Instead of sorries, offers of ice cream
swirl between our barely open doors.
April 19, 2022
Joint at the hip by my mother’s death, dad and I
fight like cats in heat. To become more mother,
I nag him about his smoking. I can still smell
the hospital’s bleach where his jittering hand steadied
her feeding tube, except I was barely there. I’ll never
question if he employed all his money and mind
to save her. He’ll never ask why I couldn’t leave
college for her bedside. Like an expletive withheld,
a cigarette stays pressed between his lips
and on his mind, confidence that we are now one marriage
each away from happiness. I populate shaadi profiles to find a man
least like him and for him to land a wife most like mother.
We lock horns hunting for midnight nibbles and he’s certain
I’ve been sleeping around. I have been sleeping a lot
under the shroud of mum’s silk dupatta. Tonight he’s a widower
with xxx in his web cache. Tonight I am a too-short skirt
numbed by sloppy missionary. To become more mother,
he buys me hot breakfast. How he pirouettes his breath
to balance the sambar packet, flimsy as a house of cards.
Not a drop spills. We never spill a drop of liquid
grief except on the Sunday he yelled, You never loved her,
and I yelled back, Fuck. Go fuck yourself, my virginal F word
to him like a punch made of freedom and the spirit
that is perhaps still derailing my mum’s soul
from reaching heaven. Instead of sorries, offers of ice cream
swirl between our barely open doors. Instead, he smokes double.
Instead her maiden name, two syllables that could mean
she who ran or a rebel, I got them inked on my ankle.
That night slouched in figure four on the pot, I nursed
my open-wound with saline and excavated from my bra,
my first ever cigarette. Sweaty, limp, coping stick
stolen from his drawer. I inhaled a long inhale,
believing the longer I held it in, the more it would free me.
But my throat gave in. I coughed out a big cloud,
and the girl she once was, was at once
covered in our one smoke.