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অনন্ত প্রেম—prologue


“Pear-di’s brother”, they say, “Do you remember him?”

I don’t.

“That idiot dada”, Gift shouts. Roaring over the National Geographic lions, “He used to cry when he spilled khichudi on his clothes”

“Language!”

“That’s him!”

My mother looks at me pseudo-kindly. Her teacher-gaze can’t break through the glory of golden chicken curry. There’s two rules in my: one, help those around you as far as your capacity; and two, treasure the chicken in your meal above everything else.

Naturally, my priorities here are set straight.

“Help him out, na

“It’s shoshthi, maa”, I chew the meat tender.”Everything’s done.” It melts under my tongue.

The simple pleasures of life, ah.

“What do you want me to do, ask him to stand in for purohit-moshai?”

“Don’t sass your mother, young man!”

Gift giggles.

My father’s attempts at discipling my sister and I have fallen very flat over the years. Everyone says I’ve inherited my mother’s round cheeks. Her smiling eyes.

They don’t know who the pushover at home is.

“Didn’t he move out after graduation?”

“He’s visiting for pujo! Didi was telling me all about it”

“Should never have introduced you two”, he sniffs. Eyes on the TV-leopards. “Always plotting something...”

Plotting?

“Well”, she claps, “Well”—clap number two. We’re forced to look up. No wonder they were all pushing for her headmistress-ship last year so hard. “He’s going to help out starting tomorrow.”

“I’ll see”

“That’s dada’s I’ll-see-what-I-can-do-but-I-actually-don’t-give-a-shit face”

“GIFT!”

I can deal with this Pete-pestilence tomorrow, I decide. I lick the plate-sides clean.

The chicken is so damn good.



I.

তোমারেই যেন ভালোবাসিয়াছি

শত রূপে শত বার

জনমে জনমে, যুগে যুগে অনিবার।

চিরকাল ধরে মুগ্ধ হৃদয়

গাঁথিয়াছে গীতহার,

কত রূপ ধরে পরেছ গলায়,

নিয়েছ সে উপহার

জনমে জনমে যুগে যুগে অনিবার।



“Phanuwat”

I look up. I forget my neck is sweat-skcritching. There are plastic glitter circlets on your panjabi too. Sternum-down—yours. Round-collared—mine.

The russet color suits you.

Didi!

“Kaewkarn darling!”

Our mothers embrace. I’ve heard their stories from college. Your father’s long suffering sigh tells me he has lived those stories.

“Phubodin will take pictures!”

“Kao, love, help him out, won’t you?”

We are thrust together. I hate my mother a little for the actual push she presses to my back.

“Hi”, I breath.

“Pete”, you mumble, “Menace Phubodin”

“That’s me—”

You don’t look me in the eye. Ears pink.

It is ridiculous how attracted I am to you right from the first glance.

“C’mon”, you hum. Twirling. Broad back. Crochet-white neck. With a beauty mark on it.

Pretty.

I stumble after you.

(I have totally not nearly tripped.

Not even once.)

“Phubodin”

The pandal is as grand as ever. Bluebell bulbs. Rubied roof. We become purple cinema in it.

“What do you need me for?”

“Not much”, I cough, “As you can see, we’re mostly done—”

Why weren’t you here before, is what I want to ask you. You cock a brow. Ink-fringes quell over an eye. Making it hard to stay annoyed.

“Isn’t that good?”, you smirk, “Everything will look nice on camera now”

“Hmph”

“But I’m sure you looked good before too~”

Snap!

“Stop taking pictures of me!”

You don’t.

You are a terrible Uttam Kumar knock-off. In your deep-throated laughter. In the way you behest attention. Like some obnoxious black-and-white main motion-picture lead.

Smile!

“Fuck off!”

I want to stroke your lilac skin. Caress the swell of your cheek when you grin. Clasp your honest hands and demand you keep holding me all day.

Your look very warm.

You smirk again. Before the idol of maa durga and her four children. Lens-eyed. Film-gazed.

Have you sensed my attraction?

You swallow. Your throat-protrusion down and up. Jaw bronze. Stubble half-day.

My face warms.

I understand beauty, now.

I understand why our mothers envied Suchitra Sen.

You. Bent over with the khichudi bucket. Serving a dida with blue printed cotton paar on the other side of the lane. I wonder why your back glows.

“Pete!”, her eyeliner makes her threatening. You have to look at her hands to have known her. She swats my neck. “Stop ogling

“I’m not ogling—

I am very much ogling.

Dida smiles. The lines around her mouth crinkle. Her husband’s hand on her silver hair. His index raised. He says something to make you laugh and you throw your head back. The sound comes to me over the din of the pandal. The sound comes to me dustomte-light.

And then it happens.

The moment I’ve been waiting for. A flicker of your sweet gaze. To look if I’ve been looking.

You don’t know it. But I’ve always been looking.

When you turn back around, you neck is warm.

Sandee smirks.

 

You watch the plate. I watch you.

“More?”

“Sure”

You bite your cheeks. Rice grains line your thumbs and I should wipe them off you but then I would have to hold your hands and I don’t know if you want me to hold your hands.

Ei!”, my best friend whisper-shouts, “Kotota khabi?”

“Oh no!”

“It’s okay”, I murmur. Because somewhere along the way you had looked up and the porridge drippled down the hata but you weren’t paying attention anymore.

I feast my eyes on your pretty face while I still can. While you still let me.

“Sorry!”, you squeak. You totter away.

I swallow every last grain of rice on the plate. I lick the it clean and then my fingers, my eyes raised at you. You are amaryllis in the distance. Pink and sweet and blushing.

II.

যত শুনি সেই অতীত কাহিনী,

প্রাচীন প্রেমের ব্যথা,

অতি পুরাতন বিরহমিলনকথা,

অসীম অতীতে চাহিতে চাহিতে

দেখা দেয় অবশেষে

কালের তিমিররজনী ভেদিয়া

তোমারি মুরতি এসে,

চিরস্মৃতিময়ী ধ্রুবতারকার বেশে।

 

You are good with kids. Surprisingly.

“And up!”, you shout. Little Manaow on your shoulders. Little Manaow giggling. “And down! Clip-clop!”

The stage shivers with the love bursting through your seams. They crowd your knees. You wear crayon-moustaches. Devil horns from the places they pull your hair. You keep time and you give them all your morning.

San and I hardly have to do anything in the drawing competition.

We lean against the bamboo sticks and watch.

“Handsome”, I breath.

“Tell him”

“Should I?”

“We have no hot dudes this year”, she crows. She imitates me poorly. “When will I get my holiday fling—”

“Fine!”, I can’t take my eyes away from you. “Pete Phubodin it is!”

“That’s my boy!”

You tell me you participated, later.

How did you get pencil shavings in your hair?

“Oh yeah?”

“I have proof, Phanu-da

I push against your chest. You laugh. You are toned in a way I warm.

Here

Round, fair cheeks. Starry-eyed. Water flushes color over his nose, the boy in the picture—lover’s gaze. Lover’s gaze.

“Thanks”, I breath. You drew me.

You drew me.

“T’was nothing”, you shrug. As if my fingers through your hair don’t affect you. I brush away the wood curlings. You keen into my touch. You feel love-starved.

“You’re really pretty”

“So you drew me?”, I giggle, “Taking pictures wasn’t enough?”

“Nope!”, you stride ahead. I restrain myself from curling my arms around you.

You must be popsicle-cool in this heat.

I hadn’t thought you’d turn up today, done as you were taking pictures yesterday.

But you did.

I don’t think I will regret risking a fling just this one time.

Just this one time with you.

Purple lining of aubergine between your teeth. It’s softly cooked. Crunching. Savoring. Your lips coated with mustard oil are so near me it almost feels as if I am the one eating.

“Thanks!”, you make grabby-hands at the other beguni I saved for you. “I really like this!”

“I know”

Crinkled eyes. Your nuzzled-kitten smile. Our knees knock and I’m glad you don’t question why I wait up for you.

“Don’t you want?”, you wave one half of the fry. And I want to bite it. Taste the cherry red of your mouth lingering on the break.

But I don’t.

A single bite of bhaja makes you so happy.

You can have any world, any heart you desire, as you please, Phanuwat.

Yet, you are content by so little.

I find it hard to breath. I feel inadequate anyway.

“Thanks”, you flush. As if suddenly aware of our proximity. I could’ve snaked an arm around your waist this close.

“No”, I say. Your bangs flutter in the rice-heavy air. “I don’t like it that much.”

You believe me. You let me talk for a while.

I ache to hear you laugh again and again.

Have I known you before, sweet thing?

You. Ice cream hands. Halud thumbed cheeks. When you twirl I see the bend of your copper spine.

I have never seen anything more beautiful.

“Kao!”, you call. Your voice is crackled joy. “Dance with me!”

White dhuti. We are matching.

I wonder why I forewent my panjabi.

I wonder why you forwent yours.

“Look at you”, you cry out. Taking me by my by wrists. “So pretty!”

“Shut up!”

You laugh. We become smoke and incense. Sweet coconut fiber and the croon of conch shells. I cannot wear your shindur but we move around each other just the same. We are yellow in the day. You are the sun and I see the girls giggling. But your eyes never leave mine.

“Look at me”, you whine. “Aren’t I handsome enough for your attention?”

“No”

“Liar!”

I can hear our mothers on the sidelines. Cooing. Shutter-clicking. And I pretend for a moment that we are lovers.

“Okay”, you thaw. Lashes casting down. Bashful. The exact moment when you hear me acknowledge that your appearance is pleasing to me. You look breathless. “Don’t accuse me of staring then.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, baby”

I raise my arms above my head, and turn to the beat of dhak.

I devour your chest with my eyes.

And your gaze becomes payesh-thick. Sweet. Wanting.

“Kao Phanuwat”

You can’t grope me in public. But I burn when our gazes catch.

“Pete Phubodin”, I say. And let you hold my hand.

I don’t look away anymore.

Your cheeks bulge with rosogolla. Pupils blown. Your mouth is syrup-slick. Sugar lips.

I thumb away the excess. You smile. Bright eyes.

You must taste very soft.

“Here”, you pout. Pointing on the other side of your cheek. I laugh and I cup your face. You look like you want to me to kiss you.

Kiss you under the blazing sun and purple clouds. In front of our friends and our family and our faith. Enchanter-blood. I wipe your cheek and look away. Your head on my shoulder feels like blessing.

It feels like my heart will never stop racing.

We take the bus. I laugh at everything you say. Where have you been, all my life?

One night.

One night feels like I’ve lived it for years.

I can’t believe I’ve lived all this time without you.

Tarmac warm under feet. 6.2 Volt bulb—pink, blue, bright. We have played in delight, in the form of a million lovers—through the speakers, crashing through the air, tidal-waves.

You. laughing with your head thrown back, your side swept hair shaking themselves out of gel. Boy.

Chicken skewers. I can barely taste it in my mouth when you talk. I’m too busy tasting your name under my tongue. I can’t stop saying your name.

“Fuck ferris wheels”, you hiss.

Why?”, I chortle. You amuse me so. “Just why, Phubodin?”

“Too fast”, rose-gold silhouette, you are god against the carnival dazzling. “Too high.”

“I’ll be there with you”, I whisper, overcome, all of a sudden, “Pete.

“Okay”

You smile sweetly—your mouth-corners dimpling. My boy, my boy.

“Take him out for the night”, my mother had winked, “He should see other pujos. Right, Didi?”

I had wondered if they saw your hand in mine.

Exactly”, your mother had grinned. “Have fun, boys.”

“We will—

Barely five-meters from ground level. The bone of your knees flush against mine. When we go up to the top, you insist on capturing me on your phone camera.

“Be still”, you laugh, “And smile, dearest.”

“Oh”

“What?”

“Yeah”, I swallow, “Yes, make it quick, the kids are staring—”

“Fuck that”, you thumb my cheek. Tender. Brush away a stray noodle. “We paid for this ride”

“Only because you wouldn’t go up to the actual ride!”

“This was your idea”, you grin. “Phanuwat”

“Hmph”

You make me laugh on the top of a kids’ ferris wheel. You tell me you were a terror as a kid. I remind you that if you think you’ve stopped being menace you are deluded.

Dearest. echoes in my head. Dearest, knocking against my ribs. Dearest, a tottering chick in my chest, affection full to bursting. It’s only a matter of time before I cup your face and smack your mouth with mine.

I don’t think you will mind very much.

“Here”, you peer into my eyes, holding out your half-had chicken roll, “Want mine?”

“Have yours”, I’m embarrassed at how easily you share. At how giving you are. And I know it is just for one night. It still feels like too much to take.

“You liked it”, you smile, “You finished yours in thirty seconds, baby”

“Not that fast”, Do I flush from your words? Or from how dear you make me feel? “Liar”

“Take it”, you murmur. Pressing the roll to my lips. And then softer, shyer—“Let me take care of you.”

My heart aches.

“Is it good?”

Roasted flat-bread, soy sauce, meat, onion rings, garlic. I look into your eyes when I chew, lick my lips. With fire.

“Very”

“Hmm”, you smile to yourself. “Aren’t I the best?”

“P’Pete is the best!”, I grin, “P’Pete the most nice and kind and sweet and handsome—”

“You think I’m handsome?”

“Of course”, I thumb your collar. “You look handsome in blue, you should wear it more often—”

I should compliment you more. Your ruby cheekbones say enough about what they do to you. You feel soft under my fingertips.

“Th-thanks”

You, eyes at my feet. You, rubbing your neck with your free hand. You, are adorable.

Love me, I think, Please. For one fleeting moment. Though I can bear barely a fraction of the weight of your affection, my avarice for you knowns no bounds.

I can take it all without hesitation.

It is as if I have loved only you”, I hum. My bad singing has always made you laugh. “In a hundred different forms, again and again” But today you look breathless.

Through this cycle of death and birth”, you whisper, gravel-throated, wren-warbled, “Down the ages without fail—

You feed me with your hands. You seem content in it.

I don’t like being looked after, that much. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to it.

Maybe it’s because it is you.

Because today, I am content in it too.



III.

আমরা দুজনে ভাসিয়া এসেছি

যুগল প্রেমের স্রোতে

অনাদিকালের হৃদয়-উৎস হতে।

আমরা দুজনে করিয়াছি খেলা

কোটি প্রেমিকের মাঝে

বিরহবিধুর নয়নসলিলে,

মিলনমধুর লাজে–

পুরাতন প্রেম নিত্যনূতন সাজে।

 

We watch the play. Bone melts into wicker. You wear dark as would mahisa-asura. You wear strobe lights as dappled sun over kash falls.

I feel fifty. Filled up with cracklers when you smile.

You feel fifty. Filled up with admiration. With want.

Through the ages”, you sing, “My captivated soul has forever spun words in garlands of song—

We watch the play. Two of dozens in the crowd. I have loved poetry all my life. But I have never been serenaded.

I have never had them come alive inside me.

“I thought P’Pear was the singer?”

“I’m bad at public performance”

“Why?”, We sit so close your breath is hot on my neck. Why haven’t you put your arm around me yet? Hold me.

“You would charm the crowd, Phubodin, you are melodious.”

“Does that mean you are charmed?”

“Of course”, it’s just fling. I tell myself. But my heart is racing. Once again. “Pfft. Everyone was charmed. At least ten people asked me for your number today—”

“And did you give them it?”, you ask.

You are smiling, now. Eyes on mine. No longer on stage.

My sunkissed, brass-boned man. My dhuti clad, bumbling, adoring man.

We become the play.

“Of course not!”

“And why is that?”

I warm. Your index on my chin. You tilt my face up and look deep within my eyes. I drown in your gaze. And I warm.

“I do not want to share you”, I breath. Relieved that you do not know me. Me and my selfish soul. Me and my jealous heart. I am not so giving, you see, as everyone thinks. “I want you all to myself.”

“Mhmm.”, you rumble. The sound comes from the base of your throat and makes mine run dry. Your gaze smoulders.

You look like you want to fuck me.

“And?”

“Don’t look at the others”, I hiss, when you pull me into you. Static-crackling. This must be what it feels to taste lightning. “Be mine.”

“I do not want anyone else”, you growl. “I’m yours”

We are nightflower-blooming in the dark. And I ache for you.

When will the curtain fall?

Periwinkle blue, your back. Three finger widths above the waistband of your jeans, to the left of your spine—another mole.

I want to kiss it.

I want to kiss you.

Pete?”

Your eyes tell me why you took your shirt off. As we stand in your kitchen. You still dare look bashful.

“They don’t fit me”, I grin, “You, chubby—”

You’re the one with no muscle”

You swallow, I don’t fill out the shoulders of your t-shirt. Pastel. With a cat on it.

You can probably see my arousal poking through your even looser-boxers.

Your clothes smell just like you.

“I’m not that thin”, I smile, watching you bringing the glass to your mouth without taking a single sip thrice in a row. “Wanna try?”

Hibiscus red, your cheek.

I want to bite it.

“Let’s see”, you hum. Cradling my nape. Resting foreheads. “You smell nice”

“It’s your shampoo”

“Smells better on you”, you breath. Smile, when I keen into your touch. Knuckles gentling over my cheekbone. You charm me so easy. “Smell like you are mine.”

“There’s no—”, I croak—“one here to see”,

“Exactly.”

Dhak-loud heart, against my skin-seam. Beating for you.

Can you hear it?

Kao”, you gasp—broken record. You, sound undone for the first time.

Wrenched from bright world, from flame and spice and music, it’s hard to ignore how you look at me.

And how I look at you.

“Hah—”

Lifting me up the counter, you chase my lips. I let you push me up against the cool tiles. Letting you have your fill of me. You tell me I taste like the payesh we just split. Like raisin, cashew and sugar.

“Sweet”, you breath, “So sweet, Phanuwat.”

“Dearest”, I nip your lower lip. “Call me dearest.”

Dearest”, you murmur, swaying after me. Like you would follow me through hell and heaven. Like I really am your most beloved.

But being that, must be a scary thing.

You tug my waistband one time—I unravel. Move so you can strip me down. Have me naked on my own kitchen counter when you are still fully clothed.

My ears burn.

How needy must I appear to you.

“Look at me”, you plead, “Dearest”, kissing my collarbone, “Weren’t you just seducing me?”

I was. Down to the shortest shorts I own. Wanting your infernal gaze all over me. I don’t want you to look away.

Please keep looking at me. Even when I can’t look at you.

Please want me as much as I want you.

“Didn’t take that long for you to get going”

“Of course it didn’t”. you rumble, a guttural sound, “Fucking beautiful—”

Oh—

You lave over my nubs, licking and sucking. Our bodies attuned. As if, they are used to loving each other.

I am instrument you are honed in. Deft over my rib-strings. Melting my words down to obscenic variations of your name. Drawing them out over and over as you please.

Until I am left shivery in your arms, so aroused I can barely feel anything that isn’t you. Until all that I am are the places you touch me, where you care to leave your love behind.

How dare you leave me so breathless?

How dare you debauch me and leave so unscathed?

I wrap my legs around your waist and pull.

Kao”, you groan. Your cock warm against my skin. You are leaking already. I move again, pleased. You bite my ear, “Lube?”

“Bed”, I croon. Relishing your girth. Wanting to be impaled by it. Alas, I have become greedy again. When you said you wanted to take care of me—I believed you. “Carry me up?”, I sweeten my voice, and roll my hips again.

Fuck

It seems that I too, know how to reach the places where you break.

I have never felt more victorious in my life. Yet, never more defeated.

Across the dark night of time, At last I see your face, eternally bright.

But I am glad to have lost.

A constant guiding star in midst of life.

For it was, to you.

Red velvet, coffered heat—your mouth. Holder. Of many secrets. Truths.

And my heart.

How could I have fallen so easy?

You are porcelain-heavy, ravaged beauty in my arms. “What do you like?”, you implore. “How do you want me?”

At that, I push you up against the steel railing of the staircase. You whimper, wrapping your legs around my waist. I kiss your swollen lips again.

The things I could do to you. Suck bruises all over your lovely, milky body. Reach between your pretty legs and drink you up your warm seed. Bend you over and take you again and again and again until we are spent and stolen of all breath. Chasing sunrise.

But the word that leaves my mouth is none of that.

None of that at all

“Slow”, I croak. Letting you undress me. Lay me down and peer at me curious. Smiling, “Let’s take it slow.”

I can’t believe I just said that.

“Okay”, you smile again, planting a kiss to my cheek. “I would love that.”

“Let me open you up?”

“Of course”

The night stretches on before us. Rosebud. Wet. Haunting.

You let me devour your body—ribbons of your silk-smooth skin and your red, bruised mouth. You moan. Fingers grasping my hair ask for more, but I can’t regret asking to take my time with you.

I don’t expect you to take your time with me.

But you do it anyway.

“Let me ride you?”, you purr.

I press my thumb inwards the cleave of your ass. I’ve done this with so many lovers before. But your sweet sounds thrill me like it’s the first time. And I yearn to see you like this again and again. Mouth puckered. Wet hair splayed over marble skin. Back arching up, into my touch. Into me.

Please

You sink into me slow. You cup my face. You kiss me.

I am filled up with you, your wet mouth and soft tongue and loving touch. Helpless moth around your sterling flame. Blue parasol opened up to white thunder. Trembling when you bare your teeth.

And mark me as yours.

We make love, again and again.

I am taken. Finding yet another bright point on your skin to suck a bruise over. Your body is littered with them, littered with affection.

You must have been so loved.

By someone, in all of your lives.

Pete?”, you croak, “Why are you crying?”

I am not. I just find it hard to speak. Weighed heavy with something so tender inside my chest it would not have words even if I tried to articulate. Feathered feelings. Melt in the daylight. Taking root inside of me as plants that never grow.

“Dearest”, I breath, kissing the mole of your inner thigh, “Beloved—

Fingers twisting in my hair. Starved to hear me ‘you’ lovingly call.

Again.

You have made me love you so fast, this hard—Kao Phanuwat Chotiwat, even the last spare change of your heart will suffice because you have all of me already.

Citrus Shampoo in the bathroom. Blanket legs in bed. Your hair soft in my fingers. Songs from my childhood spring forth to my lips embarrassingly for you. Perhaps it is penance for not believing the truths in them. Perhaps they were written for this very moment.

That the lovers in it were you and I.

Had always been.

“That undying flame of love

Today finds its place

In glorious abandon at your feet.”

You flush. Blushing against my chest. Rose-dawn. Slotting your fingers into my heart-mezzanine and staking your place there.

Forever.

“Do you do this for everyone you fuck for the night?”

“No”

“Why me, then?”

Because loving you feels like my very nature.

Because there is only one you in the world. And there can be no one else for me, ever again.

I just smile. Memorizing the peace sleep brings to your face.

My unblooming parijat. Night flower jasmine going back to rest.

Please want me as much as I want you.

Please find rest on my chest as much as I find mine on yours.

Phanuwat, what I would not give to this world to have you as my beloved.

IV.

আজি সেই চিরদিবসের প্রেম

অবসান লভিয়াছে

রাশি রাশি হয়ে তোমার পায়ের কাছে।

নিখিলের সুখ, নিখিলের দুখ,

নিখিল প্রাণের প্রীতি,

একটি প্রেমের মাঝারে মিশেছে

সকল প্রেমের স্মৃতি–

সকল কালের সকল কবির গীতি।

 

You, on the other side.

The first time we met. Buttercream-silk sleeves. Criminal smile. Beautiful.

You are back on the other side.

“Get the ropes”, I am called, “Kao-da! Hurry!”

I pass you by. Grass. Sandalwood. Citrus. Your melanin neck. It is a very warm place.

You, on the other side.

The first time we met. Snug navy over thighs. Demure eyes. Handsome.

You are back on the other side.

Shindur khela shuru hoye gechhe re!”, I am called, “Ei Pete! Take pictures!”

I can’t pass you by. Plump lips. Sinful waist. Shiuli skin.

I fell within four days and I don’t know how to make it stop.

“Kao!”, red shindur streaked cheekbones. Satin draped over her skin is light itself. I don’t tell her how my heart burnt when you took pictures for her. Carelessly laughing. “Is everything okay?”

Yes

“Is it him?”

“No!”

“You can barely look at him”, she sniffs, “After shooting heart eyes at him for four days, it becomes pretty obvious, love”

“It’s over now”, I croak, “And it’s all your fault!”

“You like him!”, she gasps, “Kao Phanuwat has A CRUS—”

“Hush!”

“Tell him!”

“No!”

“Why not?”

“He doesn’t like me that way—”

“You can’t tell me that after getting railed all night, Phanuwat—”

No one was getting railed!”

“Keep telling yourself that”, she sniffs again, “You have a sex glow aura going on, love. And your neck—

“What!”

“Talk to him!”, she shouts, walking back into dhunchi-haze. Her laal-paar swaying. For a moment, I wonder whether it was Sandee, Or a vision of the trishul-weilding woman who would leave us tonight.

They are not so different, perhaps.

Her. Our mothers. The divine Maa.

Where would we be, without the women in our lives?

Maa”, I lean on her shoulder. “Maa

She is warm. I am seven again. The shindur from her cheeks rubs off on me. A little bit of marriage. A little bit of devotion.

My heart twists.

How could you give me a little taste of such vast love and take off so easily?

I watch you talk to your friend.

She reminds me of P’Pear. Bright. Raucous. Sturdy. As if we have been friends before. You have brought me such good, Phanuwat. You have brought me so much.

It kills me that I cannot tell you this.

“You fall so easy”, my mother whispers. “You have such a loving heart, my dear—”

“Look where that brought me!”

“He likes you!”

“You just say that to make me feel better!”

“Stubborn like your father, aren’t you?”, she laughs, “I chased him for three years before he admitted he had feelings for me.”

“What a fool”, I giggle, “You are obviously a catch, maa, he’s the lucky one”

“Tell him”, she whispers. Carding fingers through my hair. I wish I could stay here forever. At home with her. And with you. “The fool between the two of you, isn’t your Kao—”

“M-my?”

“It kills him to not look at you”, she smiles through the first note of conch-shells in the air. She lets me go. “He never leaves your eyes, does he?”

You don’t.

I swallow. And before you become a curl of incense and disappear in the crowd, I reach for you.

Kao, dearest. I love you.

Eons of joy. Eons of sorrow.

The devotion of an ageless heart.

Heavy. Throat-closing. I can’t look at you. I can’t look at you.

Don’t flings end in one night?

Then why is my heart breaking?

Parting.

A weight of a hundred flightless birds.

A weight of a thousand lives.

I know the the copper clasp around my wrist is you. I know the warm chest against my back is you. They raise her. High in the air, chanting bishorjon mantra. Orange Palash. Yellow Marigold. And your soft mouth. Pink Lotus. Red Hibiscus. And you.

“Kao”, you breath. “Kao—

“Louder!”, I shout. Rice grains in sweet-porridge-crowd. Swaying with them. I am afraid to lose you.

“Is this okay!?”, your arms around me, pressed flushed to my back.

I mewl.

I missed you so.

My beloved Phubodin.

“Can I see you again?”

Yes.

Sitar-strung air. Scarlet.

You can see me whenever you want. However you want.

Whole heart again.

I have started to believe I was put upon this earth to be yours.

Perhaps were not payesh-rice. But split cashew. Matching seams. Built to love each other.

“Aren’t I just another pujo-fling?”, I whisper, “San told me you’ve played a lot”

“I have”, you admit, “But none of them were you.”

“Won’t you leave?”, I croak. My heart hurts. How could I let you go again?

“I’ll be back soon”, you smile. Pressing a kiss to my temple. “I came back for baba’s company. Done being an egghead, he said, aren’t you?

“Oh”

Oh!”, you imitate me. Pressing another kiss to my ear. Our giggles join conch shells and the loud, sweet ululation.

I feel you thumb my knuckles. You can’t seem to get enough of me.

But I can’t seem to get enough of you either.

One love is the heart of it all.

Containing within—the memory of every amour. Of every age.

Every poem. Of every poet. Who has ever existed.

“I love you”, I breath. Nearing lake. Nearing beginning, once more.

Phanuwat”, you, overcome. “Beloved—”

 

 




We start again. As we have, every lifetime.

It is as exhilarating as ever.