The essay I didn't want them to put in the school magazine. With slight modifications.
Sultry afternoon in early July. Sunbaked cement terrace overlooking a patchwork sea of rooftops, flatly scanning the sky. A single line of washing hung limp; a thali of cumin seeds in my lap. And you sitting there, one foot dangling over the parapet, book carelessly overturned. I hoped you were watching, though I knew you weren't.
This was our place. Up and away from the cacophony of family life, kitchen sounds, dirty dishes and cars and children. I'd be sitting in the drawing room, sketchbook open and blank, Twenty20 blaring from the television. And you would look in, briefly, barely noticing. Let's go. So I would. Abandoning pencils and unfinished cups of tea, I'd go, you leading the way. And it was always up here. You never said why, but then, I didn't ask. In the heat of midday and at the fall of dusk, here the light was different. Filtering down on me through high barred clouds. A light broken into bits by the beat of pigeon wings, the rustle of paper kites. My fingers would fall idle. And I would try, once again, to find you in that light.
You were always an enigma, and took some pride in being so. Your words sparse, cloaked in ambiguity, your movements fluidly tense. Most of all, your eyes that rarely met mine. Somewhere, I guessed, there was an unspoken sadness inside you. And in my conceit, I wished to discover it. Hoped that it was me you had chosen. I was very young then.
When I think of you now, my mind colours your face with the shadows of late evening. Darkly purpled shadows, both melancholy and ironic, settled over my young bewildered heart. Even in the bright sun glare of mid afternoon, as we waited for the beginning of the rains, you were living darkness. You with your pale skin and white linen fit for a funeral. You with the lines moulded too early into your face, and your wet coal eyes. I wished then to throw some of my light into them. To probe and pry and find out what you so jealously hid. And I knew- some wiser, older I knew all along- that shadows made you what you were. Thrown into the harsh unforgiving light of my scrutiny, what would you be? Only another. Powerless.
I never tried hard enough. Content I was to watch you in that nether region, neither-here neither-there, a slice of darkness and half-life made alive by your presence. Content sitting with you watching birds flying to shelter in a suddenly darkening sky. Content watching you not watching me, your outline there, undefined, just beyond my reach.
A thin film was being pulled over the earth. Lowering clouds hovered heavy, stretched taut and grey by their burdens. Ragged palms became dark silhouettes, waving grotesque arms to the wind. The washing line was agitated; somebody's sari tore itself loose and went fluttering away like a banner of triumph. I almost rose to go after it, but you hadn't moved. The shadow of the coming monsoon moved over your face, touched your dark fingers with its own.
Come with me, I pleaded, but a peal of thunder shouted my voice away.
The first drops began to fall on the pages of your book and clung to my hair. A smile hovered at the corner of your mouth, the first subtle inkstroke of night. And I did not get up after all.
I watched you then as I have watched you many times since. Fascinated by the play of that strange light in your eyes, dark arrogance challenging the lightning. Cold prickles went up my bare arms as I tried to decide once and for all if you really were the creator here, the bringer of the stormclouds showing off your skills- or just one who liked playing make believe. It was not my place, that. Drenched under sheets of rain, whipped by an exultant wind, I was too much a creature of the light to stay there. But you see, you had called me there. Imperiously compelled me to watch and smiled when I understood less than little. You had called me. I couldn't help but follow.
The first essay I wrote for Chatto. Dated probably sometime in May.