Moti Sweets: the sign decays above the stone building beneath the telephone wires, above the exposed plumbing jutting out from the wall like broken skeleton ribs. A leprosy of rust. Don’t drink the water.
Impossible, he thinks. I must have read it wrong. But this is the address. He reads it again for only the hundredth time by now.
The old man who smells of sugar cane, salt sweat, and chickens, tries to sell him candied bananas until he produces the black and white photograph. The only one he did not burn, back when her memory only appealed to him when flammable. It is not her smile but a fifty dollar bill that earns him rights to her room. Now he stands alone in the hall. Again waiting at her doorstep. He wipes the sweat from his temples with the bones of his wrist, but succeeds only in smearing heat from one part of his body to another. She must have been out of her mind to come here, he says to himself. And then: she must have been brilliant. A needle in a big, hot, haystack. He knocks. No answer.
Part of him wonders what he’ll do if he finds her with a man, with a hand that is not his wrapped around her waist or resting on her shoulder. What did she do upon the inversion of such discoveries? That day she searched out the invasion of another woman’s lips across the countries of his skin, countries she had colonized, civilized with her own two hands only to lose possession during cold warfare. He remembers a slamming of doors, a breaking of glass. (But this was his, this was not hers. His grand, theatrical efforts at denial.) He remembers she talked in silk instead of words. She tied the aquamarine scarf around her throat, (the scarf he bought for their third anniversary, the one they spent in Paris, without once coming up for air.) and it unfurled in a long clean line of I Love You as she fell from the balcony. A swan dive. He broke his hands trying to beat her to the ground, and also his left kneecap. He caught her with every bone in his hands smashed like china but the splintered colors of her eyes rendered all his lesser, selfish sacrifices somehow pointless.
His second knock dissolves in the wet heat of the besotted hallway. (Besotted: a word she used to whisper in his ear. She explained it meant to be limp with something, soaked through every skin.) This time he opens the door, expecting, he doesn’t know, the making of love, the hiss of a shower, the silk love song of a tied scarf and a body dangling from the fan. Rattle, rattle, rattle. What he finds is unexpected: emptiness. Vacancy. A neatly made bed, the blankets worn but barren of cockroaches; a window with dark green shutters spilling the emptiness into the street outside, ringing hollow against the metal of cars and bicycles and the bits in the mouths of restless camels.
Abandonment: a door slammed in his face, on his just-healed fingers when he tries to stop the forward motion that inevitably will carry her out of his grasp. Each time she leaves him feels like the very first time. He is limp without her. Besotted.
The second postcard boasts a parasailor with a huge silk parachute of green and blue and orange floating above the ribbon of a dirt road twisted through the matted hair of a wet, dark valley. The trees seemed bloated with water; he envies this. On the front, orange block letters spell the next place she claims to wait for him. Varansi. On the back, in the thinnest pencil, she scribbles Bus. Station. Sink. He folds the glossy paper and hides it from his sight so he will not lick it to see if he can taste her fingers pressing the lead into syllables. He places it in his breast pocket:
inadvertently close to his heart.