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Poignant Short Stories

Image courtesy Sooke News Mirror

Editor’s note: The following two short stories were sent in by Tara Kumarasinghe. She is “writing on behalf of the ‘invisible demographics’ in an attempt at social commentary to ensure corona doesn’t become the property of capitalism, males, or the western world”.

A Door to Close

Wash your hands. Use soap. Stay indoors.
Day one, he pushed the table over. Day two, he punched the wall near my face. Day three, it took me an hour to be able to move.
But I continued to stay indoors. Because otherwise the virus would get us.

He loved me though. Day four, we were back in love.
My name is Sara. The first time I saw Jay, I was walking on the beach. It was a beautiful romance. The sun shone straight on his face. I knew I wanted him to notice me. I’m a confident woman. I walked up to him, and asked him whether he was free for a drink.
The rest… is history. His. Story. His.

Two years later, his story left no room for mine. I can’t believe how fast it all happened. We were gloriously in love. Everything clicked. And then we bought a house. Well, I paid for it. But we’re a couple. So who’s counting, right? Most importantly, our dreams were coming true.
We had a place to call our own.
A blind to draw.
A door to close.
A way to keep the virus out.
And the monster within.

The neighbours walk past. Everyone is social distancing. We wave to each other.
They see my smiling face. I know I’m better off than most. I have a home. A place to live. A door to close. A place where I am safe.

I was allowed to work part time – I gave up full time work a year ago. Well, I was asked to give up full time work. My job had me travelling a lot, you see, and he said it wasn’t good for the relationship. He was only looking out for us.

And now since corona, I’ve been working from home, two hours daily. It makes me happy to see everyone’s faces. And to hear voices, other than the ones in my head. He always tells me I overthink.

Sometimes he’ll even wave hello to the team! They love him.
It’s the only time anyone can see me. That the world knows I have a pulse.
It’s the only time people can see inside my home. I think it’s the video calls that keep me safe.
Because I need to show up. Every day. For the morning team meeting.
Alive.

I can hear footsteps in the hallway. I need to stop writing now. This isn’t a story I can share. No one would believe me.

My name is Sara. I live in a beautiful house, with a door to close.

______________________________

They Only Have the Heat

Wash your hands. Use soap. Stay indoors.
Neela akka doesn’t have water in her house. Thambi doesn’t have money to buy soap. Tharu doesn’t have a home.
Thank heavens the heat will protect us from corona.

My name is Sita. I work in a beautiful tea plantation in Dimbula. It’s a lush green district, deep in the hill country of beautiful Sri Lanka. I come from a family of tea pluckers. It’s what everyone I know does. During the day, I fill up the basket on my back with tea leaves. As it becomes full, I unload the leaves at the processing centre. At the end of the day, I receive my pay. After purchasing my daily food, I head home. It’s a simple life.

They talk about saving for a rainy day, and social security. I often wonder what they mean as I drink my cup of plain hot water. I hardly have time to sit and ponder though. My body is tired. My eyelids close before I know it.

But since yesterday they said we cannot work. A virus is lurking. It has taken the world hostage.
I have been asked to stay at home. Or I will be fined.

They didn’t mention in the warning how I will be paid. Maybe they missed that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And if I don’t get paid, I cannot eat. Surely the world didn’t forget about us? They always smiled with us when they came to see the plantations. It’s on every tour for the complete island experience.

Me? No, I’m not worried about corona. I’ve seen worse. And I’m too young for it, they said. No, I’m not worried about my parents either. They may not even live long enough to enter the high risk age group anyway.

I sometimes wonder if I have to stay at home so that other people can go back to work again. Is that how the cycle works? So they can go back to work – sooner rather than later – and save for their holiday. To travel to Sri Lanka. To have a delightful day trip to a tea plantation, to see where their perfect cup of Ceylon tea is made.
But maybe I won’t be there to welcome them next time. Or to give them a warm shy smile.
Neither will my friends.

Because hunger will get me first. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week.
Then who will pluck your tea?
What will you drink in the morning after corona?

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