Throughout Poet’s story, I have been listening to the wind, to my wife on her cell-phone, to the wind, and to my own black and white flashbacks. I have been listening to the sound Poet’s words form as well and have been thinking if anyone can narrate an account worth listening to. We grow up to be different, but not very varied from how we fared as youngsters. I feel guilty for paying an unfair amount of attention to the chronicler.
He has been saying something about the woman (“In red?” I interjected.) he met as a teen, and again as a man in a protest rally.
Oh yeah? I stare at the garden that I have not begun to foster. Elora plays with someone we cannot see. In red? I ask. Poet nods, as if it matters, as if this story has not been chronicled for the nth times, as if Poet had a chance to shift the paradigm.
They met in a rally, at the Five-roads Crossing, cracked their voices screaming out slogans, rested their flags, and went to the cafe that served allegedly the best schnitzel cordon bleu; the entire series of happenstances cheered Poet, and yet his mind played two voices – one asserting that each forkful defeated the purpose of that political rally against consumerism, and the other made his knees jelly, whispered ‘bravo’ and ‘she is out of your league, and so well done’; his fingers held the glass too tautly, and when he saw his political guru passing the café window he lowered his head.
She asked if he would let her pay for the treat. He let her because it was too expensive. That night they exchanged a lot of texts, and Poet shared two of his instant poems. His bed sheet was wrinkled in the morning, and his amble to the toilet was the walk of shame. The other thing Poet would recall and retell about his bedroom was how it blended his mother and summer in his mind, and there could not exist anything else in that room, not even Poet, or any erotic dream about a woman who promised to meet him soon.
The period of time zigzagged into Poet’s life as he lost his job as a copywriter, met his school friends in a reunion he did not want to go to, but the woman goaded him into joining the party, and of course meeting other writers in the city.
The arguments were livid. Poet found that your fame depended on the number of titles you know. He could misquote any author. His fake quotes sounded authentic.
I tell Poet that this seems to be a story written by hormones. He chuckles. Long in our basement, his titter sounds like rainwater and leaves in a gutter; his breath smells of petrichor.
The time touched the fire and the frost; Poet’s hands bore the scald; the unbearable pride for his battle wounds rushed through his veins, so to speak. The state government spread handbills of freedom. There were intellectuals for and against the rulers and the strangers coming into the state, their hands distributing money, weapons, racist messages, and promises of a stable economy.
Poet desired to show his battle wounds to someone who would be emotional about them. Poet showed his hands. More hands than he had. More he showed the woman in red hid her own. The way with the hands, sometimes the shadows they cast on pale painted walls fly like a bird, in folks even, or bark at the other walls, and its growls are silent. The hand shadows enchant us. Enamoured, we hold their source flesh. You can grasp for the fleshy sliver of a myth, but hardly for the stability.
See, dadda. My daughter shows a pair of spotted cameo pink eggs. My wife takes those from her hands. Poet says that they may be swallow eggs, and are less than four-five days old, because after that period swallow eggs turn pasty. Or of warblers, my wife adds. I suggest, because I want to say something against the opinion, or because I want to be hardboiled, that those may belong to adders. Elora whispers, they could be the last dodo eggs; she has been reading about the dodos and passenger pigeons. There reigns finality inside her contention. Evening hatches all around our house; we wait for another half an hour before I turn on the lights; the time space in-between coils around silence, thoughts about bills and savings, and in Poet’s case – past.
Painting by Jacqueline Cole