Monsoon City

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May 2, 2018 by The Citron Review

by Dani Redd

 

The rains are late this year. The city, in the throes of an extended summer, throbs with expectation. Dusty days fade into long, listless nights. You make me sleep on your side of the bed, so I’m under the fan. I listen to the blades push the hot, still air around the room.

Monsoon. Mon-soon. Soon. Soon.

I feel like I’ve always been waiting for something to begin. That something is constantly changing, but the grasping and clutching and never touching remains the same. Lying here, waiting for the rain, I think of everything I left behind for this––a promise of love in a foreign city. I wonder if the world is full of outstretched hands; of women who feel cast adrift, marooned.

Maroon. Monsoon.

Monsoon City sprawls beyond the horizon, as cut-off and lonely as an island. The rain comes during the night. We stand hand in hand and watch it strike the concrete. Purple lightning illuminates the sky. Wind rattles the window glass. Thunder reverberates through the rooms of our apartment. The rain intensifies until the world outside blurs. It’s like being underwater. The two of us, submerged. Every time, the noise of thunder makes me jump; every time, you laugh. I tell you such nervousness is innate, that my mum could feel me jumping in the womb. God, can you imagine how sensitive our kid would be, you say. I agree that the poor thing doesn’t stand a chance.

Sometimes I wish we would turn to water. To currents, torrents, oceans. Bodies without limits, endless cycles of motion. I want to dissolve without fading, to fall without breaking. Water doesn’t need persuasion to keep on moving. You do, though. I ask you what your dream day would look like. A cup of tea in bed. Staying at home, reading. Spending time with me. Simple pleasures. In return, I tell you I would spend mine swimming in the ocean, or going on a trek. I think about the country where I used to live, before I met you. It’s midsummer there now, the season of sunburnt shoulders and Sunday walks and barbecues. You know where my mind has wandered to. I watch your face fall.

We are enticed outside by a rare moment of sunshine. Clouds gather suddenly, then burst. Our clothes get plastered to our bodies. The roads turn to rivers. The sewer overflows and dark, stinking water rushes down our street. We jump from paving slab to gravel pile until we get home. Like a cat, you hate getting wet. You wring out our socks in thunderous silence. Goose-bumps break out across my skin.

In the poorer areas of the city shacks collapse like dominoes. One minute they’re upright, and the next thing they’re rubble. It rains so much that the sealant around our windows gives way. Water comes coursing in through the cracks and floods the floors. We get on our knees and mop. I’m bailing out a sinking ship, the water in the bucket as black as tar.

Every morning I read the paper. In Monsoon City, bodies are more fragile than buildings. The rain carves potholes into the roads. Each day, another traffic accident. One night three people fall into storm drains and get washed away. A little girl and her mother. A priest. Victims throttled by underwater currents.

The rains last longer than usual, seeming to drag on for months. Our world shrinks to fit the four walls of our apartment. For the first time, you mention leaving Monsoon City. To go somewhere that will have you. My passport is more worthless than toilet paper, you say.

We begin our research. Turns out the rest of the world is shrinking, too, sealing itself off behind border fences and immigration checkpoints. It seems like the only option is the country I left behind. I would have to return first, find a well-paying, permanent job and a place for us to stay. You would have to apply for a visa, and hope.

I lie down on the bed, and you curl your body around mine. We watch the rain smear the window glass for what seems like hours. I watch the slow spread of black mold across my bedroom ceiling, the green algae creeping up the walls of the flats under construction next door. I begin to long for clear skies, for the warmth of winter sunshine on my skin. You stroke my hair, my neck. There is this room, these small intimacies; beyond that, uncertainty.

 

Dani Redd currently lives in India with her husband. She has a PhD in creative and critical writing from UEA, and has recently completed her first novel, set on a fictional island in the Arctic Circle. Her shorter work has been published in print and online, by Island Studies Journal, The Island Review, and The Cardiff Review. She won the Words and Women inaugural short fiction competition.

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