DEPARTURE TIME FOR NOT-A-COUPLE
We have prepared for this moment for weeks.
We must not appear like a romantic couple.
Why should we? We aren’t one.
Will you be brave when I’ll be gone?
As brave as a lone leaf on a dry winter branch.
Will you remember to look after yourself?
As much as I need to so that I miss your poetry.
Remember me to your fiancée.
Do pass on my best regards to your husband.
The last hurried sip. The froth of the coffee sticks to the brim of the cup, bearing the imprint of his almond-smelling lips. His fingers fidget around the handle of the cup as a fisherman holding on to his tiny boat in the wake of a storm, looking for direction, praying for safe anchorage.
We look at each other and smile a smile that we have never smiled before.
The last macaron on the chocolate gateaux waits to be consumed. He pushes away the used dessert spoon, picks up the macaron with his impatient fingers and brings it close to me. I open my mouth like a baby bird in an afternoon nest, too hungry to screech, until the mother arrives to plop food inside my tender red mouth.
A million words run amok on the table before us.
He pushes the chair back and stands up. His hands are inside the trouser pockets. I take a step closer. My forehead can touch his shoulder. But we don’t get any closer.
Breath lingers between us.
The kiss that hangs in the space in between.
The tight hug which we could have.
Have I said all that I wanted to?
You tried your best, but the unsaid will always prevail over the said. The real operates on the margins of language.
THEY DO THEIR THINGS, WE DO OURS
They read Foucault each night after dinner.
We crib about our stinky toilet and the yellow urine-stained commode.
They collect pamphlets of fire and warm their hearts in it.
We grumble over the shortage of logwood.
They march to the town square on Sunday mornings, their chins holding up centuries of feats.
We curl under smelly blankets, his waist bare when I pull it towards me, my feet cold when he pulls it under his arms.
They count stars on moonless nights and pinch tails of comets.
We push our heads through cobwebs when we have to reach for the dusty suitcase in the loft.
They pass the salad bowl during meals and balance the spinach on the fork.
We tear through the flat, round wheat bread and burp with our mouths open, the smell of bitter gourd darting out from between our patchy teeth.
They, “hmm, hmm” when they party, their eyebrows a dingy boat on the high seas, blobbing up and down.
We, “What? Why?” when we go for groceries, our lips yink-yank at the corners like the arms of a hot tong in the hands of a coal factory worker.
Their fingers play the orchestra when they speak. Their teeth are as neatly arranged as a series of mini fountains in the lush Mughal Gardens of India. Their lips zumba when they kiss.
Our tongues are coated with onion peel when we wag our tails.
But that’s fine, we say.
We do our things, they theirs.
Shrutidhora P. Mohor (she/her) is an author from India writing literary fiction.