the ulcer will not heal.”
Rudra kept scratching his beard. He did this when he was very worried about something.
I abruptly said, “Do you know these ulcers appear if you have relations with prostitutes? You couldn’t possibly have gone to a prostitute!” I asked.
“No.” Rudra’s voice was icy.
“You really haven’t been? This is the first time you have ever had intercourse isn’t it with me?”
Rudra’s face suddenly changed. His two black brows joined together. As though somewhere inside his body there was some agony. He looked at my eyes for a long time. Even though I tried, I was unable to read the language of his eyes.
For a long time the two of us sat silently. Suddenly Rudra said, “Actually you know, I have been to the area.”
The red-light areas.”
“You have? Why?”
“For the same reason other people go.”
Rudra said nothing. Was my head throbbing? Did a tightness suddenly hurtle into my chest,making it difficult for me to breathe? My subsequent words were spoken much more slowly than before. The voice was breaking, trembling.
“Have you slept with a prostitute?”
He did not say anything. His eyes had turned stony.
“Speak, why aren’t you saying something? Speak.”
My eyes were full of anxiety. Say ‘No’, say ‘No’ Rudra. Please say ‘No’. In the hope of hearing the one word ‘No’, I sat waiting, like one bewitched.
“Yes,” said Rudra.
“What, you had sexual relations?”
I couldn’t recognize my own voice, as if it wasn’t mine at all, but someone else’s. As if a button had been pressed on a machine, and the machine was speaking.
The light was on in the room, yet darkness was deepening before my eyes. I was unable to breathe. For a long time I couldn’t breathe at all. Was this a patient suffering from venereal disease before me, or was it Rudra! My lover, my husband! I couldn’t believe this was Rudra. I couldn’t believe he was someone I had passionately loved for years, and fought against my whole family to be with him.
“When did you go?”
“Just two weeks ago.”
“Have you been just once?”
“You have never been before?”
“Your ulcer is two weeks old!”
“The ulcer couldn’t have appeared the very day you had intercourse. It takes sometime to form. Try and recall if you have been more than once.”
Staring at my eyes without blinking for a long time, he said slowly, “I have.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t want to believe that I was not the first woman in Rudra’s life! For a long time I sat benumbed.
“You never told me about all this.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Rudra heaved a deep sigh. Staring at the white wall, looking at what only he knew, he did not reply.
“The red light area, right? Where is that?”
“Where is Banishanta?”
“In this port.”
“Why do you go? Don’t you love me?”
“I do love you.”
“If you do, how did you sleep with anyone else? You lied to me all these days. You told me you had not touched anyone but me ever. Do you know, I can’t believe any of this?”
I found it painful to believe that Rudra had slept with another woman … the way he had slept with me. That he had kissed someone else in the same way as he had kissed my face and breasts. It was painful to believe that Rudra had entered anyone else as deeply as he had me. I felt as though my boat had sunk in mid-ocean. I too was sinking, as far as the eye could see there was no one, nothing at all. I was alone, I was drowning. My sky had fallen apart, my world had disintegrated and scattered to bits. The bits were now rolling into the bottom of the sea. In the boundless, billowy sea there was not even a dry piece of straw. I was drowning. It was as if I was not myself, I was someone else. I felt sorry for that someone else. The pain circulated in my nervous system and finally descended to my chest. It was as though all the rocks in the world were pressing down on my chest. I did not have the ability to utter a single word. Losing all my senses I wept copiously, through the night. The pillow, sari and bed sheets got soaked with my tears. I clung to Rudra’s hands and feet and cried, “Please tell me you are not speaking the truth. Tell me, you have not been to anyone else. You have not slept with anyone else. Please.”
Rudra’s silence was like that of a stone. With a pale face he watched me crying through the night.
He watched me crying in the morning, afternoon and evening. He watched me crying the whole day going without any food or bath. He himself ate and bathed. He spent the day like any other day. I wanted to sleep. To forget everything and sleep. But sleep would not come. When I asked for sleeping tablets, Rudra fetched two strips of sedatives from his father’s chambers. He had searched and found two strips, and those two strips he had given me. From the twenty tablets in the two strips, I was to take only one. I was to take one, so that I could take a tablet daily and sleep for the next twenty days. But hidden from Rudra, I swallowed all the twenty tablets at one go, that very day, that very evening, “I will go far away, but not let you forget me” was not the tune playing within me. I really wanted to go far away, wanted Rudra to forget me, never to remember that anyone by my name had been part of his life. I didn’t feel as though I could have borne my own existence any longer, or that my life had any value left any more. I didn’t think I could live a minute more with these intolerable pains and unbearable insults. Just when I was rushing towards this longed-for death, someone grabbed me from behind and stopped me. When I was brought back from that path, I found a hard pipe in my nose and beside me was standing Rudra’s Doctor father. The poison was taken out of my body, but from my mind not a drop of poison came out, my heart was dying. Before my eyes my heart moaned in its death-throes. I spent the whole night sleeplessly with my dead heart lying next to me.
I was 20, a medical student. My husband gave me a wedding gift in our first night together, that was Syphilis. Yes, he infected me with his disease.’