Here and There

stars_circle_over_the_residencia_at_cerro_paranal

“Sometimes, I have these questions,” her father says, looking away from the TV. He has always had questions, more so now that he’s been retired for a decade and spends most of his waking hours in front of the TV.

“What keeps everything spinning? I mean the planets, around the sun, they’ve all been spinning for millennia, haven’t they? What keeps them going? Why don’t they just fall into the sun?”

“They would, eventually, I suppose.” She’s not too sure herself.

“Isn’t it fascinating?” He turns around to look at her with an earnestness of a precocious child. He looks older than the seventy or so years he has lived. His eyes have sunk and become dark and stoic. She remembers an afternoon, over lunch, when he’d kneeled down to feed the cat when she’d noticed the first signs of a bald patch. That was years ago when she wasn’t married and had barely just got into college. It was the year when there was a hailstorm in April; the year her mother coughed blood in their tiny blue sink; the year they moved out to the city in an apartment twenty minutes away from the hospital.

He had questions then as well but they were never quite as cosmic. They were questions about people, circumstances and pressing necessities that didn’t fascinate him as much as they disquieted him.

“You, me, the sofa, the living room, our house in this street with the street itself and all the houses in it, and all the people in them, all the trees, all the birds, all the cars, all the honking cars, the bridge over the river, the river itself, the sea, the waves – we’re all madly hurtling in a dark space, and it’s been happening for years, for ages, before you were born, before I met your mother in the university, when she was reading a book, she looked just like you – except the nose, you have my nose – hers was short and sweet and she’d cover it up with her hands every time she laughed, she laughed the first time I met her and I still don’t know why.”

She has heard the story and a million variations of it – mostly from her father. Her mother maintained some consistency in her versions of the story over the years.

“Do you know why?” he asks.

“How would I?”

He snorts. “Do you know why stuff keeps spinning, makes me dizzy.”

It is night and they’ve just had dinner. She’s in the veranda under a quiet wind-chime hearing her son snoring away on the living room sofa. The moon is shining through the trees in the driveway. A pack of dogs is barking away in the night. Houses appear as glimmers in the distance – they’re now of full of people she doesn’t know and the people she once knew who lived there now hang on walls as photographs in the dark. There are no cars on the street at this hour but in the town, under the ugly yellow glow of the lamp, auto-rickshaws will be huddled together. Few towns and rivers away is the city with its slick roads and foul air and an apartment sandwiched between a church and a sewer. Miles and miles away, the sun is only just setting and there are people holding hands by the sea. Further along, somewhere, it’s the crack of dawn. Over two years, she has become adept at subtracting thirteen and a half hours. He must be on the subway listening to NPR. In his bedroom, in their bed, would be a woman whose only display picture on Facebook is slightly out of focus. She’s younger and more beautiful. She’s probably in the bed, waking up from a dream, they’ve not had a child, and night after night they have wild sex. Thousands of miles away and half a day into darkness, she feels a flicker of arousal, of regret, of loathing, all at once. A warm breeze tickles the wind-chimes. Somewhere inside the house, her father is speaking to himself, something about how they’re all hurtling towards nowhere in the darkness.

(Image Source: http://subversivepreacher.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/stars_circle_over_the_residencia_at_cerro_paranal.jpg )

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