Sharanya Manivannan

Before I went to see The Meteorologist for the last time, I took off all my silver. The silent mango-vined anklets, the rondache of a ring from Kashmir, all the bangles except the one that can’t be removed. Even my watch, which was probably stainless steel. He had never seen me bare of metal, not even in bed. I had never before guarded against possibility of lightning.

I cannot remember if the day was bright or overcast. Only that when I had first sat across from him in his balcony, the tree it faced had been in flower, and now it no longer was.

But I know I left before nightfall, a net of glories glittering over one shoulder, and that night, when it fell, had been bereft of stars.

I had waited weeks for The Meteorologist to find a place for me in his almanac. It rested on the table between us. In it were all the equinoxes that had passed since he first began to count them; if a record of me existed among them, I would never know. He had something to say to me, but I had hours to spare and days to come that would go unfilled but for the memory of this conversation. I made him take the time he would not give me.

I ate slowly. It bothered him when his dog, in its wisdom, came and laid its head on my lap and lent its warmth to me until he asked it to leave. It bothered him that he could not read my temperature, that nobody called on him or I, that not a single scheduled contingency occurred as it ought to have.

During the first storm of that year, I had seen a man on top of a building adjacent to my home. The roof had no boundary walls, nothing that would protect him in the event of misstep, curiosity, or impulse. He stood very still for a few minutes in the downpour, like it did not occur to him to move. It was unclear whether he had already been standing when the skies broke open over him, or if he had climbed a ladder in the rain to get there. We can forecast nothing. It arrives when it arrives. It disappears when it disappears.

The Meteorologist served mangoes, as we all did in those months of heat and blossom. We were in their final weeks. “How was the season this year?”

I swallowed a spoonful and remembered the first harvest. “Not as sweet as expected.”

But while it lasts, we have our fill.

“There are at least seven types of trees known as the umbrella tree,” I said.

I wanted to talk about patterns of engagement and withdrawal, but it’s impossible to discuss commerce in the midst of a transaction. You can only watch it as it plays out, and count the coins you are left with later. I wished I had been left with coins – with copper, with something of weight. Instead I felt only as though I carried with me pocketfuls of paper money in a currency turned obsolete overnight, all of it unspent.

He had been speaking but I must not have been listening, because he suddenly raised his voice. “Like too much atmospheric pressure,” he said, and paused so I had to look him in the face. Beads of sweat had formed on it. I wanted to kiss his hairline where it receded and tell him he was a fool.

I did, but without the kissing.

And then I looked out into the leaves of the tree, softly swaying in the breeze, looked at the light and shadow that was peculiar to his house alone, and said inside myself, I love you, I love you, I love you.

“You’re a tempest,” he declared. And then, with less cruelty, “I envy those with turbulence inside them. I am far too sedate.”

He lit another cigarette. “But you can weather anything.”

What he understood as science I understood with divination. He was as precise as a metronome. I was pure caprice. When I wanted to know if the water was warm, I would wade into it and see. When I wanted to know what the climate was like, I opened a window and leaned out of it. He could sit in his balcony all day and cast measurements, the opera conductor of the troposphere. I knew no such calculations.

Instead, I augured things by what the body told me: if the solar plexus quavered as though having heard thunder, if the bottom of the belly whirred like a vortex of air, if the heart stirred, sensing a pageant of gathering clouds.

I love you, I love you, I love

“You want me to walk you to the door?”

“No.” There was so much wind in my ears.

The tips of my fingers tingled. Something was spinning, not like a cyclone or a wheel, but like a web, some deeply arachnid matrix. I was barefoot and on the chair before he could stop me.

A foot on the ledge of the balcony, another in the wrought iron arabesque of a railing.

What happened next was a sort of parachuting. I spread my arms and then I brought it all, all of it, the firmament I raised my eyes to in pain and in praise and by which he marshaled his life, into the cradle of my palms. The labyrinth in my being turned into the gossamer in which I ensnared it all.

“What are you doing?” he shouted behind me.

“Nothing,” I said, and I hauled the sky in with one heartfelt wrench. “Nothing. Just looking for a silver lining.”

 
 
 


Sharanya Manivannan was born in India in 1985. She is the author of a book of poems, Witchcraft (2008). Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Nervous Breakdown, Superstition Review, Killing The Buddha, Pratilipi, Dark Sky Magazine and elsewhere. Sharanya can be found online at www.sharanyamanivannan.com.