Friday 14 April 2023

Time by Amita Basu, lemonade, salt only, no sugar, more lemon than water

All week instead of drafting my screenplay I’d been Netflix-surfing, lounging half-on, half-off the loveseat. My ‘day off’ had become a trance without time. At first I’d enjoyed this sitcom. Now I was enduring its final seasons like a dentist’s appointment, numbed up and pinned down in my chair, waiting to be freed.

So when Levy suggested that a change would do me good, and asked me to drive her to the nail salon, I couldn’t refuse.

The preparatory scrubbing of my wife’s trimmed nails took seventy minutes, an emery board, a chisel, a powderpuff, and other tools I couldn’t name. I felt sick to my stomach, then realised it smelled like a dentist’s appointment, then realised why: calcium nebulised in the air. The nail technician began finessing Levy’s cuticles.

The décor was white and teal. Small bottles stood in military formation on shelftops and ledges. The technician was small, northeastern, and black-uniformed. A writer’s never offduty, but there was nothing else to observe.

I tried playing songs in my head, but my playlist kept looping “Kryptonite.” I vowed to listen to a hundred new songs every night in my sleep, to proliferate my weapons against boredom. A bored writer is like a pervert priest: a disgrace.

The technician was scraping at Levy’s nails again. Had Michelangelo been this meticulous over David? Does even a masterpiece deserve this insane attention to detail? Maybe art does, but not nails. Too ephemeral.

I fished for topics of conversation. Levy responded, but never looked up from the narrow teal cushion. The heat on her hands from the glue-setting UV lamp seemed to have bathed her brain, too, in bliss: immobilised it, as sunshine does a cat.

Under the table my knees earthquaked. I pictured plucking my eyelashes out very slowly to distract myself from the intolerable sacrilege of wasting two hours of my life this way.

Back home I dustbinned the remote control and sat down at my laptop. ‘Now or never,’ I muttered. On the blank face of my future, the cursor blinked and blinked, then froze in a Mona Lisa smile.

About the author 

Amita Basu’s fiction has appeared in over fifty magazines and anthologies including The Penn Review, The Dalhousie Review, Bamboo Ridge, and Gasher. She’s a review reader for Bewildering Stories and a submissions editor for Fairfield Scribes Microfiction. She lives in Bangalore, likes Captain Planet, and blogs at


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