The Man, the Siamese

The house opposite the old woman breathes out muggy spices, pricking the air. Inside the kitchen is one of the children’s mothers. She draws the back of her hand across her forehead, wiping away the oppressive air and replacing it with a thin film of oil. The ghee starting to hiss and spit at her in the battered pan snakes up and coils into her nostrils, licking the insides of them. She winces slightly as it deposits a chili venom and reaches for a glass of water. Picking up her knife, she starts cutting the pile of vegetables in front of her. The dull thud of the knife against the wooden board echoes her boy tapping his feet against the ball in the road.

Her husband in the room next to her is flicking through the paper. His glasses peering slightly more over his left eye than his right grasp the end of his nose, saving themselves from toppling off. He prods at them with a single squat finger and catches the lingering smell of curry on his skin. Like trees gaining a ring for every year of their lives, the man in the armchair seems to gain another layer of this warm scent for each of his. From when he was the age of his child, who is still booting the sun around in the street, his hands have soaked up years of spices, damp in the air. It reassures him in a strange way how the smell of home has wrapped itself around his skin. Breathing them in deep this time, his fingers and their smell paint an image of his wife bludgeoning vegetables in the kitchen.

The husband can hear a child crying next door. Its wails filter through the red bricks and raised patterned wallpaper. He turns the pages faster hoping the slice of paper through air will help cut through the screams. He cannot see the new mother next door with her fingers grabbing her hair in fistfuls trying to climb up and away from her relentlessly shrieking child. The child goes on and on, its cries getting shriller. The husband’s paper is whirring through pages as though it were a flick book; parliament, death, cricket blurring before his eyes. He turns back to the beginning. The new mother is also on repeat. She clutches the child once again, tries to negotiate the bottle to its mouth. Its red fists claw at the air and the mother dodges swipes from the ball of anger. She sinks herself, still with the baby tucked like a package under her arm, deep into the sofa and joins its cries with her own. There is now nothing where the man next door was sitting. Just the failed flick book fanned out on the floor where his feet were not long ago.

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One Response to “The Man, the Siamese”

  1. January 18, 2010 at 3:59 pm, jim holloway said:

    A very good picture of a moment. We all live our seperate seperate little worlds.


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