by Vineetha Mokkil

Exorcise all ghosts. Chant a spell, shake some salt, burn some sage, burn your heart at the goddamn stake—whatever it takes, whatever it takes.

She gets down on her knees and drags her bag to the middle of the bedroom floor. Into its gaping mouth she drops three freshly ironed white shirts, a pair of beige trousers, beaded flipflops, shorts, brogues, sunglasses. The blue green dress he gifted her on her birthday flutters in the closet like a moth, changes colour with the light, turns purple, turns gold.

Before you pack an item, ask yourself: will I wear this or weep over it? Will it hold me hostage from dusk to dawn? Hunt me down in the dark? If the answer is yes, toss it in the trash, tear it to shreds, bury it, bomb it—whatever it takes, whatever it takes.  

She squats on the carpet and scrolls through her phone with restless fingers. The gallery is clogged: pictures of the two of them dancing on a sunlit terrace, drunk on wine, drunk on hope; a windswept version of them hiking a trail, older but no less goofier; arm in arm on a houseboat in Amsterdam, the moon shattering like glass on the water, the wind rattling the panes. Fancy dinners, formal lunches, parties, afterparties, anniversaries, award nights… so many smiles, so many lies.

Excess baggage drags you down. Pare memory to the bone; sever the cord, hack and slash, smash the past with rage and rock; wield an axe, wield a sword–whatever it takes, whatever it takes.   

When she draws a deep breath and hits delete, the pictures vanish in a flash. Places melt away like a dream. Promises dissipate. His chiselled, smiling, deceitful face disappears without a trace.  

Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, “A Happy Place and other stories” (HarperCollins). She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award June 2018 and is a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Her fiction has appeared in Gravel, the Santa Fe Writers’ Project Journal, Cosmonaut’s Avenue, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Jellyfish Review among other journals.