by Kuzhali Manickavel Read author interview September 15, 2005
I almost wore short sleeves today. Everything spoke of light cotton until the sun touched the scars that run along the inside of my forearm like puckered rivers. They are a tattooed testament to my own laws of physics: A body under immense pressure seeks release through the nearest available wrists. Results may vary—in case of failure, avoid short sleeves.
Mrs. Krishnan may have worn short sleeves once, possibly at a friend’s birthday when she was in college. She may have powdered her arms but not waxed them. She may have worn a full-length skirt to make up for the inadequacies of her sleeves.
There is a good chance she did not have any scars.
Mrs. Krishnan should be sold in little plastic vials at 10 rupees a tablet. She is better than Spirulina. She’s like super-charged carrots and spinach without the bother of carrots and spinach. She opens the lungs, revitalizes the brain and stimulates blood flow to the heart. No ingestion necessary—all you need is a few hours a day of Mrs. Krishnan’s large, warm Mrs. Krishnan-ness shielding you from yourself. Even if you are wasted and useless at the ripe old age of 24, Mrs. Krishnan will make you feel salvageable. Your sleeves might even go up inadvertently.
Mrs. Krishnan is wearing a blue sari today—she looks like she has draped the sea around her waist and over her shoulder and I tell her so. A black handbag hangs from her arm like a dead crow but I decide not to tell her that. She doesn’t seem very talkative today.
Mrs. Krishnan has a son in the States and a husband who wants to take her out for dinner tonight, which Mrs. Krishnan thinks is silly—she tells me this as she combs my hair. She says that I should know better than to go about looking like a windblown scarecrow. She doubts that I even oil my hair. Then she suddenly wonders if I wash my hair at all.
I guess she is talkative today.
My hair in a tidy braid, my hands calmly folded on my lap, I am a picture of demure neatness and Mrs. Krishnan is very pleased. She does not tell me I look beautiful because Mrs. Krishnan does not lie- she just says it is good; my braid, my still hands. It inspires her to muse on my future prospects. With such a neatly combed head and well-behaved hands I could resume my studies. Or I could find myself a nice job and start making some money. Or if I wanted, I could find a nice man and settle down. Mrs. Krishnan is sure that I will find someone though she is not sure where. We both agree we will not find him here.
Time always tosses me out before I am ready to go. I am sure I just got here and already I am outside, watching an aggressive bank of dark clouds crowd over the setting sun. I can tell that it will be a damp, gloomy day tomorrow, void of any short sleeve conflicts. The high point will come at exactly 3:45 p.m. when Mrs. Krishnan appears. She will smile and sit down beside me without having the faintest idea who I am. She will hold my hand and tell me about her son in the States and her silly husband who wants to take her out to dinner that evening. If I can keep my hands from fidgeting and remember to comb my hair, she will tell me that I can resume my studies, find a job or find myself a man, whichever I like. This is what has happened everyday for the past two years. If I’m lucky, this will keep happening everyday.
I don’t know why I find solace in the company of someone who never remembers me. I don’t know why she sits beside me and holds my hand. I don’t know what I would do if she were to suddenly get better and leave. For that matter, I don’t know if it will rain tomorrow either. There is every chance of it clearing up into another short sleeves day.
About the Author:
Kuzhali Manickavel's debut collection Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some Of Them Have Wings is available from Blaft Publications Pvt. Ltd. Her work can also be found at Subtropics, Per Contra, Quick Fiction, Caketrain and The Café Irreal. She lives in a small temple town on the coast of South India.
About the Artist:
A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.