Things I’ll Tell My Children about My Childhood Home

When the lights went out, we came to life.
We were always sitting at the edge of shadows,
Waiting for the light to break, ‘Load-shedding’ we called it.
We lit the darkness in little candle flames
And ate from a single plate by a single light.
Even at five, I knew where the candles were kept,
And that darkness meant candles which meant stories.
We laughed and talked without looking at each other
Like we had learnt the maps of each other’s faces by heart.
Even now, when I need a story, I need darkness
To have it come to light.
Load-shedding, we called it.

The houses were always in primary colours.
Every evening, for eleven minutes, the sky would be
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges, and
We’d wait until the houses would start shining,
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges.
Every time my mother found a colour pastel scrawl
On the pristine white walls,
I’d blame the sky for seducing children
Into acting the drama of eleven minutes
In eleven untidy seconds.

The pond was marmalade because what else could it be?
The sofa set was a castle because what else could it be?
My mother’s double bed was an archaeological digging site because what else could it be?
And I was the best girl ever,
Because what else could I be?

When it rained, each house turned into a island.
For seven days, we would look down from the verandah and hear
In the crashing of the rain:
Holiday, holiday, holiday.

And on the seventh continuous day,
there would be fishermen, ferrying
Us travellers, explorers, paired animals,
From shore to shore.
We never saw the fishermen except on that seventh day,
And one rainy evening, I read about fish that slept in the soil until rain,
And I wondered as I saw them, the next day, singing, shining in the rain,
If the authors forgot to add ‘-ermen’.

We’d wait until we heard the jingle of their nets;
Little, scurrying fish jumping into their little, scurrying vessels
And sail into the sunset, in this tide of this temporary ocean.
We’d return, world-weary and hagridden,
And state wisely to our parents:
‘He was right, Magellan.’

There’s very little that goes perfectly
Against the backdrop of a purple evening.
I got a boyfriend here once, and he seemed wrong.
I got an almost boyfriend once, and he seemed wrong.
Once I got two kittens home, who played in front
Of a television on static,
And they seemed wrong.
So I cushioned myself into the purple sky and thought to myself,
‘Thank God I cannot be seen.’

There was always a new summer, and always the pond,
Always a litter of puppies, always a lost frog,
Always tadpoles in the stream nearby and
Always dead earthworms in the muggy field,
Always the crow hatchlings on the same telephone pole,
Always a new summer, and brief reminders that the day was circular
And the year was always whole.

This time was the last time I returned.

I found a lane I never visited in my nineteen years.

Because there were other boundaries I was breaking,
I broke into a run
And I found an unexpected wall,
And in its middle,
I found an unexpected sun.

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Sanna Jain

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