This Sort of Thing

by Annie Zaidi

So often, this sort of thing will happen.

A man will meet a woman and find that his voice

is deeper than a well in the sort of village that the

Central Ground Water Board has notified "dark." Where

you aren't allowed to dig tube-wells any more, and you need

to be registered with the district authorities

to get a new hand-pump outside the kitchen

and you itch all over, after a bath.

Or a woman will meet a man and will find that her eyes

are flood-prone: low-lying swamps, the sort into which

the rubbish of decades of suburban non-planning has been tossed,

making them look hard when actually, you could just sink into

them. Especially when it rains.

Often, a man will meet a woman and find that his gut

is a sort of womb—a space in which something grows

from seed to obsession, where his roots curl into the certainty of failure.

An instinctive sort of space that swells and contracts and

even bursts—like a second, misplaced heart.

Or a woman will meet a man and will find that

her arms are collapsible, like a set of folding chairs,

creaking in the sort of balcony that gets swept once

a week by a servant who has turned into a domestic cry

for help—a servant with fifty layers of lard dimpling

her elbows and a lumpy belly and who stares off into space

leaving the chairs out in the rain, rusting.

Often, a man will meet a woman and find a mountain on his back—

a dusty hump forming at the base of his neck, floating low

like brown fog, and things are uphill or downhill from here on.

But there is no stopping, from here on.

Or a woman will meet a man and find that the distance from

highway to home triples overnight, and that some nights

are three times as long as others—when bad news

has crawled back all the way from the city center, riding

between sheets of the morning paper, which arrived two hours after

he left the house, six rotis wrapped in the torn aanchal of her oldest saree—

the sort of night that cannot bear to end.

So often, this sort of thing happens, that a man and a woman find a word

buried behind the balls of their eyes, and they will dig all around.

They will speak of fish, the price of things, the temperature outside.

They will bite into a word held as a cube of ice in their throats.

They have seen mountains fold up in despair but they will swear:

they will beat another year out of this one. Hauling home a cutting wind

or boiling river. Or a flower. Or kidnap oasis noons to string a sagging cot.

They will not say it but they'll sit, dumb. Defiant of what may come.