Editor's Note

What is the runtime of nightmares? Where does grief settle in the body? Why does someone barge in despite being told not to? Does everyone go through the life feeling like a lot has happened? “Maari” is an exercise in asking questions that aren’t likely to have answers, but what they can do is take one closer to the truth of experience. Their enunciation is a quest in finding language to convey the contours of a tormented consciousness. A consciousness in which the death of a hibiscus, joy of old family recipes, grief of a mother’s fatal sickness, walls of a family home intertwine with the repetitive intrusions of physical assault. 

Avrina’s extraordinary story captures all this while hypnotising the reader with its cadence. The pauses alert us to the difficulty of utterance and capture the nature of shock, the recurrent motifs emulate the oppressiveness of nightmares, and the overall form of the story creates an emotional vortex that threatens to suck us in along with Maari — till unexpected relief walks in and we feel a glimmer of hope.

–Shivani Mutneja

You don’t want him to come in. He insists. He’s in. Wasn’t you who let him. Walked in like nothing happened. In his white shirt, that same shirt. Ironed crisp. Cufflinks royal blue. His rings, rocks gleaming. No. 9 Posala Odin. “No, please no.” “Don’t go into my kitchen.” “You can’t just walk in.” “Maari! Come on.” “I just want to cook for you.” “I know you like chicken vindaloo.” “No.” “Don’t lie to me.” “No.” He’s cooking. It’s not your kitchen. Not Amma’s. It’s Paatti’s kitchen. Pulsing dark. You were six, the last time. The day Paatti died. All her children, grandchildren, were there. She was holding, her spirit, they said. Amma took you, on a night bus, down south. You couldn’t sleep. You heard guinea fowl, Amma crying. When you got there, Paatti didn’t die. You waited, a filial congregation, around Paatti’s bed, taking turns, feeding her chunky coconut water. You were important, till you left, to shower. Water hits face, Paatti’s spirit left. You were the only one, you missed, the moment. If they sold her house, why is it in you? Where’s the switch, for the light? “Schatz [1], you’re out of kurkumaii [2].”

He’s eating light, swallowing. Red hibiscus at the window, dies. You’re telling someone, you didn’t, let him in. Used to, no longer. You’re telling, you. “Maari, I didn’t.” The guilt’s got teeth. You opened, the door. Paatti’s house, you let a, thief in. Teeth’s got bite. Took his, rock ringed palms, phat, your face. Put your face, many times, in his way. Your face, he says, “it’s the hottest thing, ever.” He comes inside you without asking. All along, starring. Gets off, your face. He’s come inside, you’re dripping. Tears, you’re leaking. His face, he’s smiling, corners of lips, tearing, longer for longing. Men hold you tight, by your throat, confess their undying, love for you. You’re a wild horse, they want you, just you, no one else. It’s not the sex, it’s your mind. “Come eat.” “Let’s eat.” “Maari.” “Turn on the light.” Dark on dark on dark on dark.

Bellowing. “Please.” He’s ladling. Reaches for your chin. “Don’t touch me.” You’re falling, down your stairs of fright. “It’s too dark.” “Turn on the light.” “Eat this.” Red hibiscus, breaking. There’s no pitch like tar pitch, then you see pitch that’s darker tar pitch. “Open your mouth, you fucking bitch.” Comes closer, like darker. You slip, a well, you scream. “Maari, wake up.”

Nightmare protocol dictates you turn on the light. Get out of bed, the scene of crime. Open windows. There’s no one here. He’s not here. Check under the bed, your shower curtain’s always open. He took you, by your neck, your head hit the wall, you smelled moss, you slipped. Don’t go over the nightmare. You shouldn’t, forget. It’s 3 AM, your house, it can wait. You won’t, forget. These things, aren’t candy cane dreams, your crush comes, to hug you, kiss you, whisper something. It’s not the same, you won’t, forget. Shhh. In your kitchen, there’s only one spoon of turmeric left. You forget, till you pick up, your phone, your Amma is long dead. You warm milk, add a pinch, turmeric, pepper, honey. It’s snowing. You smoke, you brush, your ghost, your teeth. In the mirror, you ask her, if she woke you. “Earlier, please.” You’ve lost, some weight, in sleep, you smoke again. Your bed smells, blood, No. 9 Posala Odin. Hers, his. You take, your pillows, your sheets, to the couch. You’re sliced at the waist, sewed back, all wrong. Your borders, drawn with watercolours, smudging. You locked the door, you ate the key, you’re knocking. You call Amma’s phone, hang up, call again. Alarm’s for 7:30, it’s 4 now, it’s 5 now, it’s 6 now, it’s 7:30. Your feet take you, a bus takes you, a train takes you, an elevator takes you. Lines of fresh snow, on leaves, you make balls, eat, when no one’s looking. Berlin walks, as you do, remnants of nightmares, faces awake, eyes glued open. It’s a new day?

Ontology, epistemology, oncology, philology, phytology, 13th transnational, knowledge transfer, interdisciplinary plenary, international conference. FF-UU. It’s good to show face. Your face is in your museum. The rhetoric of violence in someone someone’s something text. Narrative liability. Realism realism there was feminism in realism. Theorizing sexual violence. Rage is productive rage is productive rape is productive. Thoreau: the original cabin porn. Thoreau’s mother did his laundry. Decolonizing re-colonizing radical caring. The trap of self-care. Studying Instagram trends: what do #maincharacterenergy, #cleangirlaesthetic tell us about xxx. But what about #messygirlaesthetic? What about Spivak? What about Ngũgĩ? What about whataboutism? Thinking cultural memory beyond Halbwachs und Assmanns. Ass- men. “What a paper!” “Work like this gives me hope.” “This is why we do this.” “Wunderbar.” Erlebnis und Ausdruckiii. [3] Yes to N-word civilised, no to N-word barbaric. “But Fanon uses the N-word.” “We’re academics.” “Like him.” Years ago, you were rebuttal, now, silence. Agree to disagree, they think. You don’t, agree. Dr. Maari S. doesn’t want to, say a thing.

Elevator takes you, elevator stops. Lights out. A white blade, in the mirror, cutting desert dark. Your hands clasp your hands, tell your fingers, press the alarm. A hand takes a step, “hallo”, a woman’s voice asks. “Hello?” How long, you don’t know, she doesn’t. A red light thwarts, your little blade, you see your face. Like the first day, you felt unsafe, in those arms, his concrete chest slab, the wood, the mahogany oak of his neck, something in him bigger, he’s puffed, he’s now a man, next to you, not the man, you thought you knew. He snaps, you speak, he hums, he holds your wrist, like he’d break, still he kisses, still he feels, you poor tendril, where’s the head, full of flowers? “Schatz,” he says, still, but the edge, curious for treasure, even when you have, nothing to give. In his eyes, a big man, when he looks away, seems to say, “if I light the candle, I have every right, to kill it. If I water a plant, I will eat the flower.” You look eaten. Red is demon colour, for demon night, you don’t know, what face this is, “one must not bleed after sex,” you told him. “I mean,” h e said, he was a chef, for doctors- without-borders, he knows, many people bleed, before, whilst, and after, fucking. Blood is, passion. “It’s normal.” The first day, you felt unsafe, your fingertips scrolled, through emails, photographs, looking for evidence, seven years, you thought you knew, knew+ him, when was the first time? How was the first time? Who was he then? By grace, you didn’t marry, by grace, he didn’t believe. “A marriage,” he’d said, you remember, for that was the moment, you nodded to yourself, he’s the one, “is an institution of chains, besides, who wants to own, a woman?” The doors open, you’re between floors, hands reach, “you need air”, “she needs air”, it’s that woman’s voice, again. You found an email, just one, from those early years, after Amma’s death, time left, length and breadth and width and dimension and depth and space and sense, you didn’t know what changed, what didn’t, if it’s all just you, you changed, your eyes weakened, your ears started hearing, the sound of blurs, you smelled, the nausea of rooms, necks under collars, there was nothing you wanted more than to tear turtlenecks into two. In the email, you’d written, “this is my grief, please don’t rush me.” You’d forgotten, there were many times, you woke up next to him, not knowing him.

Stairs take you, forever. They unfurl, over and over, though you’re sure, concrete isn’t satin, you keep walking, down. “Every nightmare is unique, that’s what makes them, difficult to study,” your therapist told you, when you’d asked, “What is the runtime of nightmares?” How long do I run in sleep? Between words, lines, in thin novels, author’s intend worlds, best citation practices, condense layers of meaning, into crisp sentences. Do most people go through life feeling like a lot has happened? You know your nightmares, their blueprints, you’ve told Maari, “keep track, so you can wake me.” Inside you, she’s been working, figuring out, how does one build here, a house of dreams? He took you, to your Amma’s house, the first nightmare. It rained, all night, all day, sun rose, sun set, behind clouds of ominous despair, the two of you, ate a bottomless bowl, mutton soup. Your Amma’s favourite, he swore he’d make, just the way she did. He did, imitated to perfection, he worked hard, at this relationship, secured your heart. It sounds like dream, you told your therapist, “I want to know when it turns to nightmare.” Between dream, and nightmare, is a slip. Down the stairs, the dial on darkness, turning. Stairs become well, sink becomes fall. Rain stops, “there’s lilies, in Amma’s pond,” he says, takes you, by your wrist, you’re laughing, lashes of rainbow, your throat, their end, where the treasure is. Your Amma isn’t there, but is, for you are, your bare feet cool, red soil slush, if he wasn’t around, you’d eat. You crouch, you see, your face, rich, someone said, “what skin you have”, your reflection smiles, you’re home, your hair flows, into waters, tadpoles swim, infinite loops, around your roots, underwater hairs of lilies. Maari from the water, stops smiling, he’s coming, his hands, your shoulders, he pushes, you fall, the pond turns grave, doesn’t end. “I haven’t seen him in months, spoken to him in months, why does he keep coming?”

Bus takes you, to your department. You have money, nothing wants, in your stomach. Cheese? Snickers? Smoothie, something. Ayran, bitte [4]. She’s in front of your office, crying. “Why did you give me this grade?” You gave her a grade? Wet mask. Windows don’t open. You remove your mask, she doesn’t. “Stop crying.” You can’t draw, her face, beneath those eyes, you always, get it wrong. She slaps her thesis on your desk. You know she won’t do this to other teachers. No market for kindness, this economy. “The Spectacular Violence of the ‘Other’ in….” On margins, your feedback. Note: 2,7. Your signature, in black. You’ve written, “that quote – it’s by Baldwin, not Heaney.” Othering, shuddering, depressing, de-tethering. “If I love you, I love you. If I love you and duck it, I die.” Your Amma died of cancer. You were important, till you left, an interview, in Berlin. One year ago, one palm doesn’t suffice. You’ll need another palm, to count, years it’s been. You wear your Mitarbeiterausweis [5], your neck, no one believes, you work here.

“Hello, Maari-ma, is the job searching? Are you eating?” Amma asks you. “I must tell you, are you free?” You’re in your kitchen. He’s cooking. “Maari-ma, I didn’t want to tell you. You’ll worry, but you won’t worry? If I tell you, you must not worry ma.” It’s the day a lamp died. You unscrewed the bulb, filaments dancing, weak. You don’t have the energy to speak, of yourself anymore, you are who? “Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?” You = your work. Why don’t you? He’s tried to teach you, the German way, nothing too self-confident, think of humility+, clever+ but humble, do humble+. Servient+ already grateful+. Never say you’ve done this, therefore you can do this. You wish to do this, you’re here on the learning curve, you wish to climb, there. You’ll let me climb, Sirs? You’re desperate to climb, rung by rung, a foot on your face, you’ll climb. Foot on your chest, heave, you’ll climb. Despite, you’ll work. Functional+. “Where is your measuring jar?” You shrug, you don’t measure. “It came again, Maari- ma. It’s here, again.” It’s no taboo, but she’s ashamed, a burden, all that lost recovery. To hold cancer, is to be, alive with death. Her soil, her place, her body, her ground, buzzing, cells eating. The taste of all that chemo, just leaving, not another round, not yet. “Travesty,” he says, fumbling for a replacement something, to measure, flour, you pretend, not to hear. You hold the phone tight, your ears, the closest you are, to her mouth, her breath. Amma kissed your ears, many years, many ways. You love her, a phone in hand. You think you’re catching, everything, as it is, you believe, voice carries truth, years later, you’ll know, you didn’t know, everything+. Her voice breaks, “get your breast checked, tell a doctor to press under, pinch, do not take these things lightly, Maari-ma.” “When they do a pap smear, it must hurt, otherwise it is not correct.” You should have, stood up, packed your bags, he’d have driven you, to the airport. You should have flown, met the skies, should have known+, Amma’s not one, to admit, the severity, Amma’s an actor, she hides+, she lies+, she’s strength+, she equates in ways, geniuses don’t. Maari’s job search = Maari’s future > cancer’s return. In the spirit world, your Amma sits, knows+, to hold your life, to want to live, is not enough, even the strongest+ die, untimely deaths. It’s everywhere, in her body, if she had a tail, the tips would burn. You eat, thick chapatis, sour flour, he blames, something something this food, not made for this weather, you had nothing, to measure.

You forget to blink, the skies turn red. Your hibiscus plant struggles to grow out of your head. It’s been like this the last year. You swallow a seed you collected from a stray dream, wait. You water without rhythm, sun soak as and when you can. Chin up. The seed germinates, life imagines up and below, in and out. But something isn’t here, you aren’t. You’ve got the right amount of hair. Your scalp comes so close to home soil and yet, the thoughts, the maniacal rage claustrophobic, these skins that aren’t yours, just given. Maari, the survivor. Maari, the victim. Maari, the outsider. Oh you poor thing. She’s looking at you, from your reflection. Buildings, trees, people, lights, bridges, train stations, pass through her. You take a picture, so you know it’s you, without three or four hibiscuses on your head, you look nothing, like you. “Is this how it’s going to be?” she asks. “One nightmare to another, one day to another?” “I opened the door, I didn’t.” “I called him out, I didn’t.” “I did what I could to protect myself, I didn’t.” “I ran, I didn’t.” “I want to stab him in his eyes, I didn’t.” “You take left, I take right.” You reach your hand to her, she reaches hers to yours, Gesundbrunnen dashes into her, without asking. Someone sits in front of her, without asking. In your Amma’s house, the kitchen was an island near the dining table, nourishment an archipelago. If Paatti’s house is in you, could it be that Amma’s is too?

When you were eight, nine, ten, eleven, every day, Amma sat with plans, blueprints, to your house, an architect friend, they’re drawing a house, together, Amma’s got the land, got the loan, she’s laying, foundations, brick by brick, something is growing. “A house comes from under,” Amma explains, she watches, your mouth, your hand, the ball of rice in it, your throat, when you swallow, she knows, you’ve chewed well, chewed poorly, “chew properly”, “this is ground”, for a house to stand, one must build, with past, present, future, in mind, a house is time. You nod, you’re her assistant, it’s important you see, with your eyes, hers are up there, at her own height, her own age, she needs your eyes, you ask “will the water from the bathroom go to the garden?”, “where will the hens stay?”, “do they get along with guinea fowl?”, “the kitchen and the dining must be in the same room, I feel I’m eating, when you’re cooking.” When you move into the house, you’ve already lived there, you’re proud, you don’t say it, you’re still child, words forming, chest warm, it’s a small house, more garden than living, more kitchen than bedroom, it’s perfect. That night, you cannot sleep, you will not miss, any moment, in this house, you don’t know what it means, to grow older, but you imagine, your shoulders expanding, your bones from soil, shooting up, your hair, banyan prop roots, sometimes wind carried, fallen hibiscuses, to sit on banyan roots, tiny birds on giants, your body becomes her, she’s sleeping soundly, talking to herself, in dreams. The key to the house, is in your chest, locked, the day she died, they told you, the fowl just left. You cleaned the house, locked her clothes in cupboards, gave away food, returned to him, to Berlin. You pay a gardener, wire transfer, to water the plants, the pond doesn’t rise, he’s worried about the house, empty houses, become hauntings.

She’s standing in front of her door, first floor, overwatering her cacti. “Marie, you look so emaciated.” Who is Marie? So emasculated. “Your face!” She reaches to

touch, you duck. “What’s happened to that gorgeous face?” “Is it the job Marie?” Do you know a Marie? Head tilts, pity. Jaw drops, open. She hasn’t seen you, with your hibiscuses. “Do you have an SAD lamp?” “Have you tried yoga?” You laugh, for the first time, this day, a dream. High pitched, gross. She takes, a step back. You see her body, how it holds itself, away, how she shrinks, she always, does this. You are odd, in her eyes, no matter the day, the degree just varies, depending, what mood she’s in. It’s insane, how threatening you seem, so easily. “Is your boyfriend taking good care of you?” “What is he?” “A banker?” “A chef.” “Achso, that makes more sense.” “What’s his name again?” You’ve said it, inside you, you didn’t, want to. Your eyes, zone in, first time, today. Days like these, you’d rather not, catch eyes. Hers don’t like, yours. They look away. She told you, once, for your own, good, “you can be intense” “unknowingly” “Marie.” “He promised to give me his recipe for a vegan lamb soup. Can you believe that?” she laughs, timorously. Why does she drop words like this? You pick, your words carefully, the utmost care, will still, sound lunacy. “Felicia, your cacti will die soon.” “My ex is a rapist.” “He raped me.” “My name is Maari.” “Yours means happiness?” “Mine is a Tamil goddess of rain, a protector of the ones the big Gods reject.” “When soil breaks, for want of rain, people turn, to Maari.” “Maari, is my name.” You, don’t wait, you, walk away. Felicia, your neighbour, with many clever words, for friends.

You enter, your house, you’ve been stalling. A brewing chill, blankets smell sweat, it’s empty, no one lives, unopened letters, dried flowers, murky waters in clear vases, spice rations depleting, framed photographs, dusty, your Amma’s, next to Paatti’s, your backgammon board, playing with itself, a giant mirror, you hang your coat, half hiding your face, as she looks back. Your plants, holding on, some leaves drooping, you pick, fallen leaves, many plants, from many places, live here, the yucca desires more soil, open, unagitated soil, you don’t look at the plant, its eyes all its leaves, despite conditions, growing. Your plants, your only dependents. You make tea, your stomach empty. Open windows, look under the bed, as if you’ll know, what to do, if you met someone, there. In a few hours, when night falls, your heart will beat, you’ll open Netflix, watch something, you’ve watched many times, phone in hand, scrolling, rarely pictures of you, trying to fall, out of touch, so far, away from you, forgetting, lingering fears, another rape, a break-in, a defeat. Your eyes burn, for a good night’s sleep. You spend, most of your time, wishing it sped, started and ended. There’s no time, you just wanted to be. You wish you wished for time to stop. You wish, you had those moments. You’re not allowed to drink, makes things worse, at least it loosens time. You wish for the littlest magic like that, this night. You cannot push the thought away. You cannot entertain self-pity. You won’t stoop that low. You’ll wait, like most nights, to see, what happens. You pull out your journal from under your pillow. Though someone told you, not to journal where you sleep, you sit on the couch, write nightmare no. xy down. Words beat at your teeth, staccato, beep, deep, weep. Would be nice, if everything flowed, without commas and dents. In aftermaths, of men’s making, precious time, you’ve spent.

“I am afraid of living,” you write. “Every time I planted a seed, watered it, watched it grow into something tall and beautiful, I didn’t see it coming. I wish I’d seen it coming,” you stop, order pizza, on the couch, you oil your hair, as you wait, you untangle, unknot, touch your scalp, massage with fingertips, split into three chunks, plait. “It’s like this,” Maari says, when you ask her why he insists on taking you to your Amma’s, to your Paatti’s. Why can’t he rape you here? On the same bed, the same room, the same house? Why must he do it everywhere? Maari plaits your hair, her hands don’t shake, don’t rush. “We’re mixing things up.” On one hand, things die. On the other, people betray, bludgeon, rape. Not all things that die, necessarily die after rape. “The loss of our Amma is not the same as,” you look at you in the mirror, you stop, take a deep breath, you thought the more you hid the scars, the harder it would get, to trace, you hid, his name, “how do I put this?”, you think, “the removal of Jonas from our life”. The plait snakes, you see your hands work it, slowly, step by step. Don’t be afraid, of his name, different fears, nesting, this little chest. “Nightmares don’t know how to speak.” They scream. Nightmares are screaming dreams. You lay, one chunk on the other, paths cross, you look around. You carry yourself, briefly, in an awake dream, you put a hand, down your throat, open your chest. There, the key to your Amma’s house, like the day you hid it, your chest gives, you withdraw your hand, in your palm, the key. You dare to close your eyes, take you to your house of dreams, you lift the heavy lock, in your palm, the gardener is there, you’ll grow to call him thatha, you didn’t see how old, how retired, he is, brimming, you put in the key, it opens, you open the door, you walk in, some spirits leave, angry you kept them, some enter, with you, some sigh relief, some won’t be talking, for long. You hear Amma, but it’s your voice, echoing, you sit on the kitchen island, the windows look, at the fowl pen, there’s chatter in there, they’re small, but bursting. You walk to the banyan, there’s hibiscuses, at your feet, roots curling, you smell wetness, tears roll down your face, you haven’t cried, for how long, between skin and everything else, some wad of distrust, gently seeps. You fall asleep.

In a dream, you look into water. It rained the night Amma gave birth to you. Poured, she’s told you the story many times. You’re at the edge of a green water pond. You’re you, before all this happened. There’s a tall hibiscus plant on your head. You plucked your flowers that morning, like Amma does, placed it on a silver plate, lit a clump of incense, laid it all at your feet. You stood there, like you did with Amma, she’s convinced you’ve got her Amma’s eyes, she can starve all day, as long as it’s you she’s beholding. After Amma passed, you know what she meant. Her Amma’s in your eyes and now, you look at your reflections, at Amma and Paatti, their eyes, their lives, not lost, but to you, like reverie, given. You jump into the pond, for a swim. Your reflection breaks with a smile, the water carries and in the midst of it all, it rains, there’s no weight, there’s nothing.

It’s past noon when you wake up. You change the sheets, at the crime scene, spray some eucalyptus oil, move back to bed. It’s a weekday, that same conference, office hours, supervision, peer-reviews, these words, you don’t want to say them. It’s safer to sleep in daylight, though it’s not the night you fear, it’s what they do to you at night. You’re not going anywhere today, you’ve got plants to tend. You’ve got plans to cook, to clean, take what time it takes to eat. You intend to live, like you did. Three generations of women, under one roof, your body, draped in silk, your soil, moist for making. You spray and spray and it still smells, No. 9 Posala Odin. There’s drops of blood on your feet. When he hit you, you didn’t believe, you were bleeding. You looked, wide awake, now you cannot call it love, the world, it’s spinning, breath, it’s leaving, if he hits you one more time, you’d be, dying. Someone’s breathing. You’re clutching in your hands, hibiscus seeds from the residues of a lost dream. Keep them safe. You look, under the bed, there he is, his smile, his eyes, starring. He’s at the wall, stretched out, tall, like he, has it all. It’s a different nightmare, this time. In the mirror, for days, you practiced saying out loud, “get out get out get out get out get out get out get out.” You cannot, look away, this is what he does, he holds your attention, not because you love, the freeze of his eyes, they remind you of everyone and everything, those that came before, the ones yet to come, and you know, no matter what you do, no matter how many generations live in your mouth, this face of yours, no one will treat it like a flower, this world, was simply not made for ones like you, you don’t have the heart to harden, to become rocks like finger rings to wield, take a serpent’s tongue in your mouth, spit before the story even begins, you’ve been resisting, the coldness that one’s heart becomes when so much trust is broken. You refuse to remain broken, to stay in hiding, for a moment believe that this fucking world, was not made for your taking. You know everything, so what? You swallow the seeds, fuck it, if no one else will, you’ll kiss the flowers on your head, your Amma did, she still can, still will. “Jonas, get out,” you say to him. When he doesn’t move, you push the bed away, with trembling thin hands, grab him by his shoulders, stand him. He’s watching, what will this woman do, what can she do? You take him by his scruff, out, you throw him. One skin, two skins, you peel the guilt, off your face, “here” “take your remnants with you” and “don’t you dare step foot in my home, again.”

Rapid knocks on the door wake you. Felicia stands, a soggy box of pizza balancing a Tupperware. “The pizza guy got rained on…,” she trails. “Your bell doesn’t work?” You let her in. She walks to the kitchen, “you don’t want to eat the pizza,” she says. You’ve done this before, ordered pizza, forgotten hunger. “I cooked some food, Maari,” the corners of your eyes burn, a pool of tears surface, it smells good, like warm layers of lasagne, fried garlic and leaves of dill. “I’m sorry,” she says. You nod, she comes close, her bones are rusty, but arms long, she takes you, into her chest, it’s been sometime, since you were held. Your chest heaves at hers, you worry you’re heavy, she holds, till you let go. She doesn’t hesitate, she has her arm on your back, she rubs. You open the box, put a fork to it, eat. You’ve forgotten the taste of warmth in your belly, the way saliva carries down your food pipe, how you can feel it reach your stomach. You eat without stopping. She asks you who did your hair, she didn’t know you played backgammon, if someone knows about Jonas, if someone is doing something. She knows someone, in case you want to go after him. She’d understand if you didn’t. You cannot stop crying and she apologises, again. Her mum’s told her, it’s terrible manners to stir the pot at the table. You laugh. “Have you been sleeping at all?” she asks. You nod negative. She does the dishes, makes you tea, asks you to get into bed. You feel relieved, these movements were tiring, on your own, it’s all still raw, you were trying, nonetheless, functional+. She’s already in her pajamas, you change into yours. You warn her, you scream. “Well, I snore,” she says. You laugh again. She holds you, you drift, in and out, someone’s asking you if you know everything now, you’re nodding negative. You know something+. You sleep. In a dream, it’s just rained in your home, your Amma’s, your Paatti’s. Your feet slip and slide on red slush. You are as tall as your Amma, shoulders broad, still like child, playing. You’re on your own, you’re humming, you’re sowing.

You wake up and Felicia is in the kitchen making coffee. You look at yourself in the mirror. You’ve slept for the first time in how long? You’re smiling. There, on your forehead, a prickle of pain, the tiniest stem, a curled up baby leaf unfurling.

[1] Schatz: A term of endearment in German-speaking countries, meaning “treasure”, comparable to “honey” or “darling”

[2] Turmeric.

[3] Erlebnis und Ausdruck: Wittgensteins Philosophie der Psychologie (Experience and Expression: Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Psychology) written by Joachim Schulte

[4] Bitte: German for please

[5] Mitarbeiterausweis: German for employee ID card


avrina prabala-joslin

[photo credits: David Olutola]

அவ்ரீனா பிரபலா-ஜாஸ்லின் / avrina prabala-joslin (1992, Tamil Nadu) writes/recites fiction and poetry on places, beings and times. Obsessed with memories that pervade and evade, often of childhood, avrina’s writing is an ebb and flow characteristic of their desire for the sea. In addition to winning the Short Fiction / University of Essex International Short Story Prize 2021 judged by writer Irenosen Okojie, avrina’s works have been shortlisted for the Indiana Review Fiction Prize 2021, Radical Art Review Contest 2021, the Berlin Writing Prize 2019 and longlisted for the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize 2021. avrina is a devoted bardic poet and has read at/for Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters Kerala 2023, Poetry Meets, the Literaturhaus Berlin, the LCB, the poesie festival Berlin, Performing Arts Festival Berlin, English Theatre Berlin, Lovecrumbs Edinburgh, etc.

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