Winter nights, when Delhi is shrouded in dense fog. The other side of the bed is neat, uncomplicated. Your message on my phone: My flight is delayed.
I walk in the verandah, white clots of dreams behind my eyes. The screen saver on my laptop has changed from mountains to oceans to volcanoes and craters. Places we have visited in what seems like another century and we brought the skyline back, fitted it in this all bone-white house. I lower my breathing; you are here, and you are not here. Sometimes I wish to hit my head and start all over.
Let’s get out this weekend, you say and light a cigarette. Your eyes look darker in the dim lighting of our living room. Thick, maroon drapes pulled away, one milky window between us. Somewhere in the mountains, you say, and inhale deeply, pass the cigarette to me. A whiff of clove-flavored smoke mixed with your aftershave and I want to believe you. Our eyes meet for a flash. Let’s just stay here, you retract and wave your hand in dismissal. It’s a busy month.
An old wine stain shines on the rug, brightens the pain.
Outside the sky is a mess of clouds when I go for a run. The layer of smog like a giant spaceship prevents the sunshine from permeating our skin. Prevents anyone from talking to us from another world. I feel a slight pain on the left side of my abdomen, but I keep going, past the milkmen and hawkers, orphans sleeping under the bridge, piercing the light frost across Delhi’s chest, as if it’s supposed to reveal a heart, shivering, waiting to be embraced.
Over the weekend, you spend most of your time in the study and we end up visiting Chandni Chowk. The old charm of the capital dripping in syrup and curry from top to bottom. On our way back in Uber: traffic with a side of mashup Bollywood songs. The sugar settling in my stomach, your light beard poking my cheeks. I run my finger on your shoulders, your hands until you smile and withdraw. We weren’t always like this, once we had kissed all the way to our home. Ahead of us, the brake lights flicker like laser dots pointing, crisscrossing rays trying to connect with someone, somewhere.
We should try IVF, you say, and smooth the crease on your khakis.
On the New Year’s Eve, the fog leaves us. I call you at work to thank for the flowers you left by my bedside. You say you have made reservations in a Japanese restaurant in Connaught Place, for the evening. A thin ray of sunlight falls at my feet. I glance at the bouquet of lilies, and a coupon for an hour long ASMR session. I sulk at the number of days you’re going to be away on business, from me, from us, in exchange.
My ASMR therapist whispers to imagine countless rose petals falling from the sky, filling light in every cell of my skin. I feel her breath, her touch so light that my body relaxes and blooms, expands and expands with the want to cry.
On my way back, electricity shoots through the sky. I pull the unusual, wet afternoon apart by tearing fresh garlic bread. Musk in the air, in my mouth. Delhi, loose between her legs, drenched and sexy, calling out to her lover.
I am searing, I want you to swallow me whole.
After the first try at IVF, you take me out to Janpath, the street bazaar. A riot of colors too wild to focus, branches heavy with singing koels. A slosh in my belly, my body amplified by hormones. Cells tumbling, figuring out their biology, geometry, finding an opening. We bargain, we buy dupattas and scarves. Rainbow colors.
Ahead of us, a group of monks, their red robes and shining heads, little suns. I want to ask them how to meditate, how to let go the needs of a body, how to not think about leaving a legacy. You click a picture. Blue skies, newborn skin of March, a yellow euphony.
In distance, police sirens are at work. Delhi illuminated with wanting. I hear you come through the front door. You say you want to smoke but you won’t, we should be healthy parents. I notice a gray curl above your left ear, the way it sits, delicate, like a new leaf and I forget where I am.
I prop pillows on the bed, to support my slightly grown belly. We are wearing May and the heat wave of Delhi. You put your arms around me. I hold your face. You talk about baby names, a new paint on the walls, your travel for the year, your eyes staring at the wall behind me. I move my hands away from your face and press on your shoulders, but you don’t seem to notice, and I realize the span of years in the space between us, the weaning fibers of love. I start rubbing your back, feeling your beautiful muscles as if I am a ruin already, as if I want to take root in you, as if I don’t know what to do with all this hankering in me, while you keep talking and looking away, far, far from this moment, out of reach.
© Tara Isabel Zambrano
[This piece was selected by Sarah Starr Murphy. Read Tara’s interview]