By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: A stream-of-consciousness. Just write. Go where the word takes you. The Prompt: Temptation
We sat in ragged concentric circles around the priest, listening to his chants meant to accompany the spirit of the recently deceased to heaven. As he prayed aloud, the priest used a ladle to pour clarified butter into a small fire that burned in a metal container. A few elderly women keened in the corner. All around me I heard people sniffling and fighting tears, their emotions, the reality of losing someone so beloved.
My heart clenched, which surprised me. I didn’t think I react. Well, to be honest, I didn’t know what I would feel. Whether a reaction would come at all. But now…this…
As I watched the smoke swirl upward, a few wisps of my anger floated with it. The clenching in my chest tightened until my mask cracked. It didn’t break completely, and it certainly didn’t fall away. But the cracks let in something I had not felt in a long time: regret.
Right then a few threads of temptation unspooled and found their way through the cracks. Those threads needled their way into my heart, and the temptation became so great I almost did it. I almost stood up right there in the middle of the religious ceremony and said what everyone was thinking: that I was wrong. I had been responsible for the heartache. The strife.
I was the reason the family shattered. Pieces of hearts and lives now spread across the years and memories we all shared. I allowed my own ambitions to propel me around and over and through anything that stood in the way of what I wanted.
Just then my younger sister-in-law stood up and went to the kitchen. I didn’t move my head at all, just watched her with my eyes. She filled a glass of water and brought it back for the priest. As she sat back down on the floor, she used the hem of her sari to wipe her tears. Her eyeliner had streaked, but she didn’t know. She let her emotions run all over the place along with her makeup.
And I remembered. I remembered that my ambition was justified. My anger was justified. My sister-in-law was weak, and that was why she let herself go in front of all these people.
Just like that my temptation backpedaled and returned to its bobbin.