e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n
e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n
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Or think about how at The Hague, I guess, they say he performed with a 12-year-old Beethoven. That makes him 38. He's been clawing at it for as long as he can remember, since he himself was a boy, at Mannheim, in his father's shadow, and doesn't know any other life. Then here's this scowly child, this little shit, who makes him look like an organ grinder monkey.
That night, after sunset, we were all about ready to leave, but Paati told us to wait. I rolled my eyes and wanted so badly to go home, eat, and sleep. I was sore from sitting around all day. The sky blackened and draped itself over mangroves, like the woolen blankets we would throw over our shoulders on winter nights. Paati told us they were here. We needed to stay inside her circle. I tried saying it wasn't a circle anymore, but words fell from my mouth like dust.
Every evening, I tore vines from the fence and stared up at the splintering eaves on the other side, thinking something so grand shouldn't be allowed to fall apart so utterly, and that I could probably break the attic window if I hit it with a rock. I still looked out from the kitchen each morning while the coffee percolated, but it was curiosity and nothing more. Until I heard her voice, hoarse and quiet, through the divot I left under the planks when I pulled up that big thistle choking out Dad's hostas, I don't think I ever thought seriously about what was over there.
The husband emerges—torso bare, a little paunch on display, clad only in a white dhoti and the sacred thread, suffused in a cloud of incense, and ghee-lit lamp smoke—and anoints everybody, including the cook and the the sweeper, with the lamp's holy smoke. The servants bend reverentially to accept it, touch their master's feet. Roopa instinctively knows this ritual display is of extreme importance. She, too, covers her head and fixes a pious look on her face and lets the holy smoke waft over her. But Sameer's mother scowls and waves him off—"Jaa, jaa, get lost."
She did not know how to dress, which made the idea more interesting as the date approached: what she wouldn't wear, or would. Not the collar; it had served its purpose. She would wear one color, she decided, all one color, with dark shoes; but she couldn't decide on the color and went to thrift stores for ideas. A coral would be good? Or russet? Yes, russet. A grape color like a color on a brave art museum's walls. A color no one else would dare to have on their walls.
I've had it myself a few times. With water. It tastes like licorice. Pedro offers me one sometimes before I go home, when everyone has gone and the bar is empty, if the take for the day has been good and he's in a good mood. I drink it down in a gulp, to please him. That way, I don't have to stay and listen while he tells me his wife doesn't understand him or brush him off when he tries to paw me. But I wish he'd give me the money instead.
She kept drawing little designs on my chest with her finger and rubbing her foot against me. I didn't know what she was trying to accomplish by speaking so much. I was dedicated to my career and ambitions. It felt like she was trying to pull me into something against my will, so I just listened. But all the same, it was somewhat pleasant to hear her voice. I can't deny it. Part of me enjoyed it. Her voice was husky and alluring. Talking was strongly discouraged, but people did it all the time. So eventually, I just said, "That sounds nice." It couldn't hurt to cheer her up with a few words; after all, I knew what I was about, and wouldn't let her entice me into a relationship.