Love seemed at first an easy thing, but ah, the hard awakening. — Hafez On 6 July 1980, Mohammad Ali Khosroshahi woke up when he heard a bird twitter in his garden. It was still dark but he put on his dressing gown, unlocked the back door and went outside. The beech, ash and elm trees stood in silence. He liked this time of the day when the world seemed so fresh and so infinitely beautiful. The entire universe had poured itself into this garden right in front of his eyes. It was the closest he came to prayer. Soon […]
Defamiliarisation—Pehlay Se Marasam Na Sahi, Phir bhi Kabhi Tou You present your back to a hot jet of water; it sears your skin, but you need this. Your curls beg for conditioning but you’re not worried about you hair tonight. You wear your exfoliating gloves, and pour as much Dove as the stretch of your clothed palm permits. Apple-flavoured scent fills the glass cubicle. You make a show to yourself about this being just another shower, about doing customary justice to all parts of your body. You start at your feet, lather at your legs. Under the firm upward strokes of […]
It seems to me there are only two directions anyone can go in life, towards water or towards high ground. From these two vantage points a person can find almost anything they need: food, drink, shelter, company, clarity, vision, repose. Roos know it, sheep know it, birds, insects, even the rain all know it. If there’s deliverance to be had here on earth, you won’t go wrong in finding it if you know which of the two you are heading towards. That’s my advice, that’s what I can offer. Of course, strictly speaking, water and mountain aren’t always opposite directions. […]
Tell me more about New York, her mother says, shifting on the overstuffed couch to make room for Clara. The green leather creaks. You really are in the big smoke now. But then it’s not all that wet, is it? It’s wet enough, Clara answers. Wetter than it is here in Melbourne. Her mother sighs. I don’t know. Last year Osaka had 1624 millimetres. And New York was what, 58 millimetres in February?
After your world ended for the third time, you walked. The gold ring on your right hand heavy and the blue band around your left wrist even heavier. ‘Rip-off fitbits’ was how Intisar had described them three years ago, as the two of you sat on the couch in the living room of your then new apartment, staring down at your clasped black hands.
We were both beckoned to the office, but I had nothing to do with it. I would explain this to Sávio, I decided, as I followed him inside. For once, I would be honest. Sinclair left the door open behind us. We sat in the hard chairs Sávio indicated with a soft wave. I did not look at Sinclair as he crossed his legs beside me. I watched Sávio roost in his big swivel chair. I took out words like stones and turned them over. But before I could arrange them, Sávio turned his monitor to face use, and there […]
The envelope must have been there for days before I found it. It was yellowing at the edges and torn where it had been taped clumsily to the lamppost. When I stopped to peer at it, passers-by cast curious glances at me, then walked on. Two words were scribbled on the front: Free ticket. I stuffed the envelope into my bag and rode home to catch the six o’clock news. When I wheeled my bike through the gate I noticed I had been delivered another envelope. This one was large enough to fit a sheet of paper without folding. I get mail […]
Rebecca was good with houses. Her life had been a series of them—homes, worlds—all remembered with intense fondness, as if the gains she made from those houses never wholly compensated for the loss each time she moved on. Whenever we talked about the past, Rebecca would refer to each house by name, in shorthand for that phase of her life. Northam Road, the semi-detached in Oxford that we shared, meant student days when the world was all before us. Then Hackney, the unrenovated carapace that was Rebecca’s first move into London property, a footing on a ladder that would climb […]
10.00 pm It’s tropics weather. The streets are like hollow stomachs, echoing and ringing from shots. There is a scout group anthem resounding somewhere. A woman is addicted to gardening; she sometimes tastes the flowers. Bright-eyed kids appear in the yellow window of a house and their parents pull them back and then a curtain is closed. 11.00 pm Mongolian ass birth mark. Distilled vodka. The mothers at the pool parties at a nearby house in summer would talk about her mother stamping her lower back and batting her with a rod when she misbehaved. ‘They do that sort […]
I promised my wife that she could throw the first stone. There’s a story called ‘The Lottery’. You might have read it. Carnage, very literary, hell of a twist, which is nothing really, not once you’ve come home late and your wife’s in bed, tears streaming down her face, and she can’t get out, not now, and you think, I know what I need to do.
The boys cackled as Rathu approached, dropping their hoes to watch her run. They spread their legs and squatted down like wrestlers. They lifted imaginary bellies away from imaginary bodies. They howled, performing laughter. The taller one kicked a stone at her as she passed. ‘Budumbudum! Run, Little Elephant, your mother is calling to you!’ Physical exertion has a singular power. The lithe boys, lean and muscled, would usually have intimidated Rathu. But now, her vision red-tinged, she looked at the taunters, at their bodies. Their smooth skin and bright teeth. Full lips and the short hair falling over eyes. The […]
That first night, he reached up into the winter dark. His hand drifted past Sirius, flashing like a huge diamond, a star without equal. He selected Aldebaran and plucked it straight out of the sky. It was effortless the way he pinched the star between his thumb and forefinger, brought it down to Earth and held it dazzling in his palm. The starlight beamed bright between the gaps in his fingers, making us squint as it refracted off the knit of quartz and feldspar in the western granite mountain range. We stood in awe of its beauty. But what to […]