i remember your house. i remember your house like it was the hand that fed me each meal, rice balancing on your fingertips, like a see-saw on afternoon mud. i remember your chip and dipped foundations, slurred phrases in foreign accents, engulfing the marble tiles i took my very first steps on. when i was just a crawl away from crispiest *dosas served with chutney and generational wisdom, how you would protect me from the rage of splattering oil, without caring how it scorched your palm.
guava slices like religion served on identical plates, in identical chairs, with floral prints and winding leaves. i never got enough of your stories, the emperors and kings, the quiet hum of family that left the air smelling like microwaved curry, like home. i’d lay on your lap, on your turmeric-soaked cotton, and look into your eyes as you arched towards the roof, it showed you every answer, every fungi-consumed spot was a story waiting to be read, a life waiting to be lived. patti, we’re separated by 279km, winding roads and unforgiving cars, with kohl crows on every wire. patti each day fades, as one away from the last, one away from you, and i can’t remember your street’s name.
the corner shop, at the first left where you could talk your way into crispy peanuts, hugged in yesterday's newspapers, the shells trailing our path as we walk. patti, i never learned your recipes, i never learned how to trace your name in tamil, never learned to run without seeing if you followed. life since has been too buttery and too bland. my toes haven’t felt mud and my palms haven’t touched a rope. my being aches like nothing an x-ray could show. can rasam cure me of this hunger, can i remain rooted in southern sands and planted in the backyard. patti, don’t you ache after a millennia of running hot showers and serving hot meals. don’t you ache knowing that yesterday was just like today, and tomorrow holds a worse fate, doesn’t every coconut oil submerged strand of hair want to run out the door and into the world.
i’ve been trying to look down the road, past uncles recurring alzheimers and aging dog, past your trembling hands, and moonlit hair. i’ve tried rearranging my cells and building bricks on my nerves. because i know you will fade like too sour sambhar and burned grains, that you are almost at the end of the road, where no cycle dares to see what’s ahead and no cricket ball has made its way back. what happened to the brinjal that’s still on the stove, flames feeding on its purple skin, the chillied breath of chennais heat spicing the air. I think the weather forecast lied, sunkissed rays feel acidic on my pores, and the thundering clouds, scrubbed the last bit of tamil off my tongue. and now i’m here, in a borrowed mattress, and tomorrow ill be gone, off to find another roof through which i’ll find a semblance of yours. new heads on new pillows. You always said, cirikkavum, cūriyaṉ mīṇṭum cirikkum.
smile, and the sun will smile back. patti you are the sun, and i’m on my way home.