The cold wind brushed across his chest. He felt his areolae, dark-brown hued, shrink; the mound of his nipple erect. He wetted his finger on his lips and touched the nipple, rimming it, imagining a tongue taking a survey of that tiny outcropped flesh. The drizzle hadn’t stopped.
A bird was quietly sitting on a branch of the berry tree, across his house. The tree, or more like an overgrown shrub, would generally be crowded with bees, moths, insects, birds and bats. Little children would dance around, jumping up and down, belabouring to pluck the dark-pink berries, sweet and plump. The thicket of rain droplets swayed with the wind, like an amorphous fog covering the whole town. He touched his lips with his thumb, wetted it again with his saliva, rimmed other nipple. He thought of the fog, scented with the newly flowered mango trees, sprawled across the window, of his class-room, two decades ago. He almost dozed off, in his afternoon reverie, when his phone rang. The music of the ring tone rose from an andante con moto to a soft crescendo, and died down. The phone rang again. He
picked up, still weary from his daydreams.
“Hi, Am I speaking with Mr. K?”
“Yes, this is him speaking.”
“Hello Mr. K. I am calling from Insurance Inc. And before we go any further, I must inform you that this call is being recorded for monitoring and quality purpose.”
“Sure,” said K, standing up to lean over the balustrade, looking over the moist world in front of him.
“Mr. K, Congratulations, your phone number has been chosen for our exclusive offer. This limited time offer is only for selected people..”
“I am sorry but I am not looking for any new insurance scheme or anything at the moment,” He said abruptly, interrupting the conversation on the phone.
“Sure, Mr. K. But would you like to hear more about this before making up your mind? Plus you don’t have to pay anything for this for a year or later. In fact, for you specially, the fee that we charge after a year, would be discounted to hundred percent.”
What’s the catch here, K thought. “Alright, please tell me more.”
“Great! Mr. K, as you know, the pandemic is already wreaking havoc around the world. And the many waves of the infections have made a lot of people deprived of their sense of smell..”
Wait a minute, I was just thinking about the memory of that smell, of the fog and the mango flowers. Have these companies become so intrusive that they can now read our minds? K thought, with a slight annoyance at the idea of the private enclosures of his mind turning into a museum for the marketers and salespersons.
The voice over the phone continued, “… and this has become the worst nightmare of the Pandemic. How could one be a human without the ability to smell anything? Doesn’t it drive everything – from our sexual attraction to the very basic necessity of the food? In fact, our first sensory experience is of smell. It is the most fundamental quality of being a human.”
Don’t many animals, and mammals, also have the sense of smell as their basic instinct, K said. But it seemed the person on the other side of the phone did not hear him amid their continuous babble.
“What we are offering is a lifetime opportunity to you with our Insurance scheme not only to keep your sensory experience safe with us in the event of you losing it, but also the Insurance cover if that happens.”
“And how are you going to do it?” K asked impatiently.
“Yes, Mr. K. I am going to explain you more. What this process involves is that we are going to map and make a copy of a memory of yours that is strongly associated with an odour, or a scent. It would be safely kept in our systems. And could be restored back to you once our Research team make more progress on that front. Once it is brought back to you, you would be able to regain your sense of smell, and could feel like a full human again.”
“I have stopped feeling like a human long ago,” K said to himself.
“What?” the voice asked.
“Nothing. Please go on.”
“Sure, as I was explaining to you about this offer, and that there is no fees involved in this. Your number was selected from a lucky draw, and you are selected from that chosen lot.”
K was flattered. “How does it work?” he asked.
“It is a very simple process, and won’t take any time. If you are free now, we can go ahead with it.”
He was free, sitting comfortably in his chair, feeling up his chest under his shirt. “I am free,” he said to the voice on the phone.
“Great! Our conversation is almost over, please stay on the call after we are finished. You would hear a beep. Press number 3 on your phone. This would start the sensors in your phone and it would then connect to your brain wirelessly. The sensors are designed in such a way that they could map the memory that you would be recollecting, and translate and store it digitally. Once you are done with the remembrance, the process will automatically stop and you would hear the beep again. You can disconnect the call after that. Meanwhile, I will send you the Account details and other information in your email.”
“Alright,” he was both intrigued and nervous. He prepared himself for the next moments to follow.
The brief beep pierced his ear. He pressed the number 3 on his phone dial pad.
It was a cold morning. The roads were moist. The thick fog hung like an impregnable solid. He moved through it, entered the building, climbing up to six floors. There was nobody, yet, in the class. He was a tad bit early. He went to the window, the morning breeze scraped his cheeks. He breathed the air infused with the scent of the flowers that speckled the branches of the Mango trees across. The trees would bear the sweet fruits in few months. He heard a noise, S had just entered. S made a joke about him. He ignored it, and continued looking out of the window. He felt the warmth of a hand, of S. Their hands tangled for a bit, cold palms transpiring the heat between them. He turned to kiss S…
“I could not kiss him. Someone had come in the classroom. He never looked at me again that way. He never talked about it. I desired for his hands, his lips, his warmth, and his words. The moment was gone, it seems, for S,” K said over the phone, but nobody was listening. There was a beep again, which meant the process has stopped. The call was over now. He felt a pang in his chest, of the cravings that he had had many years ago. He felt annoyed at the call that was now over, and at that unfinished kiss. He wished for closure. He closed his eyes again. His hands fumbled on his chest, feeling up all the contours of his skin and shape. He pinched, circled around his nipples, as if turning a knob to open up somewhere.
He felt cold, not the rain cold, but a chilly cold of a winter morning. The faint smell reached him, from faraway, the sweet scent of the nectar. He saw the Mango tree draped with the greenish-yellow tiny flowers, on the branches wet with the fog. The warm breath on the back of his neck gave him goosebumps. S was behind him, embracing him, nibbling his earlobes. He turned to look at S, few inches taller, a handsome face, with a pair of juicy, thick lips. He sniffed his shoulders, the arms, the pits. He could smell the traces of perspiration on S, soaking his shirt and under his sweater. He put his hand inside S’s shirt, looking for a hint of hair on his smooth chest. He played with his nipples. S moaned. They kissed, and exchanged warmth, fluids, and love. In that desolate room, on a wintery morning, in a world engulfed in the blanket of the fog, the subtle odour of their bodies mixed with the sweet aroma of the flowers of probable fruits.