47. mahabalipuram

The last time I was here I looked out at the ocean from this spot right here and told the girls that three rains were coming. They laughed and said I sounded like a dramatic seer from a fable; I was soothsaying, delirious on absence of sleep. But it wasn’t as funny alone. Madras was underwater after that, after one rain, and another, and the next, and the roads were washed away into the sands. That night three rains came, like I knew they would. I could see them growing from the north, from the east, from the south, weird sisters come to take away the sparkling wedding nights, pulling us from the canopied tents we had spent so long building, shoving us into night drives of thick rains. I don’t tell you about this.

There used to be seven temples, centuries ago—they must have spent so long building, you say. If it had gone a different way maybe they would still stand, weird sisters sparkling like their wedding night. Now there’s only that one, alone, and sometimes you can see the tip of the second one beyond it, on a good day when the sea wants to show you its secrets. I’ve only seen it once, right before the thunder clapped and the rains came in canopies (and another, and the next) and the ocean sewed itself back together. Impossible, you’ve made it up, the girls said. It’s time to leave, go get some sleep. You are soothsaying.

There is a moment: we are alone together, standing by the lighthouse, looking out upon the empty early morning that we spent so long building and I wonder what would happen between us if I had been born a different way, of three rains from the north and east and south. If this here would have meant anything bigger to you: searching for one of my many impossibilities (have I made it up?). I don’t tell you about this. On the car ride back my headscarf falls just at the top of my eyelashes like a canopy and I stare out the window instead at the road rebuilt, waiting to show you the misspelled English signs. CHILLD BEER. OBAMMA GRILL. You fall asleep. They aren’t as funny alone. I sew myself together.

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