The smell of dirt and rubble changes
depending on what was destroyed in the fire.
If the village burns down, it is the smell of flesh.
Of overcooked dinners and charred cotton
and children’s shoes.
If we are the fire, though,
the aftermath smells of hair just washed,
of perfumed skin and tire rubber
and notes taped to the fridge.
I am convinced we are both afraid
of the same thing.
I am convinced that loving you
was every lesson I needed in pretending,
every lesson in brushing shoulders
and hiding the lightning.
When you ask if I miss you,
I’ll wonder if you will ever grow out of
asking only the questions
you know the answers to.
I’ll convince myself I can’t smell
the way your jacket hasn’t been washed
since the last time you asked me
if I liked the way your fingers felt.
I’ll convince myself you don’t smell
When you ask again, I’ll lie.
I’ll say I do. I’ll say I do miss you
and shrug my shoulders
and call it acting.
You taught me that.
You taught me that.
My grandmother pulls her sari around her
like a growing puddle, gathers the fabric in her fists
and bites down on her lip.
Decades ago, my grandmother was a loose canon,
shot from across the river into a village
of sandal wearing brown boys.
There, the boys had strong knees
from falling so much.
There was an aftertaste of metal
after every one of their meals,
from all the blood they had swallowed.
My grandmother used to look their way once
and swear by the sky that they were in love.
She would smile once with teeth, swing her braid,
and watch their bikes crash.
But my grandmother, she has never been
smaller than this. She takes my hand like a last promise,
like a closing curtain, and puts it on her hair.
I comb it into a river of milk and old.
She balls the fabric until the wrinkles stay.
She doesn’t smile, my grandmother.
We are all still in love with her.
Here, in this room with its smell of going away
and the drip of the IV,
we are weak kneed schoolboys who turn
to see her one more time and
hope to God she comes
this way again.
i think i quite enjoy that sense of anticipation and quiet before something big is about to happen. in a couple of weeks, i’m going to be sleeping in a strange city, in a strange bed, not knowing anyone. and as much as that makes my breath tremble and my hands wring themselves, i’m savoring my tea a little bit more in the mornings, hugging my mother a little bit tighter. it’s the before-ness that tastes new and sweet and a little bitter but always welcoming. i’ve always loved the way people are softer in the before of a big moment, how their eyes linger a little longer, their questions are a little kinder.
i’ve always been in love with the prospect of change and i’ve loved that i need the taste of newness in my life in some way, always. i hate boredom more than anything. and yet, adjusting has never been something i’m good at. i become airy and it takes longer for me to form sentences in a new situation. these couple of weeks leading up to moving out have been that. like a chord plucked that hasn’t stopped vibrating yet. it’s sweet and different and though it’s hard knowing that i may soon be feeling quite displaced and lonely, i’ve taken to smiling and not quite knowing why and i like that. i do.