I wandered into a wedding. Whose was it? The home was mine, I knew the rooms, the cushions I’d sat on, been loved in the curtains, the bedclothes, the bathtub woke at the touch of my feet, the floor felt cold, monsoon-filled, tingly. The lawns knew me and the swing leaned, rising as I sat and wished myself to fly. Up. Higher, I said. It brought me back. No more. The extremity of happiness is unhappy, it said. I agreed and jumped off, grazing my knee as of old in meeting again, my friend gravel. The home was mine.
I peered into the hall – it did not know me, as my spaces did. The storerooms knew me better. The windowsills and under-the-bed sleeping spaces, behind sofas and beneath books. I looked into the hall and saw the people, smiling, screaming, happy crowds. Arms on waists, around shoulders, holding hands, slowly tracing circles on dry, paper-skin. Little drawings of love. A breath drawn as the pipes played and in a second of heaven’s light I saw her – the bride. The red, red bride with yellow tiger stripes, curving over her body, gripping her hips, twirling like flower chains over her ankles, ending in a toe where he put on her his ring. And looked up. Her eyes were in his. The world stopped. The paper-hands, lipstick-mouths, roving hands stood still, as her light brown vision slowly opened his – wider, more beautiful, like licking an ice-cream cone on a melty summer day, and a piece of his soul trickled out. My breath caught and I reached, unknowing, for a hand to hold. For an arm around my waist. For eyes to search mine. For a mind to open me.
But the moment was finished. The clock ticked again. The bride was given away. The crowd jostled and in jostling I found myself touched, pushed against bodies, against warmth. I was afraid and pulled myself about me, not to let touch, or to let lean, or even worse to let know. To let love.
Love. Word of myriad meanings. Bride-love, body-love, mind-love. To feel connected, As though the monsoon-floor that loved me were to come alive, that the gravel would reach out and touch my knee. All different love.
I slowly made my way to the kitchen – the warmth of stove, the smell of fish, a view from the window to the world outside. I heard the feast in the dining hall – I smelt the food, I tasted its pungent odour and rolled it on my tongue, as I began to soak the dishes, one by one, systematic, in soap and sudsy water. And the fear gripped me. Determined, I worked. Soaking, washing, drying. Up on the drying rack. It was a question of waiting. And then the night would be mine. No more people to wait for, only the wind, and me. The feast went on. The bodies, the warmth, the firelight that couldn’t pass my suit of armour.
I heard them leave. One by one. The jostling was over. The warmth would be gone. Again. Desperate, I left the dishes and looked in the mirror. A comb here, a pull there. I walked into the living room, where the clink of coffee cups and silver trays was slowly dwindling. I sat down. Trembling.
He was not my brother. Nor my father, not lover, not husband. Did he own this home, I wondered? He was speaking as though he did. Mirror-man, in speech he turned, as though to include me, to ask my opinion, to want to know, and I knew in some life past I had thrown caution to the winds and said to him – not brother, not father, not lover, nor husband – build me a home . He built two. Alike. Mirrored on opposite banks of a tropical torrent that no one could ford. A home with an attic, a ceiling and floors. A home with a cellar and trees to fell. Now he turned to me and said, “Doing dishes are you?”
“Come along, I’ll help.”
A candlelit spark of firelight returned as I dried dishes for a stranger. He asked me questions. Nodded as I spoke. Not brother, not father, nor lover – two sexless hands, passing dishes, two genderless minds starved for meaning and talk. No more a stranger. I heard the last guests leave. Go back home. To family. To friends. To lovers and husbands and wives. Half a sink still full of dishes. A voice called his name and I turned around. And basked for a second in the thread of connection – in fairylight and sprinkle-powder. I waved goodbye as he left, held in arms, lips curving in expectation, the last to leave, the happiest – and the warmth of his glow lit up my eyes, and stuck in my throat like the aftertaste of red-wine.
Until I went back. And washed it down. In the sudsy water of dishes. The floor no longer knew me. The house was old again. The gravel turned cold as its guests were gone and its earthworms needed its hug. The bedclothes asked why I was lonely. I had no answers. None. Only echoes through an empty home – and the borrowed sounds of other people’s love.