He looked into the half broken mirror, at the face he could barely recognise any more. Constant exposure had made his skin thick and tanned, with so many furrows running across his forehead that you could almost count his age by it. His pale eyes were covered with lids that drooped in submission to gravity. The cataract was getting worse and with it the vision in his left eye. The plastering work was almost over. The engineer wanted him to finish up with some decorative moulding. He ran his calluses and raw hands through his sparse sandpaper like hair worrying about how he would manage if the design were too intricate. With his failing vision it would be hard. The engineer had been screaming at him to have his eyes operated. But operations were expensive. He had promised to send extra money home this month, to build an attached bathroom. His wife had slipped on her way to the common toilet a few times. Her vision wasn’t what it used to be either. He had promised her a toilet, and after all the let downs she had endured, he would not subject her to another. He knew that on his paltry salary of hundred rupees per day, that was going to be a real challenge, but he had given his word.
A feeling of abject despair began to consume him as he started listing the pending expenses in his head. And what about the loan that he was paying off! It had been six years since his daughter’s wedding, and he simply couldn’t settle the loan. His face broke out in a sweat. He felt like he was going to throw up. Tremors started in his hands, and his legs began to turn to jelly. O God! How was he going to manage? The tremors were getting worse. Now, his head was screaming for its daily fix. He wanted to resist. He had resolved to resist. He had sworn that yesterday was the last. But he felt worthless, hopeless, optionless. It was the only way to feel a little bit better, to get through the night. Just tonight. Just this once.
He crumpled on to his creaking cot and began counting out money for some rum.


Promises

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