I get out of my house, sling my backpack on my shoulder and wave at Javed, he is there as usual on time. In the car, I initiate a casual conversation but end up pouring out my passive aggression and rant about my mid-life crisis. I pause at a Polaroid tucked into the rear-view mirror, a woman in her thirties proudly displays a beach-ball size baby bump and palms the taut surround of her naval.
I ask him about the picture pointing to the Polaroid with my square-nailed finger bitten to the quick. He readies himself to confess, “The girl I proposed in mud-splattered boots on a rainy evening in Iran. I used to meet her after Friday prayers under a tree. I married her five years ago.”
Javed is a man of few words. He lives alone at Bartram Avenue in his small one-room apartment. Life wasn’t easy for us. But Javed works with a rhythm. During break time he wanders aimlessly in the park in front of our office. On weekends he never hangs out with us, he stays at home working on his new project, composing a new poem or building a birdhouse. He is a man of solitude. Occasionally he can be spotted at the cinema or the farmer’s market, all alone.
We stop at the signal. I roll the window down and notice two middle-aged men just like us, in the car adjacent to ours, staring at us. As the signal reads green, car sirens honk behind us. I struggle to remember where we were. I continue “I never knew you were married! Do you have a kid too? Where do they live?”
As I speak I observe his pupils dilate in his face smudged with shadows. He replies, “They lived in Tehran, in our new apartment with a good view of the city. Now it’s just twisted wires, chunks of concrete and debris from pieces of a plane’s cabin”.
Anindita Sarkar: "I am a Research Scholar from Jadavpur University, India. My work has appeared in Indolent Books, Door is ajar, Flora fiction, Litbreak among others."