The Dishonesty of Karma
(BASED ON A TRUE STORY)
by Alex Ziperovich
There is no money in the dusty heat of this village.
His father is dead. I cannot feed this child by myself.
Outside my window I hear the door to the apartment open and shut at night.
I cannot ignore it.
My son almost drowned in the river today. He is not strong because he does not eat.
All I have is a pouch with a few lentils.
His stomach is bloated.
I ask my friend: “Who are the girls that go to that apartment?”
“He takes their kidneys and he pays them.”
That afternoon I leave the sleeping boy and I knock on the door.
He is tall and he wears dark sunglasses inside the shadowy room.
He lifts my shirt and feels the flesh around my protruding ribs. His hard fingers press into me.
“I will give you four thousand rupees for your kidney. You need only one to survive.”
He gives me some seasoned chicken and rice. I do not save any for the child.
The sun outside is fire.
I look at the sky and I am scared I am going to go blind.
He comes to my door three days later and he wraps rough canvass around my eyes.
He takes me to a hotel in the city.
He tells me I will be paid afterwards. He closes the blinds on the windows.
He tells me to lie down on the bed and close my eyes.
A man enters the room and examines me. He injects me.
I hear flies buzzing.
My eyelids are fluttering.
I am injected.
I smell the smoke from a hundred old cigarettes.
It bothers me that they smoked while they watched.
The other man holds a bag of melting ice on my throbbing body.
The man and a new larger man stare down at me both behind sunglasses.
There are a few red soaked towels.
I try to lift myself but the pain pushes me back down.
The men leave the room and I hear them whisper through the door.
I am injected.
In a few hours they begin checking their watches.
They open the blinds and the sun is growing.
The man sits on the bed and places an envelope by my limp hand.
“It is done. You are alive?” He smiles and shows me his gold teeth.
I stare at my reflection in his glasses. “Yes.”
“Good. We will let you rest until noon, and then we will return you to your village.”
I am woken up. The man touches his wristwatch and shrugs.
“You must walk out without help so that we do not look suspicious.”
I am wearing a new, thick dress and it sticks to the gauze on my abdomen.
I clutch the wall and shuffle to the elevator.
The men do not look at me.
The man from the apartment takes me by the hand and walks me to a sedan.
His words to the driver are inaudible.
I fall asleep in the back seat bleeding.
It is almost dark. The driver taps my shoulder.
“Good luck.” He does not help me out.
A few days pass and I am strong enough to go to the market.
I feed my child more food than he eats in a month.
He knows I have sacrificed for him and he won’t look me in my eyes.
We sleep together in my bed and I hold him against my healing scar.
We eat together in silence and then we light incense afterwards.
One day I see him swimming in the river. He looks strong and healthy.
He stops eating. We have enough food, for once, but he cannot eat it.
For days, he does not eat anything. I am angry; I have sacrificed for him.
He begins losing weight. He turns yellow. He has a fever.
I resent him.
He does not leave his bed. He is wheezing and crying at the same time.
He mumbles incoherently at night and it enrages me and I don’t sleep in my fury.
The village doctor comes and looks at him. She also looks at the uneaten food.
“His organs are failing.”
“He needs a doctor in the city or he will die within the week.”
I sell the food and we go to the hospital in the city.
We wait in a crowded room among the sick and dying.
The endless coughing drives me mad. We wait.
“Your son has renal failure. He will die before dawn unless he receives a transplant immediately.”
The doctor stares at me expectantly.
I look at my glistening son. His eyes roll back into his head.
“If you give him a kidney, he will probably survive.”
We walk through the crowded waiting room and leave the hospital into the dark, steaming streets.
I carry his limp, burning body through the city.
I buy a red flower with my last few rupees as I cradle the child.
We walk to a bench near a bridge overlooking a violent river and sit down.
My child is burning with heat.
The flowing water looks cold at night and I stare at it.