Asmara Malik can usually be found lurking at http://elmara.deviantart.com [link], where she has, to-date, been awarded six Daily Deviations in Literature. She was one of the eight winners of the LUMS Young Writers Workshop & Short Story Contest 2013. She was short-listed for the Matthew Rocca Poetry Award by Verandah, an Australian journal of art, design and literature. Her work has appeared in Karachi: Our Stories in Our Words (OUP, Pakistan), Papercuts, Poets & Artists, Sparkbright, Read This Magazine and Breadcrumb Scabs, among others.
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A Certain Liquidity
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There is a tiny mirrored cabinet just above the large white bath. Inside it are many, many tiny bottles with silver stoppers. They are filled with arrogantly aromatic oils – jojoba, jasmine, lavender, rosemary – exotic hair-oils that he has spent a fortune collecting. But money itself does not bother him. As long as the final masterpiece meets his exacting standards, he has no objection to spending millions.
He lets a few strands of her hair slip through his skeletal fingers. Jasmine, he judges by its fine, silken texture. He pours a little of the precious oil into one cupped palm and raises it to his face. He inhales. Deeply. A smile, a hint of a smile on his face. He massages the oil into her hair, beginning at the temples, languid strokes moving up to her forehead, unhurriedly down to the nape of her neck.
Her head moves with a certain liquidity along the movement of his fingers. Her slender arms overhang the edges of the bath, her knees bent to keep her long legs inside. Arterialbright dew-drops hang from her fingers, ruby gems in this twilight of dim torches. A drop grows heavy. Falls. He catches it on his palm, quicker than quick, relishing the taste – metallic and sweet – finer than any wine. The bathroom floor is no place to waste such delightfulness.
He oils the whole length of her hair, bringing out its fierce burgundy luster.
Finished, he settles against one cold tiled wall and waits for the oil to settle. Later, he will wash her hair with scented water. Then with his sharpest blades he will skin the scalp – carefully, carefully so as not to waste, not to damage a single precious hair. Then he will arrange the hairs into another expensive hair-piece. So singularly expensive that only the kept women of his city, with their ivory-handle fans and simpering pastel gowns, will be able to afford one, courtesy of their influential men; straight-backed, fine upstanding gentlemen in blistering Hessian boots and intricate neck-clothes.
By noon tomorrow, when it becomes known in whispers amongst certain quarters of the city that his shop has acquired a miraculous new wig for sale, it will already be gone, being gloated over by some wealthy man’s light o’ love.
For now, there is nothing but the innocent scent of jasmine playing hide-and-seek upon his senses and this taste of coppery blood on his lips. In the silence of his own twilight, he begins to sing until it is dawn and he, God’s loneliest child, can sleep.