Ayah was like no one I ever knew and Amma seemed relieved. Almost happy. She smiled more and went out with father, leaving me behind with Ayah who caught pigeons and mynahs, broke their slender necks with her bare hands, and cooked them on a makeshift mud stove in the backyard.
That's when I spot him among the crowd. A faded headband loses its battle with his locks, as if they are too rebellious to conform. The musician is looking straight ahead. He gives the impression of not necessarily watching the surf but simply looking beyond it. His eyes seem to be floating in space.
My childhood home may have been more than an ocean crossing away from the Adriatic. Nevertheless, in the house I grew up in just west of Lake Michigan, summers proved intensely humid; hence, my association of the season with the dizzyingly sweet fragrance of lilacs.
It is not an easy thing to come upon a monument to such loss in the middle of a cloudless November afternoon when your thoughts are on the joys of life. To witness the horrible beauty of green moss thickening over the memories housed here. The terror of names and dates steadily vanishing from human knowledge.
Not one soul from our beloved town, not even my own family, has thought to write. You are the first to extend even the feeblest of niceties and inquire about my well-being. And it means the world to me; for I am left so desperately alone with my thoughts and nobody to share them with.
My traitor tongue whispers tales like wind through mountain hollows, hugging teeth like clouds that cradle snowy peaks. I’ve mapped this topography in abundance, traced familiar trails like lines inked by well-worn pen, stain left to pool at base of storied waters.
His way of extracting laughter from us floated immediately to mind. His bursting into our after-worship classroom, imitating our rector's Harvard yard accent: "Jes-a-us say-ed to he-as disc-ah-ples...," never failed to leave all present in stitches. Learning he'd convinced his fellow high school students that his name was Barrack, like the current president, set something in us free.
Before heading out the door, I grab the wallet and the keys, and a few euro cent coins from the small pile of spare change. My eyes glaze over the underwear, a black pair, and they linger for a long moment on the quiet, scentless stain in the breadth of its twisted form. A strange, delicate sensuality.
‘Where are you from?’ he spoke slowly, digging deep into his thoughts for the only question he could think of to start a conversation, as if that skill of social inter reaction had long ago been placed in a far corner of his mind because he had convinced himself it was of no further use.
Another memory spreads across the field. My parents load me and my siblings into the brown GM van; we sleep on the 14-hour drive to our grandparents’ mountain town filled with lights and purple shadows and cowboys and scents of anise and Chex mix. The year I was born, my grandparents moved west for Grandpa’s job with the railroad.