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August 4, 2016 | Nonfiction

Cloudburst

Jaya Wagle

Cloudburst photo

I won’t apologize for trying to forget the days I spent with you, riding pillion on your Honda, inhaling Bombay’s foggy polluted streets, sitting on rickety wooden benches of hole-in-the-wall Indo-Chinese joints, slurping Szechwan noodles and sipping Tom Yum soup, strolling on Juhu’s wet sandy beaches, letting the ocean wash our feet.

I won’t apologize for trying to forget that last rain-soaked evening when we stood under the leaky canopy of a chaiwalla, waiting for the downpour to stop, when your wife—whose existence you revealed just a few hours before—called. You stepped away. Watching you hunched over your flip phone, I wanted to leave, hail a rickshaw home, wash the earthy smell of rain from my body. But, the whispering watery sheets rooted me. I stood there, waiting for you, wondering if you stepped away to spare me the disappointment of watching you talk to her or to hide from me your feelings for your wife. It didn’t matter. The fact was you had stepped away and I stood all alone with the chaiwalla who poured me a tumbler of chai from his dinged up aluminum kettle, the steam disintegrating in the thick, damp air of the stall. I held the sweet, muddy concoction close to my body, inhaled the sharp, gingery spices and felt the warmth creeping back when you turned around and walked towards me, shoulders arched in your water-logged grey shirt that matched the clouds in the sky, your glasses foggy from the heavy humidity, your wife’s shadow rippling in the background.

I won’t apologize for wishing you were just another stranger—caught in the torrential rain under that tattered tarp talking to your wife about dinner plans—as I sipped my chai and waited for the sun.

 

image: Aaron Burch


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