Madness, Monsoon and the Municipality
Now that the rains are here, the leathery flapping of batwings and, more rarely, hoots from owls are joined by a symphony of croaks from the ground; loud, squeaky, soft and everything in between. I can’t be sure when the rain may fall again—the sky is always cloudy. So, I told Mia to stay home. We picked up bricks from the big construction next to the slums last month and we laid them on the ground under the tarpaulin so our things won’t get wet this year. Old man Rafi showed us how.
Even here, night is as tricky as it is at home. When the branches above shake, I see moving things—sometimes like people, sometimes like animals floating in the air, between the branches and the sky. Sometimes I only see hands or legs or heads and other body parts. The stadium is good during evenings. Then, I come here to see other children and bigger children and big people walk and run and play. I remember when I used to want to play. It would make my mother angry. She was always angry and always crying. She taught me that playing would make me hungry. I don’t like getting hungry now, so I like to watch the other children play. They come here every day just to play.
Old man Rafi and his old wife will take care of Mia. She was crying, but crying makes you hungry and then sleepy just like playing.
The far side of the stadium is always dark. A street light peeks in from the path on the outside and falls on the stair seats a little bit but otherwise there is no light. The gate on that side cannot be seen. On this side you could just come in from the side where the stair steps end after climbing up the slope from the slums.
The people don’t like the slum kids coming here. Once, they threw us all out; so now I don’t tell the others when I come here. I come alone and sit under the branches with a paper, pretending I’m studying.
At night, the municipal stadium isn’t as happy as it is in the evenings. There are eyes peering out from where the gate at the far side should be and I don’t want to think of what they might be thinking. When the branches sway in the wind, drops of water fall down on me. The steps are wet.
The children who come here to play tell me they go to school. A school is a place where they teach you to read and write and other things but they don’t want to teach me. One boy pretends to be my friend but he looks at me just like bad men look at me. Just like Saravan. I asked him to give me a gift. He gave me what I asked for. He said it was “German.” He said his mother had a whole set. Now I think he wants me to also give him something. I think he wants to do the same thing Saravan did.
Saravan says he’s our father. He only comes sometimes. After mother died, he told me I was now a woman. I think it was because of the rags he saw. He took Mia to old man Rafi’s tent and he came back into ours. He said this is what mother always did and now I must do it. Mother was always crying. Today he was making Mia do it when I came home.
The knife was sharp. I know it because the boy said it was “German.” When I touched my finger to feel its sharpness, it cut me. It cut Saravan too. It wasn’t painful. It slid right in.