Friday, March 02, 2007

it seems a perfect day to die.

it is raining, water cold and just heavy enough to spatter a shawl through. the sky is a strange vibrant grey, and treeleaf stands out against it in a startlingly green indifference. i grasp her too-soft arm as she totters up the slick driveway. her flesh hangs down and my fingers grip more of her bone than her. my shoes are yellow like a piece of lego, hers are a dark brown. her feet are very small."one step at a time," i murmur. she keeps stopping, keeps trying to recoil from going inside and confronting what she knows is true. t mamoon's eyes are a little wide, like a small boy being braver than he feels. walking her to the door has become a small procession clothed in black and silence. it rains and rains, and the marigolds in the flower bed look beaten and rumpled. this is like a movie.

i help settle her into a chair and swiftly look about the room for faces i should salaam. sofas are pushed to the walls, white chandnis cover the carpet. there is a table in the middle of the room. ammi comes to supervise and as if she were my channel to reality, i realize with a startled shock that the table is not a table; it is a coffin draped with a white sheet. i want to say this to ammi but i blink furiously instead, my thoughts scrambled suddenly. i look back at bari ammi but she's telling someone about her fall in the bathroom. i look at s, who is reading a siparah, and feel exposed and cold.

it is difficult for taayi to cry. she is not an emotional woman. her beautiful hands hold a tissue to the bottom of her spectacles, catching tears. she doesn't make a sound, her eyes crumpled in misery. ammi's eyes become bigger, luminous, when she cries but taayi's shrink closed as if her irises huddled closer to her pupils for comfort. ammi's mouth is a little awry. i hope she isn't remembering other white sheets. i feel nervous, raw, as if a thin layer of my skin were peeled away. i want to fold myself up very very small and creep inside ammi, embryonic. someplace warm and solid and completely surrounded- no exposed back, no vulnerable shoeless feet.

you're meant to see the face, ammi says. i don't want to. i don't need to see it to be reminded of my own mortality. i would rather remember her as i do, a pale, downwards sort of woman, a kind of long sadness about her shoulders and running the length of her hair. her bright, expansively rouged cheeks, a flower behind her ear. she looked like the spirit of a woman haunting a lake, a rusalka, only mild and pale and quietly melancholic. a ghost wistfully watching men pass by instead of luring them to a watery death. someone lifts the sheet back, opens a flap to reveal a plastic sheet over her face. abbu comes and gingerly, reluctantly peers in. there is a gaseous condesation on the plastic, so he had to go around to the other side to see her face properly. his face remains expressionless, but his eyes dart anxiously back and forth, fluttering across her face quickly. a finger through a candleflame. t mamoon is next. he gazes down at his mother longingly, directly, and his fingers touch the sheet over the coffin almost unseeingly. he strokes it twice- two loving brushstrokes of farewell- and walks away.

goodbye, goodybe, she says, tears in her old glaucous eyes. it is still raining. there is an unconscious quality to it, as if someone were pouring from a teapot into a cup and kept pouring, distracted, as the cup keeps overflowing.

Mina at 9:20 AM