Swetanshu Bora | White Ghost

At the first reported incident, your father bolted to his room. You and mom laughed at him across the wall. All he asked for was a book he had forgotten to take with him and a picture of his deceased parents.

The next morning he had requested for a “fully sanitized” mop. Mother was sitting by her God – praying/lamenting/something. You played a little game – tugging the mop away when he stretched for it.

The tapping on his door was your own little “morse code.” Your ears hurt – stuck against the wall listening to his “advice” on how to cope. “The rising numbers” is all he spoke about, even on video calls, despite your laughter.

One day, three weeks into the lockdown, your mother tried to obliterate the door with a hammer and her fist. You had to hide the hammer – in fact – all the knives and screwdrivers.

So she used a nail cutter to carve a hole in the door. And they saw each other through that. “The vaccine is coming” your father would whisper, like it was the magic potion that would reunite the lovers.

One night you caught him in the living room at 3 a.m. He was clothed in the PPE suit, out to grab a kaju barfi from the fridge. He signaled not to make a sound. Then he tip-toed to his room like a white tip-toeing ghost.

You saw him next a couple of months later – the morning your mother died from the virus. He struggled to sift through insurance papers with rubber gloves. He didn’t struggle with being the only person in a clean white PPE suit at a funeral.

Your father died inside his spotless suit a few months later. Not a spec of dust on it, but the virus got in somehow. Perhaps through the hole in the door? You found your drawings and some wall markings that meant something to you.

Now as potential buyers look around the apartment, you have cleared the walls of the markings, the drawers of the letters, and the air of the smell of a family that disappeared in just a few months.

Swetanshu Bora is a writer and performer from India. 

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