From As Sweet As Honey
Our aunt Meterling stood over six feet tall, a giantess, a tree. From her limbs came large hands, which always held a shower of snacks for us children. We could place two of our feet in one of her sandals, and her green shawl made for a roof to cover our play forts. We loved Meterling, because she was so devotedly freakish, because she rained everyone with affection, and because we felt that anyone that tall had to be supernaturally gifted. No one actually said she was a ghost, or a saint, or a witch, but we watched for signs nevertheless. She knew we suspected her of tricks, for she often smiled at us and displayed sleight of hand, pulling coins and shells out of thin air. But that, said Rasi, didn’t prove anything; Rasi had read The Puffin Book of Magic Tricks and pretty much knew them all, and was not so easily impressed.
What was interesting, and never expected, was that Aunt Meterling married the littlest man she knew. He was four feet seven, dapper, and jolly. The grown-ups were embarrassed and affronted, for like Auntie Sita said, it was bad enough having a freakishly tall woman in the family. Yet, they were all relieved that Aunt Meterling found Uncle Archer and he, her.
My mother awoke in the holy hour before dawn, rumple-eyed and irritable. From the branches of the coral jasmine tree, a night-flowering wonder, small orange-centered blossoms fell to the ground in slow rhythms outside her window. She let a comb creep through her hair, with her fingertips touched sandalwood oil to her throat, between her breasts, her eyes closed in dreams. Perhaps she thought of marrying again. My mother wore a sari of pale yellow, and I imagined she felt she could write a novel then and there. Didn’t she have forty-six years of life to tell?
But in came my grandmother, scattering my mother’s thoughts away, shuffling on feet that had turned as hard as stone. Trumpeting words like an elephant, she asked my mother, “Have you brushed your teeth yet? Do you want your coffee now?” My mother, caught in her dreams, caught with her hand on her breast, nodded yes. The house was awake. The maids began to wash the dishes from the night before, and the cook yelled at them while cutting vegetables. The orange vendors and tomato sellers were already at the doorstep, calling out their wares. In the midst of this morning chaos, it was my mother who was labeled the maddest. She was the strange one, the daughter gone wrong, the bad woman who refused to go to temple, who needed her own mother to fetch her morning coffee, who would not wear widow-white. “Why should I wear white if I still have fifty years more of my life to live?” she had asked when her first husband died, refusing to look at my grandmother’s face.
From The Journey
The women of her mother’s village say that if one twin dies by water, the other dies by water. Renu’s cousin Rajesh died on a drain. During the crossing from Madhupur to Chombature, a storm swelled and rolled in from the coast, stripping leaves off drenched branches, tangling long-armed bushes and shrubs, uprooting entire palms. The bridge swung back and forth, the rice paddies flooded, and the train, soot-covered and mud-splattered, trembled its way forward, shuddered, and slipped off the tracks, into the water below. Her cousin, the Gogol diving from his pocket, his ugly slippers crushed, must have spun like a Catherine’s Wheel, tumbling, his glasses flying, as the train fell. It took two days for the news to reach the family in America, two days to untwist his body from that unholy and anonymous death. Renu’s mother wept and kept her from the stove all day.
They always said Rajesh was her twin. Renu’s mother and her aunt discovered they’d conceived on the same day, and watched over each other’s pregnancies.
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