Eve out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi
The inspector finally agreed to take me to the morgue. I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to get me in. He must have connections. That, and he feels sad for me. I don’t care how he did it, I just care that I’ll get to see Savita.
In the morgue, both the light and smell are greenish. I thought the movies would have prepared me for this. But movies have nothing to do with reality. It’s totally different here. The filth in the corners. The ceiling blooming with mold. Chemical smells coming from the walls.
My whole body goes weak. The place is heavy with their presence. Everybody who came through here has left traces. On the walls, on the ground, on the ceiling, in the air. Like invisible lips sealed to their silence. Nobody ever leaves completely.
The inspector holds me by my arm and says, you don’t have to.
No, I’ve never had to.
I shake my arm free. I don’t want to turn back.
After what she’s gone through, I can go through everything. And then, in my head, I saw her a thousand times like this. I keep seeing her, in that envelope of death. And now I actually do see her. Unmoving and pale. Her face glazed, rigid, solid. The bruises still on her neck from the murderer’s fingers. I know her, yet she is wholly unrecognizable. Her youthfulness, I think. When death comes to someone so young, it makes her unrecognizable. And there’s a bluish, almost purplish tint to her skin. I reel from the strangeness of it all.
But I do recognize her mouth. I hold on to that. That mouth with its darkened edges is her mouth, Savita’s mouth, I’m happy to see it again in all its perfection at last, yes, I haven’t started to forget her features like I’d feared a second ago, I haven’t betrayed her, I still have that memory of her mouth in me as something so precious that, for the rest of my life, all my senses will bring it back to me.
I explain to her that I was by the stream, and that was the reason I didn’t hear anything. I tell her that for me, it’s life that’s distorting my features and making me unrecognizable.
My hand touches her cheek. I lean in, but the inspector holds me back. No, he says.
He takes me to a small café where the flies are more plentiful than the diners. I want for him to tell me something, for him to ask for something in exchange for the service he’s rendered. He doesn’t ask for anything. But he asks me questions. By the dirty window, I see the world going by. Yes, there’s a world, over there, out there, that doesn’t know Savita and where lives haven’t stopped along with hers. I tell him everything, without really knowing why. How old I was when I began, where I went. I describe these places he knows so well. His questions take me further and further. My actions are getting crazier, I can tell. That’s what he thinks: this girl is crazy.
He looks at me as if he can’t believe me: And you’re still alive? he says.
What was the use of it all? he asks, again. His big hands on the table are trembling and fiddling with a paper napkin to the point that there aren’t anything but shreds left. I wouldn’t like to be a criminal he’d arrested. There isn’t any skin that would resist those hands.
I finally answer his question:
To slip through the cracks. To… To what?
To go on.
The next question had to be, go on to where, but he doesn’t ask it. His eyes are tired and my thoughts are completely blank. I was thinking about buying myself a life. But I don’t know which one.
He asks me if I have any health problems. I know what he’s talking about, but I pretend not to understand. I show him the blue bruise on my cheek, which has turned yellow: these sorts of problems, yes, every day, I say.
He isn’t looking at me anymore, I think he’s trying to imagine what they did to me, what they made me do, what they’ll make me do again, in the mirror behind the bar I see us and I know I look young, too young, a bit of string, a little burned thing, and I know he’d like to keep me from slipping further down, but he doesn’t know anything at all.
Suddenly, he gets angry:
What if I shoved you in prison for a bit of time, you’d have to stop, that’d make you get better, wouldn’t it?
I get up to leave. The conversation’s over. There’s nothing else to say.
It’s hard to keep believing, he says quietly. But you have to defend yourself. I want you to stay alive.
He takes me back to Troumaron. In the car I don’t say anything. But I remember something he said: Savita wasn’t raped. I think he said that to reassure me. But then why was she killed? There was no anger there, no sexual violence. For the fun of it? Or to shut her up?
We pull up in front of the buildings. The sky is low. Here, there’s always something watching. Some spirit that’s vibrating, living, malignant.
He comes and opens the door of the jeep for me. I’m not used to that. Before I step down, he slips something into my bag.
Only use it to protect yourself, understand? he says very quietly.
I look down. I don’t know why he did that. I didn’t give him anything.
He holds me by the shoulders as I step down, and rubs them a bit.
He’s talking in English. Be good, he says. I shrug. It’s too late to be good.
It’s only once he’s gone that I realize that we were right in the middle of all the buildings. Every window’s facing us. Everybody saw me come back to Troumaron in a police car, everybody saw the inspector whispering in my ear. I colluded with the enemy. As usual, I’d done what I shouldn’t have. I can almost hear through these windows what everybody must be thinking furiously: this time, she went too far.
The ground starts to give way beneath my feet and cave in just as I walk into my apartment building.
But, after all, there was never any ground under my feet.
Excerpted from ‘Eve out of her Ruins’ by Ananda Devi published by Speaking Tiger
With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country’s endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only weapon and source of power; Savita, Eve’s best friend, the only one who loves Eve without self-interest, and who ha plans to leave but will not go alone; Saadiq, gifted would-be poet, inspired by Rimbaud, in love with Eve; Clélio, belligerent rebel, waiting without hope for his brother to send for him from France.
Eve out of her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, and a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society. Awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continents upon publication as the best book written in French outside France, Eve out of her Ruins is a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in her native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.
About the Author:
Ananda Devi is a Mauritian writer of Telugu and Creole descent. She has published eleven novels as well as short stories and poetry, and was featured at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York in 2015. She has won multiple literary awards, including the Prix du Rayonnement de la langue et de la literature françaises (2014), the Prix Mokanda (2012), the Prix Louis-Guilloux (2010), and the Prix RFO du livre (2006). Devi was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010.