I came into the house and, as usual, called out to my “Little Bride” as soon as I’d stepped into the courtyard. But the house was silent. No one seemed to be home. However, Aunt was there. She had just emerged from the bathroom after her bath and had sat down in a sunlit spot to dry her hair. I asked her where all the others were and she said they had all gone to a wedding somewhere.
Not knowing what else to say, I asked her about my “Little Bride” even though I had a hunch that she might have gone to the wedding with the others. I went and sat next to Aunt and we started talking about this and that. Most of the time we talked about my “Little Bride” and chuckled over her antics.
After a while Aunt’s hair was dry and she stood up to tie it in a bun. In an effort to arrange her hair, she raised both arms, with her hands at the back of her head. Her bare waist arched slightly backwards, her bust rose and then fell back a little, causing her hair to fall away from her. I saw this in a fraction of a second but it had no particular effect on me.
She continued to put up her hair in a chignon and we went on talking. Suddenly one of her earrings fell off and landed near her foot. I quickly bent down to retrieve it for her. As I knelt at her feet, my eyes fell upon the pale curve of her instep and I was reminded once again that she had just taken a bath.
I picked up the earring and tried to put it back in her ear while I kept up a rapid flow of conversation. I could smell the musky odour which rose from her moist body. She continued to fiddle with her hair and I kept on trying to put her earring back in. But for some reason I couldn’t get it to stay and her earlobe began to turn red. I must have jabbed her with the post of the earring. A little cry came from her throat and she scolded me mildly. She then took the earring from me with a smile and quickly put it in by herself. Soon afterwards, she went up to her room and I to mine.
A little later, I went upstairs looking for a book. On the way back, I glanced at Aunt’s room. She stood in front of the bamboo screen. Her hair hung loosely about her shoulders and her eyes looked as though she had just woken up. I went into her room and again we started talking about the same sort of trifles. She started to tie up her hair all over again and once more I saw what I had seen earlier.
Seeing her waist bend backwards once again, I felt a bit uneasy. We talked about the wedding that my entire family had gone to attend and I told her that there was a great difference in height between the bride and bridegroom. Exaggerating rather wildly, I insisted that the bride barely came up to the waist of the bridegroom.
Aunt laughed at this and said, “Anyway, at least she’s a little taller than your bride.”
We started talking once again about my “Little Bride” whose absence made the house seem quite empty. I was about to introduce some other topic when Aunt stood up from the bed and came towards me.
“Let’s see if you’re taller than I am,” she said with a smile.
Grinning, we came and stood facing each other. She moved closer to me. Once again I became aware of the fragrance that rose from her body, a warm, moist odour which reminded me that she had just bathed. We drew still closer and her forehead almost touched my lips.
“You’re much shorter than me,” I told her.
“I am not,” she retorted and stood up on her toes. Then she giggled, “How about now?”
I grabbed her waist with both hands and tried to push her downwards.
“You’re cheating,” I told her. And bending, I grabbed both her ankles and tried to plant them back on the floor. When I stood up after some time, she wasn’t laughing any more. I clasped her waist firmly with both hands once again.
“You’re being unfair,” I said to her as the grip of my hands tightened on her waist.
Her arms rose, moved towards my neck, but then stopped. I felt as though I were standing in a vast pool of silence that stretched all around us. My hold on her waist tightened still more.
“The door,” she said in a faint whisper.
I pulled her close to the door without letting go of her waist. Then I released her slowly, bolted the door and returned to her. I remembered how she had always behaved like an older relative towards me and I felt angry at her for the first time, but just as suddenly, the anger melted into an awareness of her tremendous physical appeal.
I bent over and held her legs. I was still in that position with my grip around her legs progressively tightening when I felt her fingers twist in my hair. She pulled me up with a violent intensity and my head bumped her chest. Then, with her fingers still locked in my hair, she moved back towards the bed. When we got to its edge, I eased her onto it, helping her feet up with my hands. But she suddenly broke free and stood up. I looked at her.
She murmured, “The door that leads up the stairs... it’s open.”
“But there’s no one in the house.”
“Someone will come.”
Silently we went down the stairs and bolted the door at the bottom.
Then we came back up together, went into her room and bolted the door from the inside. Apart from the tremors running through our bodies, we seemed fairly calm, exactly the way we were when we talked to each other under everyday circumstances. She paused near the bed, adjusted her hair once again and, taking off her earrings, she put them next to the pillow.
In a flash of recollection, I remembered all those stories I’d heard about love affairs that started after the lovers stood together and compared their heights. But I decided at once that these stories were all imaginary, wishful tales and the only true Reality was this experience I was having with this woman, who was a distant aunt – but an aunt who also happened to be the younger sister of my brother’s wife.
I picked her up gently and made her lie down on the bed, reflecting that just a short time earlier I had entered the house calling for my “Little Bride”. It’s possible that the same thought may have crossed her mind. A light tremor ran through our bodies. I had just begun to lean towards her when she suddenly sat up straight. Fear flickered in her eyes.
Excerpted with permission from the story Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire, Collected Stories, Naiyer Masud, edited and translated by Muhammad Umar Memon, Penguin Classics.