Once, I was not a watcher but out in the electric blue
Harshal, the forgotten daughter of Ajji’s youngest sister, died at 20. Legend says her boyfriend hung her because she did not want to marry him. I imagine her like this:
She walks through the market on Kalidasa Road, smelling the fresh chillies, the spice floating into her nostrils. She asks a vendor about the price of bitter gourd, then keeps walking, taking in the luster of mangoes and dates and okra, twirling in the summer light. Dust gathers beneath her feet, onto her sandals; the feeling reminds her of days spent in the sandbox as a child at her parents’ first apartment in Bangalore. Her toes swimming in the pleasant layered cold. The exquisite aloneness. In the sandbox she birthed monsters and angels, gave them names. Back in her kitchen she fills a teapot with water and places it on the stove. She drops cardamom and clove in the translucent pool. The water shimmers. She grates the ginger, cuts her finger, wraps it in a napkin. The blood gleams, spills out, evidence of her being. She stands at the window and peers down at the city throbbing between lives, and auto rickshaws beep, pushing past cows and throngs of people, and she wants to know where they’re all going, and she pretends she does. Her mother hasn’t come back from work yet; her mother hasn’t weighted the room down with her sadness so for now Harshal dreams. She watches a man carrying a handful of dates into an auto rickshaw and pretends he’s her father, older now, an actor in absurdist local plays on the weekends. For today’s show he’s playing a grumpy market vendor. She laughs at the ridiculousness of her story and peels away from the window. She throws milk and honey into the teapot and glides in her socks across the hardwood floors. She twirls as she did long ago in that first apartment, spinning long and hard enough to make herself dizzy. Soon the teapot whistles, sounding a tune, a siren screaming, the sound of something so alive.
Outside my window neighborhood kids throw oranges. Pieces of peel like fragments of burning sun. Lawn chairs face each other like lovers. The old woman stands with her cane near the cul-de-sac. Garbage spills out the trash can. After some time, not much can be contained. Everything reeks of spillage. I smell memories like a salty marinade. Reaching in through the glass. Running brothers crash together by accident. A moment of linkage so brief it might be illusion. Narratives colliding. I want to tell you mine. Where to begin? Once, I was young too. Once, I was not a watcher but out in the electric blue, the world coiling tight around me like it wanted me to stay.