Sign of the Times

He brought me a book of poems on his return, a handbook of scripture written around the city of love. Everything is broken, untended, jamun trees lying upturned reaching out to the sky. It’s been three days since betrayal came home and perched itself on the sofa, there’s one place less to sit. From the kitchen window, I see a small gully going into a tree, it’s quiet and open and unceasing to those who have the patience to stay here and watch. It doesn’t make sense anymore, the numbers don’t add up, and why, exactly, do I need saffron in my soap? Unconvinced, I pick up the strewn pillows every morning in the hope that tidying will make a small part of the country clean, untouched by dust, tears, blood. It has been an unravelling day. Deep breaths. Okay? Yes. 3. 2. 1. Good. The cooker is animated, a sweep of the floor is required, how many teaspoons of sugar in your milkshake, please? His eyes hurt and I look through the shelf for rose water, then lavender, vetiver, mogra, until I pick the right one, he is gone. How am I supposed to search for him, what keywords to type, all of them are now spent. I don’t read the poems from the city of love, his handwritten note on the first page says I must enjoy them. Never mind. Treat the chicken in buttermilk, slice the mangoes in a pretty manner, carefully click on the link with no trigger warning. A golden dome, the age old story of ascending to heaven, the electricity trips. It is now dark. It is now hot. It is now sweaty. It is now suffocating. It is now itchy. It is now unbearable. It is now the season of tossing wishes over one’s back, sending them into the past instead of into the future while nibbling on an ice apple, or two, or three. There are no screams. Books tower on the fence of a friend’s house. She has been leaving them out there and stacking them up as she tears through them. We are now going to buy terracotta pots, he has informed me. It is time. The switchboard has smudges of black on it, someone was here, there was a knocking from the inside, and now we sit here stitching old clothes to make them fit into the new times. Inside a story, a woman grieves the loss of her brother; he is alive in the same city, he never comes home. Turmeric milk. Orange soda. Potato starch. Inside another story, a King wants a big, new, shiny, house. The elves gather round a silver fire, sing a song in perfect notes, and send the song away on the back of a doe into the forest. The doe gallops like the breeze. A script is running on a website, tracking vials. The doe continues to gallop. His eyes have turned red and I weep with my own for him. The doe continues to gallop. I have bitten off all my nails, writing hurts a little. The doe continues to gallop.

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