Who could have guessed, Marcus? He was like an old crumpled railway timetable with a black and white routine. Bathing in the river at four, dripping all over the polished mosaic, prayers rumbling in his throat, the ash smeared on his forehead white as the midsummer sun, he had gods scrambling out of their beds, so they would be ready to receive his prostrations.
And the day she arrived?
The men sitting on the porch dropped their cups of steaming filter coffee, the newspaper immediately turning stale. Around the house, children, women, maids, all trapped in the most inopportune freeze frame, playing, pushing, scrubbing, pouring, walking…only the television talking to no one in particular.
Enough embarrassment to pass around?
None! He brought her in like a monsoon cloud leading the rain, his wrinkled hand on her fragile arm, beaming like a full moon night, their slow shuffling steps walking straight into eleven open mouths. Then he asked for tea, in English. His wife, who could barely hear in any language, frowned at him incomprehensibly before a strange composure kicked in. The accusations started in the evening. The lady moved into the guest room that night.
And the wife?
She shrugged. She smiled. Then one day, she brought out the little blue trunk from her cupboard and showed the children pictures of a strange young man. With a pipe in his mouth. Stars in his eyes. Beaming like the full moon.
What did the children do?
Lit up cigarettes and asked for tea. In English.
all that smoke, all those mirrors
a fading ember
pretends to be a forest fire