Romeo and Scarlet


Romeo and Scarlet


They came scrambling from all sides.

            The pods on the curry plants were flushed from sweat jelly as if in wait to satiate the horde. The marigold buds but shuddered at the prospects of being ripped apart by nimble fingers. Little green tomatoes wished for some more time before the assault, to ripen their seed.  Most, were not so lucky.


One however, had never seen a miracle as this before. The scarlet red skin smooth and shiny with pores bursting with the tangy juice would have wrinkled in a day under the scorching, bright, fervid sun. Today, was the last day of its transient youth.


Romeo’s yellow eyes shone like topaz as the scarlet red impinged on them. All else lost colour but this scarlet. He could not look away. His strong five fingers captured it in one swipe. The smooth fleshy ball under his sinewy grip promised a succulent treat he had been longing for.


Rani witnessed this frisky act with suspicion inflamed by jealousy. She knew he had his heart set on the scarlet smoothness her rough cheeks could never match up to. The waters had always cruelly mirrored the mesh of wrinkles on her young skin. Her spirits ebbed but she followed the horde nonchalantly, eying the playful Romeo who had obliterated her dry straw existence from his vagrant vision. He had found his new love. She moaned with agony at the betrayal but the banished cries returned to her amplified by insolence.


The troop marched on, kicking or grabbing the humble, uprooting the harmless, tearing away at the hesitant. Romeo in his ecstasy, flung his stout body over the tensile power cables and swayed his heavy weight from side to side, then up and down into circles. Scarlet, his love regaled in the adventurous antiques of the wizard lover and marvelled at the artifice which allowed this entertainment. Romeo could feel the excitement of scarlet through his warm grip. His soaring spirits went higher as he made a daring leap to crossover a yawning street. The group followed cautiously. Some weaklings took alternative routes. Rani aped Romeo but devoid of his overblown confidence landed on a parapet wall hurting herself by the hostile hardness that nearly pierced her heart, much like scarlet. But she carried on valiantly for her love.


Romeo had now found a quiet, shady, discreet corner jutting out into space and settled there. It was clear that he wished seclusion from the group and hence he chose this sequestered cornice, poorly accessible and precariously positioned to inhibit its approach from the parapet. Rani almost felt like an ex-lover and guessed that he was looking to consummate his new love. Her heart missed beats and she felt faint but decided to hold on. He was caressing scarlet, bringing it closer to his flaming yellow eyes such that each drew its lustre from the other. He rubbed his wrinkled cheek on its shiny supple smoothness and then nuzzled it with his furrowed lips, licking it lasciviously. Rani burned with shame and humiliation that she feared would reduce her to ash. She could restrain no more, much like Romeo who had reached the crest of his intoxicated state. He dug his serrated sharp teeth into the ripe body of scarlet and tore at it to watch its mysterious insides. Mesmerised, he gazed at the red moist flesh. The tangy sweat flavour tickled his tongue for more.


Rani’s indignation was turning into a ravaging hunger spurred by the spectacle. The tottering group had caught up with the estranged couple and gathered around her. The big ones, little ones; burly ones, scrawny ones; the meek or the cranky ones; the calm and the aggressive ones surrounded her; the aggrieved. They too felt abandoned, orphaned and the culprit was scarlet, the object of Romeo’s obsession. The sorrowful, anxious group had neither the time nor the intelligence for contemplation. Their beastly instincts gave them no chance for a strategy as they swooped down upon the irregular structures of brick and mortar, boughs of the house plants that came off with the force of their anguish, the clay pots that smashed under their careless kicks, the cloth lines that collapsed under their reckless falls soiling the clothes, the electric poles that felt the earthquake and shivered under the oscillating assaults, the innocent scared shrieks that frightened the air as it anticipated an attack of tornadoes and an impending apocalypse.


Romeo however remained unperturbed, oblivious to the mayhem unleashed by his disgruntled subjects. The euphoria of love that had intoxicated his senses ensured that the sounds of rebellion did not reach his possessed heart. Even the heat from Rani’s singed heart did not touch him for he was suffused with the soft warmth of subservient love. Scarlet had surrendered to him unconditionally; welcomed his ruthless obstinacy to capture body and flesh. It responded juicily; smearing him all over with tangy flavours of teasing love sweetened by submission. But alas, the ways of love travel through the roads of tribulations.


A huge pole speared out and poked him hard through his straw coat. The cornice where he made love to scarlet expelled him for obscenity and Romeo felt himself falling into the depths. His arms were scratching the air to find a grip in the eternal vacuum of solid mass. Nothing could save him, nothing at all he decided, as he felt himself sinking in love. Scarlet had left him already, slipping out of his grip like a capricious mistress. He was alone…..alone….in his journey to the end.


But then came a bend; an abutment that extended like a crocodile waiting in a swamp, for the monkey to fall from the tree above. Romeo felt like a quintessential monkey; recognized his own self and his species when he saw Rani and his troop waiting to hold him as he fell. He landed on their straw bodies dry and rough, unlike the slippery smoothness of scarlet, the thought of which still titillated him. His troop cushioned him while Rani murmured the promises of immortal love in his numbed ears booming of death. Sitting stunned, he heard and saw nothing while his troop cuddled him, nicked his straw coat and covered him under their own bodies to hide him from death.


He regained his sight only for a fleeting moment when he peeked below into the depths of eternity, down below three storeys; and there where his gaze fixed, laid his scarlet; soiled in mud, its beauty shinning red through the earthy brown enticing him from far. Romeo’s sight was failing him much like his body but his heart beat rapidly. His senses were losing the context of the world around him and had adapted to his new reality; of one in love. Everything was space and only space and it appeared to him that he had acquired the ability to fly; fly to his scarlet down below.


No distance appeared long and no depth too deep in his new state. Scarlet was his ultimate destination and it was all he could see and feel or act for. Anything that hindered this was an object of derision. The magic of love was working upon him and a burst of energy ran through his listless body. His numb limb hit by the current of passion, delivered a hard swipe pushing Rani’s straw body out of his way. She gaped foolishly at him, perhaps realising that he was abandoning her yet again and this time, forever. Her wistful eyes shrank behind a film of tears and the world became blurred as she gave up on her vision. She had no will left to see anymore.


            Romeo did not waste a moment. He took his last dive hurling downwards. Even before he could touch the ground, his heart sank. His limbs went limp and his body so heavy that he felt suffocated under his own weight. It seemed unending, this descent.


He lay on the hard concrete bordering the flower beds, unable to move even an inch; his limbs dead before him. Only his eyes lived, to see the future in the streams of red streaking out from his straw body, crawling towards the flower beds a few meters away, where his scarlet rested. He could see the small aperture on its skin pricked by him during the course of love making. The juice was leaking out and seeping in the mud, taking along the yellow seeds; the seeds that will embed themselves and grow into a green bush. Romeo could see it all; the plant, the flowers, the little green berries turning red, a scarlet red. Perhaps he will be there too in the next season, in a new tiny straw body.


Meanwhile, it was blissful to watch his scarlet peaceful against its muddy bed soft and moist; in the fertile warmth of the lap of mother earth. A heavenly comfort cradled them both, albeit for a few hours.


Anshu Choudhry


Anshu Choudhry is based in New Delhi, India. Her poems and short stories have appeared in FullofCrow, Muse India, EastLit, Hans India, Setu Journal, Silver Birch Press, Indiana Voice Journal and anthologies amongst others.

She holds degrees of Masters Level in Mathematics and English and works for the Government.

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