When will it rain?

Mridula Koshy

She drops us in a depression scratched into the base of the kitchen wall, outside the London Blessing Party Hall Your Wedding Needs Are Ours. Ahead of us stretches the empty lot, then Khirki Gaanv. Behind us, on the other side of the wall, ten hundred thousand lights are not lit at Select City Mall.

A rip current travelling the planet’s skin sends its tremors ahead. We quake. We cling to that wall. But the tide subsides in the fine mesh of Khirki’s labyrinthine turns, so that crossing the empty lot it laps us, milk lapping a saucer. How do I know milk lapping a saucer? I dreamed it in the womb, my mother’s dream.

Little gusts remain to kick and fuss, to blow softly into our blind eyes the news: plaster and oil, salt and cud of grass, thread of down loosened in flight from young bird’s breast. Twitch nose and sniff for meaning.

The dissipated tide gathers force, roars its growth. We are flat, not against the wall, but fused to it. She stands over us. We think it must stop now, it cannot draw closer; closer and its dragon scales shine and metal heat sickles us, now we are in its belly. Still the roar grows. Till it stands still. This is the world we will inhabit. But no, it recedes.

She curls us to her with her tongue, licks the wet from our birth. Her tongue, it tells us, who have lived till now, six-headed and many limbed. What? We yawn our gape: one ear pointed north, is gone.

We, squirming tumble, submit. Five headed, and how many limbs? The smell of ginger leaves dragging himself across the lot on three. Already he is a shimmer there, watching us forget him.

She comforts us with a story. This dirt that blows will turn to mud come the next rain. Swamp us in moist music. She promises new smells and a new season. An ecstasy of wagging threatens to shake us loose from our mouthful. She frets her story to do more, to warn us. When the dust shapes into metal and roar, when the tide advances…. But we won’t listen. We are busy learning to suck while swallowing while defeating the weight of our tongue while kneading while puling.

We solve the mystery of the sun..

Eagerness in our quivering knees. She leads us between yellow walls. Twist, she barks. Slop pots empty from overhead. She is nose lost in fetid piles. We are curious. So this is her bliss. Everywhere small lights quench. Sigh and rustle, man and woman embrace. The moon slides across the carom board sky. Onward the joy. Bound, stumble, prostrate. Feel it passing over us, gray lace, the trailing of night’s hem.

Day. And night. Day.

She takes us somewhere—the place where there was a shimmer, and ginger. There is nothing, just a bloating. She tries again to teach us. We learn flattening, slinking. She, poor storyteller, is wisdom.

Then how is it the two in the middle—always quarrelling over the same teat—shrivel together, grow bones? We, two remaining, find each other across the sudden chasm between far teats, synchronize our heat beats.

Time is an accordion that never opening, closes. She tells us, Learn to read. Outside the meat shop, H-a-la-l. The rooster pecks at sinew glistening on cement floor. The curved knife is straddled to halve, quarter, no more. Next door—East West Suits Fusion Frocks. We halt our way through N-I-G-H-T-A-N-G-A-L-E-R-O-S-E.

Are these the words for the man who stands under them, arms curved to call us? What is that in his arm? Let those among you who are without curiosity remain blameless. We don’t yet know to read DL2CAA0009 crowned with silver, festooned with the wrong flower.

Torn petals of marigold, drift between us. My heart is a stranger I watch take a step and then two, and the arm carves a smile there, in the belly, now spills a mass, dark into the dust. Wields a stick wields a nail driven through yields a shoulder yields a last step, no more. Silver speeds and the band plays bouncing notes from trombones, cymbals, boys with drums. Rat-tat-tat. N-I-G-H-T-A-N-G-A-L-E-R-O-S-E rolls ponderously over the dark dust. The rooster finds nothing, not gristle.

She noses me from her. I lay my head on the ground. Nnnnnn, I whimper. She snaps her teeth at me to go where I smell what the rooster couldn’t see. When I turn the walls have finished leaning in; she dwindles in the distance.

I go, back to the beginning. Under the cracked sky the leer of balcony railing overhanging crooked streets turning. I turn their alphabet shapes—L, S and T, cross the empty lot, find the depression scratched into the base of London Blessing Party Hall Your Wedding Needs Are Ours. I read the shape of the beginning the shape of the ending. I turn and turn and turn this map, my tail to my nose to my tail, searching for many heads many limbs. I tamp the ground. Here it comes now, my thinking, here it comes one ear pointing north, not yielding. I want to see the next rain.

Mridula Koshy is the author of If It Is Sweet.

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