Issue Forty-Two - Summer 2023

Lifeguard and Snake Charm

By Aruni Wijesinghe

By mid-June it is finally warm enough to swim in the backyard pool. She plies the water, her cupped hands and the soles of her feet sculpting hearts as she breaststrokes. Along the bottom is the occasional drowned lizard. She feels their small deaths. Their waterlogged graves. She pauses her laps when she discovers a bumblebee struggling, watches the frantic eddies of wings churning the blue. She uses a dried mango leaf to scoop out this tiny life, places it gently on the warm concrete deck. Wonders when a giant hand will dip below the surface, fish her out, set her on terra firma.

Snake Charm

He looks at her from across the table, his pupils dilated large, nearly obliterating the brown with black. He weaves. Is it the cocktails or his desire? The subtle oscillation of his body is hypnotic.

She twists the ring on her hand, fidgets with the edges of the napkin in her lap. The rose at the center of the table wilts over a basket of garlic naan. The thali in front of her is hardly touched. He devours saag paneer, never breaking eye contact. The tip of his tongue laps gravy from the corners of his mouth. She dips her napkin in her water glass, scrubs at smudges on the tablecloth. Gold bangles wind around her wrists like slim cobras.

When he blinks, his eyelids lower and raise slowly. The sequined batiks in the dining room depict scenes of lovers in lurid bright colors, their bodies intertwined. In the murky light of Ashoka Cuisine of India, she can almost see the glint of nictitating membranes. The air is heavy with cumin. She will return home with this smell invading her hair and clothing, will have to shower, scrub this night from her skin.

Copyright 2023 Wijesinghe