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19 Jul 2015

UBC Day 19: Litost

She scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed some more to ensure that the linoleum shone. Then she took her pail of phenyl water and rag to the bathroom to scrub the tiles to perfection. Ten scrubs and an aching shoulder later, she sat up from her haunches, to take a little break. That is when the ornate mirror and the counter filled with bottles and bottles of potions caught her eye. She wiped her hand clean on her grubby sari, taking care to pull a pleat over the small hole that had started to show. She picked up a bottle tentatively and smelled it, it smelt of fruits, very strong, she put it right back. She picked up another raspberry-colored bottle, the liquid in it was clean, it smelt like cake. She took a deep breath with her nose to the bottle. When she opened her eyes, she saw the Polaroids lining the beautifully loopy frame of the mirror. Madame with sir, madame with her children, madame at a party, madame drinking daaru in a very pretty glass.

She suddenly realized that they were the same age.

The realization led her gaze to the woman in the mirror: shocks of grey hair straggling away from the tight bun at the nape of her neck, crow’s feet fanning out of the edges of her eyes disappearing in the wrinkles that folded down, right up to the neck, a mouth with a natural downturn, a sagging bosom encased in a threadbare blouse that was patched with a not-so-matching fabric in three places, a four-year-old sari that was strategically draped to hide the holes in various areas, callused palms, dirty, crack-heeled feet….

But what held her attention was the expression in the eyes of the woman in the mirror. A quiet acceptance that this was not her life, could never be her life, at least in this lifetime. And that acceptance caused more agony that hopelessness ever had.

Litost (Czech)
a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery