Trigger warning: This poem contains mention of suicide. 

The polaroid lay on the wet floor
tinged with a watery, white stain.
Creeping forward – those fingers of death;
asphyxiating silence was hidden
behind the closed door in stealth.
Reality seemed to float away
on winged feathers, with strains
of Sinatra on the neighbour’s radio.
Before I went inside to greet you,
I moved myself a bit closer to
our favourite window, shut tight.
It distilled a sliver of warm street-light
filtering through the mocking facades
of manicured lawns and happy couples as
they danced and sang inside perfect yards.
It lit up the corners of your shining eyes,
your face alive with the barest of smiles,
eternally captured in the inanimate photo.

That dawn, I had wrenched you free,
those demons wouldn’t let you flee.
In that purple darkness, pregnant
with the echoes of your screams,
I reminded you of our forgotten dreams–
of pink blankets intertwined with
jumbled limbs; yellow leaves fallen
on bowed heads – worshipping you,
singing your hymns; red lips
exchanging trembling promises
of silver – more fragile than the
broken china living in our kitchen.
We hoped, we prayed, we dreamt–
of our ragged cities and fallen regimes
one day, replaced by new beginnings.
The immense pain of sleepless nights
defied by the hope of second chances;
a rediscovery of our inherent light.

But behind your lids, heavy with
the weight of countless sighs,
a ship roamed alone –
Lost in the fogs of humiliating snide
remarks and glances so utterly despised.
Our ship once sailed towards the golden ray,
almost drunkenly; we were waiting to escape
this prison – a gilded cage, empty and solitary.
You and me,
adrift in this sea, bereft of temporality,
angels of love appeared momentarily;
uplifting and guiding. Our will-o’-the-wisp
brought us to jagged rocks that insist
on piercing the deck of our ship.
Bedraggled, unredeemed – this analogy slips.

The camera lens shoved towards me
winked reassuringly. I captured
your tears – I drowned in that sea.
You bid me to remember
every time I saw that picture,
how their words and their hate
washed away the truth of our love;
it died curled up in pain, unsated.
Erased every semblance of your being
bit by bit, till nothing remained
but a shadow of the grand genesis,
now leached off all life – degenerated
to a beast from the wild, forcefully chained.

Wearing these nostalgic memories
like a gift of armour and shield,
I finally confronted our tragedy–
patiently waiting behind the door.
Hell had final evened the score
as our paradise was flooded
by a wave of white overdose.
You innocently slept in the tub
cushioned by a colourless void.
I thanked the ghosts of your voice
that reminded me of your choice–
and that I’d always have your polaroid.

Shailee Rajak is a postgraduate student of gender and sexuality studies within English Literature at Delhi University. Through her creative pieces, she seeks to articulate and amplify the queer experience within the Indian context. You can find her on Instagram @shell_eee.

Featured image: Pariplab Chakraborty