Short story

Sabyasachi Sanyal

Vitiligo

Skin is an organ, the largest organ in fact. An organ of apparent continuity in actuality broken at every micron by crevices, craters, mounds, pores, volcanoes and sporadic eruptions – this is what Vitiligo said. Vitiligo is a horse who would often speak in English to reclaim his lost European ancestry.

Vitiligo is also a disease of the skin where patches of skin living in the periphery start losing their political inclinations and begin to reflect every bit of light they are exposed to. Vitiligo is different from albinism, which is completely apolitical asocial, for the vitiligo-afflicted it’s an archipelago of color and non-color. “Spotty” some would say but they must understand that paleness and a non-color are not the same. Again that’s not me, it’s all Vitiligo speak. I am often happy sitting by the stream called history and not really noticing anything, occasionally pulling out a long grass stem and nibbling, grimacing at the spooky sweetness. Probably Vitiligo is diabetic and has taken a leak on these grasses myriads of times making them go sickly sweet. Too late now that the barn is pretty far and so is the bougainvillea-clad water well. Confusion helps you to not notice many a things but some always push the curtain slightly and intrude; a vivid green cyan and yellow locust for example alighting on a shoulder disjointed from sense of structure.

Vitiligo is a ghost horse at best, for no one could exist logically without an appropriate context and by context one could imply history. Or at best Vitiligo is a stray, like an erratic dust flake in the desert sand and speaking of sands the desert sand is very different from river or beach sand for you see the former doesn’t remember anything while the latter’s memory is etched with hostility of water’s claws. Coming back to history, isn’t it funny that when you consider civilizations, history almost always is about struggles but at the level of an individual it’s always about adaptation.

Too late that, Vitiligo suddenly detaches his mouth from the context of grass and says-- “Deep down, a memory is always about a face. There might be an incidence of course, but it’s always about how a face reacted in a given situation, whether it lost or gained color. Mind you, color is ambivalent and glows with uncertainty when excited and darkness on the contrary is a stream of certainty which knows no excitement, no taste but feeds on light to endure itself. Memory is never certain because of the ambivalence of light and you see no one can remember darkness’.

It’s not that it needed saying; I’ve seen his non-color glowing in days of moody rejections. I’ve seen his political patches straining to pacify their neighbors, neighing helplessly. I know he is going feral; someday he might bite a chunk off my face and yet I don’t know why I remain placid.

Vitiligo is a male horse and often maleness in horses does not go down too well with the society and business. You see male horses can’t race-- their testes obstruct them. They can be used as studs but for a horse with a condition the only option is imposed cessation from the gene pool. Let’s ponder over an alternate future then for Vitiligo, about being a dreg horse, pulling carriages full of horse manure. It’s not bad at all. It’s more like philosophers or artists peddling their own confusions to institutions. Deep down, institutions are structures whose every brick is a certainty but confusion makes the cement you see.

Coming to art, the world never needed art. It just needs a sense of art that can be sold to utter “strangers to art” and can be converted into fashion statements. True confusion is anti-marketing thus it should be peppered with certainty. You see a short-term sense of confusion can be used to build an extremely useful atmosphere of insecurity and then relieved of it with newer products (call it new arts).

I know, skin is just an organ and in art it’s not polite nowadays to talk about its pigment-driven reality. In medical business melanomas is alright, but in other terms, let us agree that the thickness or thinness of integument should actually matter.

Vitiligo tells me, he was not always like this. Once he was free of his affliction. Garibaldi rode him in those times on his boat all for exhibition, on nauseating waves and after reaching the shore rode him down to the smithies, where his hooves were shod in lead for lead is the color and texture of history, heavy and seeping, leaching forever into your ego making you part of that history. Vitiligo says patches of his skin took the lead and retained its pigment but he rejected some consciously and those became the non-color. “It was down to choice you see. I was a destrier once. Way superior than those rounceys and coursers. My ego couldn’t let the lead take over”. I don’t know what to believe, you see the story especially the part about “choice” seems a bit too tattered at the edges and it’s easier to trust a philosopher than a story with funny edges. A book too well read is not to be trusted.

I’ve been send to kill Vitiligo. To end his misery.

I am inclined to leave now after sending a round through his thick mottled skull seeing him drown in his rancid brain under the horse-chestnut tree shedding its foul odor and thorny fruits…

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--What’s that?

--That? A dispenser

--What does it dispense?

--History

--Why would anyone need history?

--To build context

--Why would one need context?

--To embed objects and make them meaningful

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Vitiligo is a ghost horse. Vitiligo is a patchwork of idea and flesh, being and context. And I am here to kill him. How do I kill the part which is an idea, a context? I can accept death as such, at least to join the mourning crowd in rain and despair and feast. I can’t however understand death to an idea. If there is no context, there is no being; nothing exists without a context. On the other hand if there is no being there can’t be a context related to that being. Vitiligo smiles his putrid pathetic blunt smile...He smiles on.

I recline on the chestnut trunk ignoring foul smell, ignoring the ugly fleshy thorny fruits, even ignoring his rancid brain feeding rapidly evolving maggots, with a part of me getting uneasy-- if each of these maggots evolves into an idea how am I going to find my way back amidst the ear-numbing drone.

Perhaps Vitiligo is just a thought and the creator of a thought is a brain collecting ingredients from a world known to it where a yellow tourist bus stops outside the Yellowstone and is already pre-enamored with the concept of giant sequoias continuing to grow for thousands of years after taking off from ash-laden earth where ghosts of predecessor forests burnt by Indians now have created a context for the myth of a redolent phoenix. Now when you mention concept, a concept is part alien you see. It’s neither here nor there. It’s both a bird and a fish because a brain makes a concept partly on physicality and partly on ambiguity and the latter is directed by history, mysticism, a sense of wonder and providence.

Vitiligo says, he has learnt the method of detaching a concept from ambiguity and thus his self is not controllable and can’t be erased by erasing something as trivial as context and that I should show some respect and use my gun unflinchingly.

If I use the gun, I will stop being me. I shall become an action. Like a repugnant bite totally detached from the elegant hunger of a wolf. I consider myself a fence-sitter and find no reason to jump forward or back unless the recoil of my gun makes a true destitute out of me. I decide to sit by the flow of history beneath this foul-smelling horse-chestnut amidst ghastly fruits lying everywhere.

I believe, self is evidently about interest if not mastery alone and Vitiligo fits there somewhere in the scheme of interest but mastering him is an ordeal and when not looking at history, I am deeply worried about him biting a chunk off my face and slowly chewing it and my torn flesh and bone quivering with a ghost pain in his now dead maw. But I also feel it’s in my own interest to listen to and gauge his insanity as I have seen patches of non-color originating near my finger tips.

Yet I am here to kill him and stop this madness assaulting my ego with its maddening tendrils spreading through the integument through mounds crevices pores craters volcanoes and eruptions…