Janak is a writer and a musician who plays rhythm in words. He is interested in exploring the intersections of race, sound, gender and sexuality. Janak is a mixed, Desi/German-Jewish person with a love for improvisatory cooking, baseball, hiking, chaat, sampling and resampling, lingering, cicada sounds and all the other little wonders. Born in Mumbai, Janak was raised in Seattle and is now in school on the East Coast.
There is a spot where we used to smoke.
It’s the dock unfurling into that lonely lake, dark and damp with gentle waves laughing and lapping at its rotten planks.
There is a fork at the end of the dock. Whenever we’d take people there together we’d ask them to choose a side, and beforehand we’d take bets on if they’d go right or left. After they made their loaded choice the winner among us would silently laugh at the other through the charged air. The visitor would never know.
When it was just us, when we were alone, we took turns deciding. I always liked the left better but sometimes I picked the right to throw you off. We had a lot of secrets then. There was a lot we didn’t know.
There is a spot where we used to smoke and we called it ours.
He is in the backseat, is twelve. His mother and father can’t look at each other as they split their son’s world like a map.
“We won’t be living together anymore.”
“It’s just better this way.”
“Your father will be moving out tomorrow.”
Aditya sits stunned behind them. His father’s eyes are fixed on the road. He glances at the rearview and hopes to catch his mother staring back but she isn’t, her eyes are locked straight ahead and so he gazes out the window, at his father’s stoic reflection in the side view mirror and the whirring blur of shivering pink trees beyond the glass. The cherry blossoms had bloomed early but days ago winter swooped back in and the little buds are holding on tight, grasping, clinging to the branches. Aditya wants to scream at his parents but no one ever screams. They are all quiet like a frozen tongue. Cold and soft was how it went, how it always went.
Yet as the car speeds home from the city the engine sputters as if nothing has happened. Aditya is suddenly furious at its disregard of the shattering inside the car. His father jams his foot down on the gas, uncomfortable and restless, and the car feels the anxiety, groans. The roads are empty and the sun is just going down over the purple shadowy hills that vibrate and tremble in the dusk, unnoticed. It’s the time of night when it’s getting dark in earnest, but sneaky, and your eyes don’t really know it but they’re adjusting anyway and all of a sudden you blink and realize that it’s really, truly dark, it’s nighttime for real, and you wonder when, exactly, did all that happen?
“Aditya. Are you listening?”
“Yeah Ma.” His voice is small.
“You are going to stay with one of us during the week, and one of us during the weekend, OK? You’ll still see both of us.” Her distaste for this arrangement is clear.
Aditya says nothing.
His father starts, “Most parents wouldn’t do this, but your mother and I trust you. We think you should be able to make your own decisions. And so you are going to choose who you will live with during the week, and who you will visit on the weekends.”
“It’s up to you, Aditya.”
The man and woman who are his parents wait expectantly.
Where was the choice to make all of this go away? What had he done wrong? This life of constant, back-and-forthing his parents are laying out doesn’t feel real. But no one says April Fool’s in March, and his father just pulls the car into their gravelly driveway and turns off the engine and now it is true, quiet. The sun has set and the birds have begun their nighttime ritual. No one in the car has unbuckled their seatbelt.
“I guess…I guess I’ll live with Dad on the weekdays.” Aditya doesn’t know why he says it, it just bubbles out of him. But he wishes he could snatch the words back the moment they slice through the air because his mother’s eyes finally flash back at his in the rearview mirror, further even than they appear. Simple arithmetic hits Aditya like a storm and he sees the stakes of his choice. Monday (1) Tuesday (2) Wednesday (3) Thursday (4) Friday (5). Saturday (1) Sunday (2). 5 & 2. 5 & 2.
His mother throws off her seatbelt and leaves the car without a word, slamming the door behind her and retreating into the dark purple house that is now far too big. His father sighs, the long, slow, drawn out kind, and then steps onto the neatly manicured green lawn. He pulls a cigarette from the pack in his back pocket and starts to smoke. Aditya watches the lone, shadow lathed figure from the backseat as wispy white haze floats from his father’s head, illuminated by the headlights he forgot to turn off.
Boredom is boring a hole in me in this town I was so desperate to escape. Each day here is the same. Mom’s wilting away and I’m just waiting on empty. Haven’t shed a tear, screamed, cried, nothing.
Being back in this purple house for so long at once feels like childhood, when I really lived here, in one place. Me and Mom and Dad all together. He’s long gone now, moved across the country soon as I started college. This place was crushing in on him and it had been for twenty years. Can’t blame him. He had to get away and I know he’s never coming back.
The days and nights blur together, the hours drag on and on and I wait with guilty indifference. I don’t know if it’s just misplaced grief but I feel the boredom in my body. One night on the leather couch I started shaking and I could hear Mom snoring, I wanted to crawl out of myself so bad, scratch through my skin, molt, slither, something. But my body felt too heavy to move so I sunk down further, and something about the sinking reminded me of when Mom was a dancer and I was young, before the injuries snatched her body and passion away from her. On stage like her limbs had turned to jello she’d slump into another dancer’s shoulder, yielding tenderly, I remember it so clearly, remember watching her all those early years when Dad still lived here and me too, when we’d all travel into the city together for her performances and we’d buy Mom flowers and sit in the front row, meet her afterwards in the lobby, her skin sweaty and sparkling, wild eyes, when we got home she’d put the flowers in a vase on the mantle and she and Dad would giggle and whisper in the room next door while I slept.
I need to start a garden.
The thought somehow reaches me echoing through the deep. Mom used to have stuff growing out back all the time; she threw herself into gardening once she couldn’t dance anymore. She gave herself over to the beds and the plants with vigor, with desperation. It was something. It expanded to fill the hole. She loved how the vines tangled each other. Like limbs. She used to twirl the worms around her fingers. Loved the dirt. She’d spend whole days digging. Now the beds are full of weeds and like a thorn it occurs to me how futile it is to plant anything when in all likelihood I’ll only be here another week or two, just until she finally lets go, before the house is empty and repainted and resold and reinhabited.
But the thought of having something to fill these timeless days is enough. And she’ll like to watch. Weeks ago I moved her from the bedroom upstairs to the ground floor room in the back of the house, filled with sun from tall French doors that open out into the back yard. She’d insisted on it. The light in the morning. The singing nest outside the window. The sight of the garden. It will make her happy to see me working out there, for the fleeting moments she is able to open her eyes.
Mom can barely talk anymore. The slow sickness sparkles all over the sunroom and glitter encroaches on everything like a wave – bookshelves and the computer and the metal posts on her hospital bed and everything else. She sits in the middle of it all, hair gone, color drained from her face, more and more asleep by the minute. But her eyes do open for a moment when she sees me pass through the room with gloves and a shovel and a dandelion digger, heading out back. The corners of her mouth raise, almost imperceptibly. Sun bounces off the gold grit glowing around her, reflecting dots of light in restless motion like a disco ball all over her skin.
Outside I dig in the dirt and pull out root weeds and rot ruthlessly. The soil vibrates with little beings crawling to and fro (and to and fro and to and fro). I don’t know how long I spend in the garden but at some point I look down and the beds are rid of all the detritus. I am about to go back inside and search the basement for seed packets to plant when I hear a call.
A face poking over the fence has spotted me and it’s Miles. Black fuzz scatters his chin and he has let his hair grow out, springing wild and frizzy from his head. He is broader and stronger than when I last saw him that night at the dock but his eyes are the same. Seeing him jolts me like a return. I never came home on college breaks, so desperate to stay away, always hopping from one friend’s house to another, living on campus in the summers. I haven’t thought about him in years, my head preoccupied. Guilt twinges, for forgetting, for letting him float out. Salt washing away in the current.
“Hey, Miles. It’s been forever huh. Good to see you again, man.” I feel stilted and strange and I can’t conjure up much in my flatline voice, bleary like a rubber band stretched and stretched until its elastic is gone. But I walk over to the fence and let him in the gate and we hug hard. “Sorry I’m all dirty. Just been out here in the garden.”
“Cool, cool, you’re all good. You’re done with school now, right? What’re you doing home? You moved back in with your mom?” His face falls when I tell him.
“Damn Aditya. I’m so sorry. Shit…she’s still young.”
I ask Miles if he wants to go see her and he says of course he does. I lead him through the yard and into her room, he kicks off his shoes and steps onto the floorboards.
“Mom?” I ask softly. “Do you remember Miles? He’s here and he wants to see you. Is that OK?”
Her eyes twitch and open in recognition of the name and when she sees his dark, gentle face she really, actually smiles.
“Hey, Ms. Basu. Remember me?”
Her head does a tiny nod.
“Well I just wanted to come say thank you, you know, for all those nights you used to have me over. You were always so welcoming.”
My mother reaches out a bony hand with conviction, takes Miles’s and gives it a long squeeze. Her lips wobble and he grits his teeth, they’re both crying slow small tears. I stand off to the side with numb cloaking my whole body. I wonder what the hell is wrong with me.
She drinks the weekends in slow like syrup.
She misses him terribly.
She hurts hard.
He made his choice.
She drinks the weekends in slow like syrup.
Sour whisky splashes over the rim of her glass as she clinks it against Aditya’s.
“Shit!” She giggles, hand sticky with liquor.
“Mom, are you…really drunk? Are you OK?” Aditya asks cautiously.
"Yeah, yeah. I’m fine! I’m great! Don’t worry bout me, Adi.”
He has never liked the nickname but never told her. Some things are better kept inside. Once you let them out there’s no telling what might follow.
Aditya takes their berry stained plates into the kitchen and loads them into the dishwasher. The blackberry crisp she made for dessert is his favorite – he drags his fingers along the ceramic, gathering the last stray streaks of purple juice like paint and sucking it slow off his fingertips, nails chipped from the hours they spent weeding and planting together earlier in the day. Satisfied he has gotten every last bit he starts the dishwasher.
"Adi!” He walks back to his mother in the dining room, illuminated under the chandelier. “What do you want to do tonight? Cards? Movie? I got a nice bottle of wine for your last night.” She winks at him playfully.
Aditya still finds himself thrown by this looseness that has emerged in his mother since the divorce. It is disorienting. He declines her offer. “No thanks.”
“Come on, lighten up! Let’s have fun. I’m not going to see you for so long.”
Aditya is going off to college the next day – his father is driving him there, it is a Monday.
"Actually I’m hanging out with Miles tonight.”
"Great! He can come over, we can all do something. Cards? Movie?” She loves Miles, the boy Aditya’s age from down the block. She remembers fondly how he used to be over almost every night for dinner when he and Aditya were small. Of course, the divorce and then the pull of adolescence changed all of that. The boys are still joined at the hip but now they’re never in the house.
"No, we’re meeting up at the dock real soon. We’re swimming. I should head over now.”
"Adi, it’s only nine.” His mother’s tone starts to waver. “Why don’t you boys wait on the swimming, do something here for a little while. This house is too quiet these days.” The clock on the wall ticks its agreement.
"Sorry Mom, gotta go.”
Her lip wobbles.
“Mom, come on, it’s—“
“Forget it. Fine. Have fun. I love you.” Her voice is faraway and Aditya faintly wonders if he should stay with her, wonders if he should play cards or watch a movie, but these are all just fleeting thoughts in the back of his mind as he slips on his sandals and grabs his towel and keys and kisses his mother’s forehead and closes the door behind him.
Aditya and Miles light a bowl on the dock. They sit on the right side.
“This is really it man. Can you believe it? Last night here. End of an era.”
The waves swish below the boards. It is calm, peaceful even. It has just gotten dark and their eyes are caught up, sensitive and perceptive to the little movements.
“I just wish you were coming too.” Aditya has tried to talk Miles into college, many times, but Miles is set on music. Everyone has told him to go to school anyway, his parents can afford it. He figures he’s just as well without a degree.
Miles shrugs. “I’m happy here.” Aditya can’t imagine what it would feel like, to say that and really believe it. Their small town squeezes in on him relentlessly, pressure growing in his gut like a confetti cannon. “Besides, by the time you’re through with college I’ll be a big shot. Hot chicks on both arms, sold out shows, star shit, you know what I’m saying?” Miles nudges Aditya, who raises a skeptical eyebrow.
“Whatever you say, dude.” Aditya chuckles and flicks the flame from the lighter into the green glass piece, dirty with blackened residue. Herb crackles with a hollow sound as he sucks smoke into his mouth.
“Shit! I’ve got a song to show you. Check it.” Miles pulls his cassette player out of his nylon backpack, pops a tape in and fast-forwards through a few songs until he reaches the one he wants. Click.
Fuzzy brass starts to crawl out of the speakers. Miles makes rock music, hard, loud, in-your-face punk shit but all he ever listens to is old big band jazz, music whose players are long dead and lived in an era he’d never know. Aditya loves that about his friend; he secretly can’t stand Miles’s thrashing live shows that he attends out of obligation. But he likes the songs Miles shows him late on the dock.
The lazy night buzzes along like a fly in molasses. Aditya starts to talk again, over the music. His words are helium. Fill up the air.
“Hey man so what’s your plan for next year? Are you really just gonna keep living at home? Do you have gigs and shit lined up? I just want to make sure that---“
“Aditya, shut up.” Miles scrunches up his face, exhales. “Let’s just listen to the song, yeah?”
Yeah. Aditya obliges. The drums are in and the whole band is blowing frantically. Miles finishes the bowl and blows out the ash over the side of the dock, gray dust floating away into the water. He closes his eyes and they listen side by side, not saying a word for the song’s entire twelve minute duration.
When the music ends, Miles murmurs, “That’s a special song right there man. A real magic song.”Aditya lets the words linger.
“Let’s swim,” he finally says.
They peel off their shirts and jump off the end of the right side of the dock, landing with two gentle splashes. The two dark slippery shadows swim in the shallows. Bioluminescence erupts all around them like it sometimes does on those lucky summer nights and their bodies glide together in the light.
I hand Miles a beer and open one for myself too as we sit on the front porch. The sun is setting in the hills and he is filling me in on his life. He’s been living at home the past four years, still trying to make it in the music world. He has a handful of private guitar students, plays a show or two every week in the city, works at a bar late nights.
He’s happy, he says, and he seems it. Content. Satisfied. Stable.
The conversation flips to me and he asks reluctantly: “How long are the doctors giving her?”
I sigh. “I really don’t know man. Every time they come they say only another couple days, maybe a week, but she just keeps going and going. I don’t know how she’s doing it.”
We are silent as the beer swishes around in the cans.
"You know,” I start, “I think she always wished you were her son.”
“What’re you talking about?”
“She loved talking with you about jazz, dance, music. Yeah man, I remember some of those nights after you’d leave - like when we were really young, maybe eight or nine – she’d just keep saying to Dad, ‘Miles is one helluva kid.’ Over and over man. She was always raving about you. And then after the divorce I was never here, you know? And you were always right down the street.”
“But it’s not like I ever came over to see her or anything when you were at your Dad’s. And once we started smoking we were always just at the dock on the weekends.”
“I know. She probably just wished it had all been different. If you’d been her kid maybe you would have…” I sigh and shake my head. “It’s all just in the past now. It doesn’t matter.”
Miles leaves it be.
We swirl the dregs of our drinks.
We sit on.
“Miles, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
He raises an eyebrow but does not prompt. I continue.
“I feel so hollow right now it’s like there’s nothing inside of me. Mom is going to die any day and all I can feel is bored. Everything here is exactly the same as when I left four years ago. It’s so mind numbing. I’ve lost track of the days, I lose track of the hours, I just…” I trail off.
Miles nods his head, understanding. “You gotta get out of the house Aditya. At least just for a little. Trust me man – it’ll be good for you. Come on, let’s go to the city tonight.”
My body feels too heavy to move but I know Miles is right. Still, I try to talk him out of the idea. But he is adamant and unrelenting and so soon we are in his car, speeding through the night into the city glow.
Inside the tent the moon is bright - it pushes its way in, past the taut walls of ripstop nylon and mesh. Wind slices through the summer air; it too comes in. Aditya and his father lie side by side like matchsticks, their chests softly rising and falling with the light breath that comes in that bleary, delirious pre-sleep state when reality starts to gently blur onto itself.
"Aditya?” His father mumbles.
His father slurs with sleep. “I know breakups are hard. You remember how it was with your mother and me…” He seems to be searching for the words. “And, well, I know that you and Mira were close.” His voice languid through the tent. “I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you need to talk or anything, OK son?”
Aditya hasn’t heard his father speak to him like this before, not with this note of…what is that, that…tenderness? in his voice. He’s changed since the divorce. Gentler, softer, like he’s aged thirty years and become a child again all at once. Aditya has watched it happen; leaving his apartment every weekend has made Aditya notice the little differences in his father every time he returns.
“Thanks Dad.” Aditya knows won’t talk to his father about Mira. There’s too much his father doesn’t know to ever understand the last two months of eleventh grade, the confusion and the hurt. Aditya feels such loneliness. And as they lie together in the tent he feels it emanating off his father too. His father used to bring people by their new apartment at night, women with glowing legs and that same empty hue in their eyes that Aditya recognized in his father’s. Sometimes curiosity would lead him to stay up into the late hours and listen to them making love once his father thought he was asleep and the night sky was creeping in under the curtains. They’d moan and grunt and then it’d be over. Clothes quickly shuffled back on. In those moments his father felt so far away.
Now Aditya’s father is asleep. The warm air in the tent feels stale with recycled breath. Aditya lays his lips to the soft skin on the inside of his own wrist, brushing the veins gently, tracing like a stencil. He thinks of Mira, Mira’s lips. And his veins are pulsing with blood and he can’t tell where his mouth ends and wrist begins.
Suddenly he is wide awake so he unzips the door flap and slides into his boots, steps outside. He walks through the scattering of trees guided by his feet and their innate awareness of obstacles: knobbly roots, thick logs on the ground. Rich wood smell saturates the air as he reaches a clearing, an inexplicably bare section of forest with no branches above. The trees stand straight and stiff around him as they protrude from the fleshy ground. Overhead the entire sky flashes bright with light so fluorescent that it feels artificial. Lightning. The trees throb as the light claps through them and then it begins to rain and thunder. Aditya has closed his eyes and the warm drops of water on his forehead jolt them open. He smiles wildly at the unexpected bliss, the wetness of his skin stretched tight across his back. He peels his shirt away so he can swim in the night sky. His eyes close again, his head drips back and his mouth opens just a little bit as he floats with the trees --
And. Realizes. He is lost. Where is the tent? Which way had he come? He is in the woods in the middle of a summer storm and he’s scared, he’s scared, screaming at the top of his lungs, screaming til someone comes, screaming, screaming.
His father following the sound running over muddy ground grabs Aditya from behind, holds him close and his father’s body is warm against Aditya’s shaking skin covered with cold fright and goose-flesh. Skies are open and his father whispers “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. Come on now son, let’s go.”
As they walk back to the tent Aditya holds on tight and shivering they climb back in together.
They huddle in silence for a minute or two.
“What the hell were you doing out there?” His father asks softly.
“I really don’t know. I couldn’t sleep. I just had to get out.”
The slow lightning flashes in and the rain hammers down.
Aditya inches over on the ground into the curve of his father’s body. There’s a softness there, there where it is warm. He falls asleep, skin electric.
We end up at a club that Miles says he goes to all the time. There is samba blasting from the speakers. Women glide across the floor twirling in perpetual motion and all the colors in the club are so bright that they burst. We’re on our fourth drink when two women (sisters, they tell us) tap us on the shoulder. Soon we each have one of them on our arms, melting into each other on the dance floor, getting lost in their perfume, the motion of their bodies grinding slowly up against ours, hot and sticky in the humid room.
The world is spinning when me and Miles step outside. It has started to rain hard, warm drunk syrupy rain. We get back in Miles’s Toyota and after a few tries he manages to thrust the key into the ignition and starts the car. The engine grunts, then sputters to life and we are off, we are off, heading home.
Horns blare in the fluorescence of the streetlights, blurring grainy onto themselves, smothered in thick Vaseline swirling round and round and to and fro (and to and fro and to and fro). Rain on the aluminum roof drums in tongues; I sink into the front seat and life moves in half time. Skylight shrouds Miles’s frizzy halo of hair, like the glow that used to filter in beneath my curtains when Dad thought I was asleep.
At the red light I am high on the shadows dancing on Miles’s face and neon time at a standstill. Only for an instant.
And then rain comes gushing in and the city roar echoes and it is too much, it is all too much. I see Mom’s deep brown eyes as she’s lying in the bed in the middle of her room, glitter blanketing everything, eyes almost covered and the rest soon to follow. I can barely see her beneath the gold, she’s so far and soon she’ll be gone. And there’s so much lost time. 5 & 2. Fuck. Fuck. 5 & 2. Fuck.
And wailing and there’s dew on the dashboard. Miles veers hard right onto an unlit street and pulls the car onto crunchy gravel and broken glass. My sobbing is shaking the seats and my face is slack, he wraps me in arms and the sobs continue and then sloppy desperate lips are kissing me everywhere – mouth forehead stomach lips shoulders stomach thighs hips.
I am soaring as I sink.
My mouth opens slightly, I close my eyes.
His head bobs.
I drip mine back.
Feet kicking and I cannot stop.
We drive home in silence and crickets. When Miles pulls up to the purple house it seems so big I’m scared I will be swallowed. The thought of sleeping in such enormous stillness with her there in the sunroom terrifies me. Miles can tell. He asks softly do I need company, do I want him to spend the night and I give a tiny nod. I jangle my keys off my belt loop, unlock the door. Click. We enter.
When Miles lies on the couch I tell him to sleep with me in the bed. I need to be held. It is hot in my bedroom where we spoon sweaty like broken matchsticks, limbs wrapped and tangled. There is a hardness growing in the curve of my body and I’m twirling a curl of his hair around my fingertip and then we are kissing again, peeling off each other’s clothes, our brown bodies are melding, shining salty in the moonglow beneath the curtains, jazz is seeping from the woodwork, the creaking wooden bedframe, old floorboards, we are clutching each other we blur onto ourselves and he reaches for the Vaseline. And I freeze.
Miles stops. “Aditya? What’s wrong?”
There is glitter in his soft eyes.
"What….what are we doing?” I whisper.
"Oh Aditya. Again?” Miles shakes his head sadly.
"My Mom is dying down the hall and this is what I do? Come here with you, doing…doing—“
“Doing what, Aditya? Fucking me? Just like last time, right?” Hurt washes over Miles’s face like a storm. “You think it was a mystery, why I haven’t seen you since that last night at the dock? Didn’t even hear from you once these last four years. God, I missed you. And you never called. Shame? Guilt? Fear? What was it?”
I hang my head and knot my hands in my hair. My eyes are welling up and so I shut them tight and there are fireworks in the dark behind my closed eyelids. I want to say something to Miles but I can’t, can’t break the quiet. So I just watch the fireworks dance around each other, erupt apart and pull back together and splinter, floating in the everywhere blackness as I hear Miles pull on his shorts, his belt, his shirt, his socks, his shoes and close the door behind him.
It’s late, late, late and he sprints to the dock. It is hot enough to sweat. He is wearing a shirt that his ex-girlfriend made for him when he was hers and she was his, when gestures like that might have stirred his heart enough. As he runs he breathes heavily. The wooden slats splinter and groan under his feet but they, along with his breathing, are the only sounds in that quiet night.
When he reaches the fork off the pier he chooses left, the darker side, the longer side, farther from the bright lights on the shore. It’s the side he always wants to sit on. Others sometimes choose differently.
He has gotten so fucking high and everything’s a blur but he knows what to play. He came prepared: a Walkman and a single cassette. Creaky dirty cracked case, well loved, worn weary. He’s listened hundreds of times since an old friend gave him the tape years ago. Masterpieces by Ellington. The case opens and it falls into his outstretched hand, waiting, and his desperate fingers paw the Walkman door open and then insert the tape with more tenderness than they seem capable of. Click.
Fast forward through the first two tracks and he knows now just where to stop. Music starts to crackle its fuzzy warmth through the old speaker: The Tattooed Bride. He sighs and lies back, closing his eyes, opening his mouth slightly and dripping his head over the edge of the dock so his hair almost grazes the waves. That way he can hear the water too.
The band makes its solemn entrance as the clarinet leads the trumpets in, squelching and gritty. Then that all falls away to piano plunking in duet with the upright bass, that great big fiddle. They play around with each other, trading jabs back and forth and to and fro (and to and fro and to and fro). Then the drums kick in, the rest soon to follow.
Trumpets. Trombones. Horns blare in the fluorescence of the midnight. His eyes start to see double, triple, quadruple, he gets lost trying to count. The stars are falling all around him out of the bruised purple sky and he’s splattered in dustlight. The rolling water by his head conducts it all and the players bang on the inside of the speaker. The ever quickening horns want out. Trombones spar copper with the trumpets quick and bright and the plastic box stains to convey, strains to contain it all.
He sits up, straightens his gaze.
Sits up, straightens his gaze.
Sits up, straightens his gaze.
Straightens his gaze.
Straightens his gaze.
That night I dream we are all sitting in this auditorium, even Dad. Rows of seats slope down to a flat stage in the center of the room and there’s two chairs down there. She’s sitting in one of them and she’s healthy again, her hair is black, full and long and dancing down her back, she’s smiling through the gap in her teeth. It’s just like the memories. And we all know somehow that this is the last of it. Everyone’s taking turns sitting across from her, filing down the aisles carrying stories like ants hefting crumbs. She nods, laughs, cries and we nod, laugh, cry. How could we not? The curtains glitter around the clock and menace the close.
In the garden the next day I plant row upon row of seedlings – beans, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. The shining soil is warm around my hands and I’m tripping over natural. Ma has opened her eyes, she’s watching me and smiling from the sunroom, beaming big through the doors. When I go in she whispers I love you Adi in my ear and I say Ma I love you too so much Ma I love you too and guilt bubbles in the salty shallows and I say I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry and brush my mouth over her blue veins and her amber skin. I know that once she dies I have to get away. I’m never coming back here. When I go outside again I root sticks of bamboo in the soil so when the tendrils come in behind the empty house they will have something to dance with.