and then She was shipped across the world
to work and produce, and to work and produce,
in a fortress of infinite greed,
tending slot machines,
for donald trump in february of ’93.
She met the man she married after a lapse
of two years. his belly had grown since then,
his smile had yellowed since then.
and exactly—with mechanical precision—a year later
i was conceived. Her belly too would grow. She quit work
to produce, and then worked to produce: a clean kitchen,
an undisturbed bed, warm roti, daal, shaak.
the tasks never truly added up in this fortress
of infinite greed. husband came home drunk, sorrow stuffed in a
parle-g cookie jar, a thums up in the fridge—foreign around these parts.
and even when nostalgia flooded Her mind
about the time Kiran did this and Jothi did that,
a foreign namesake struck Her skin like a dagger—
reminding Caesar of her place.
in the belly of an american beast. where they eat flesh
without cooking it and drink each other’s blood
without indignation—some savage, pagan ritual.
father never prepared Her
for this. never taught Her this.
he was a banker.
I was introduced to death the day I learned that I did not have a grandmother. At some faint point in my childhood, my mother told me that everything would have been different if she was still around. The magnitude of everything was inconceivable to grasp as a child barely able to comprehend simple arithmetic, let alone a phrase that transgressed my embryotic reality. It was at this point I learned of a state beyond living, a state of perceived presence, and a state of consequence. Possibly, since being ensnared, at the tender age of four, five, or six, by the first concepts of the world snapping its fingers in my face demanding for attention—while death itself is growing out of the pores of my backside like the bathroom ceiling mold tattooed to the walls above my head in this makeshift apartment—these seemingly ubiquitous laws have weighed heavy on my ever-shifting conscious since. The opacity of a short, stern, round woman with a mole above her lip who once appeared in a dream, shrouded in a smoky haze, smiled, nodded, “Everything will be alright,” and disappeared from her ethereal, heightened position just as quick as my shower runs out of warm water. I become stiff. I look at the black disease above my head in contempt every single day, venting to the weeping, plastic walls where I visit the playground of gods and reflect on the circumstances I wish I had the power to change, or the wars I could have won, all while subconsciously replaying the image of a doppelgänger whom I have no distinguishable connection with, but owe all of my existence to, for the majority of my life. And since, within this downward, spiraling montage of violent, flashing images a piece of me withdraws to a palpable vision of an alternate world where I hear her scold, taste her food, feel her warmth, and grasp at the philosophies she has imparted on another me. Do I dare conclude this is the basis of all optimism—all of which is objectively blind, or one’s trust in a higher being—all of which is fueled by grandiose delusion? It is true that I lost faith, arguably never had faith to begin with, since my consistent appointment with reason refused to give a sufficient answer for my grandmother’s death, refused to explain why father threw our dinner against the wall, refused to justify, refused to apologize, refused to heal.
I have been chasing a thought of chasing the thought of what could have been but isn’t. For twenty-three years, I have been manifesting a suffering not bound by a physical pain, but of a stinging malaise buried deep within the cage of my chest. As each cold shower, as each whiff of slight sickness cycles throughout the years, I’ve anesthetize this triple-headed behemoth born out of another’s burden. This beast: one head of a son—sweating of ethanol—who lost his mother before my birth; one of a child drowned in tears, wed into dysfunction; one head suffocating, with a muffled screech, bound in a tight mask made of reflective glass, claws made of burned ivory, an evil, steel-bristled coat, fangs drenched in a bubbling saliva, an anger, a sadness, a haunting moan bouncing from all angles in this dying, darkened prison. There is no mist covering the mirror, so I see my demons perfectly. As my grandmother echoes everything, as my father warns of everything, as my mother cries about everything, I am left with nothing but the taunt of positions that do not exist and paradoxically could exist all within the same timeframe. If I was
there goes the if
how do I move forward?
Parag Desai is a graduate student at Coastal Carolina University studying in the MAW program. Currently, he holds the position of design editor for Waccamaw Journal (Conway, SC), an online publication of contemporary literature. He likes hip-hop and renaissance art.