How, I imagine, this memo could have read:
space out your thighs; you will be
searched. one of you almost tried to cram
your deodorant stick down the sink but we
fished it out. your uncle from the gulf
who liked to stroke your back bought
you the stiff toilet paper you tried to sneak
into the ladies’ room. a ream of paper wedged
under my foot, that day unironed itself
into creases on every face i supervised. not
one told me there was shit plastered on
my soles, hardened, full of the fecund misgivings
the latex on the conveyors evades. but
this bleeding, it is unpardonable: an effluent
from your peasant-veins, your mocking,
warm hips, those pop songs you like to
play on your cheap korean mp3 players.
when i see your tears trickle down,
i will smear some toilet paper on them
and nod. the management prefers you
rinse and take it home: your modesty,
i mean. there are only so many doors
you can fumble shut before i
wipe away your smirk, your taut
petticoat-strings, your my… please
didn’t flush down madam please madam
Instead I saw you from the corner, writing
quality control fail sample # 56.
reason: uneven at palms; bad material. & no, i don’t
anticipate women holding placards
outside wearing orange lipstick, saying fucking
bourgeoisie, & interns, in a room somewhere,
running ads for fair-forever running
up to a supervisor, like me, exclaiming,
let’s send the CEO pads as a statement, no,
till his mailbox overflows, while you fish out
your underwear from a pile and i peel
off the gloves i almost threw
earlier into a pile of rejects.
I hum now (the song
on my headphones:) the ebb
of our shared shames, our bodies
in their familiar state, thrumming—
conveyors spinning toward, into, the promise of another, no prism
of shared phlebotomies, no cisterns cracked and patched, searched without question,
without the trace of wound.
Based on a news article on women in a mall in Kerala being strip-searched after a pad was found in the toilet.
Read more of Ranjani Murali's work on her website.