This Story

I used to narrate this story well. The words would come to me, incoherent, excited, and my arms would spread to catch them. I collected them, and threw them back out there; as if radiating from the sides of my body, blue and yellow light would dart out suddenly, without warning.

My grandmother was an artist. The last thing she ever made me was a costume for my best friend’s fifteenth birthday. I went as a witch, and for two weeks, my grandmother looked up DIY (do it yourself) witches’ hats online. The afternoon before the party, I sat quietly on a stool as she adjusted and readjusted the hat. She was a perfectionist.

I still have that hat. The black chart paper has faded, oblivious of my attempts to keep it out of the sun; the red and green beads have faithfully lost most of the members of their clan, and the gold lace from which she cut the lizard and spider shapes, is fraying. But that’s okay.

Growing up, my brother and I spent many afternoons at my grandparents’ house. It had a garden, and a large dining table, and the folds of the curtains kept the smell of the monsoon. It was the worst place to study, and the best place to imagine oneself doing extremely productive things.

My grandmother taught me biology and history. She always brought white A-4 paper to draw on. A cell was the story of an old town; history became the colour of the Great Bath, or the number of steps leading into it. Like that, we told stories.

When she knew I had an important project coming up, I knew that I could expect to find the dining table covered in old, glossy magazines, a humungous jar of Fevicol, and her old stitching box. She would always say, “Make it creative. Everyone will be doing it like that; make it different”.

We would fight. She dismissed my ideas, unworthy of the magazines, and the Fevicol, and the old stitching box, and her. But I learned how to “make it creative”, and although we still argued, it was often about how to improve something.

The words do not come to me anymore. My arms spread to catch them, and throw them back; to see the magnificent blues and yellows; but all that is left along my outline is a faint grey. I know how to make these words different, how to make them creative, but I cannot find them anymore.

My grandmother would often wake up in the middle of the night and rearrange all the things in the fridge. I wonder if she saw words; if they were blue and yellow.

Now I swallow the contours of words that do not exist when my teeth come together.

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