Saturday 18 June 2022

'Aftertaste' by Susmita Bhattacharya

I surf cookery videos on YouTube. Watch how potato chips are fried. Follow the step-by-step of making hot, puffed up chapattis. I feed my cravings with my eyes only. My tongue has turned traitor. I lick my lips and swallow saliva that tastes like metal, the chemicals of pipettes and test tubes in a school chemistry lab.

On my good week, I will run to the kitchen and knead that dough. Roll into balls. Devour chapattis with melted butter. I will savour every flavour that has lived as a memory on my tongue. Melted cheese and hot tabasco sauce. Chocolate ice-cream. The familiar heat of fish curry with rice.

The next blast of Taxol shooting through my veins will strip my tongue again. Like sandpaper, they will rub till my taste buds are sore. I will stop eating. We will strike off another session from the calendar. I will return to watching cookery shows, an ice cube giving my blistering mouth relief.

You promise me the end is not far off.

If I take a sip from that cup – will you promise me that it will taste like tea? If I suck on that boiled sweet, will you promise me I’ll feel the sugar rush and nothing else? And if I chew on that piece of toast, will you promise me that it will taste – like toast?

It will not. You cannot promise me anything. Except that when it is all over, you will cook me all my favourite dishes.

If my tongue has a memory, I want not a single reminder.

First published in New Flash Fiction Review, 2021.

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