If I were to tell the story of how I lost my bracelet, I would have to first tell the story of how I found it. It was on a summer evening while my mother was giving Kathak lessons to pay the bills. She had woven jasmine into her salt and pepper bun, worn her best anarkali, and paired them with golden jhumkas. Like always, she held her infectious smile as tightly as the red dupatta tied around her left shoulder and waist as she clapped her ghungroo-clad feet on the hardwood floors, and performed her hand mudras with the grace of a swan. Our relatives from Kolkata had once called to offer their condolences and to suggest ‘a young widow like herself’ to sell the house and return to India. They claimed to lose sleep over how she would take care of herself and her toddler, all alone in a foreign land. As I got older, I realized that they weren’t the kind of people to lose sleep over something so trivial. They were worried that she would invite a white Florida man to the bed she once shared with my father in the very house that he bought. I would have encouraged her to do just that and rile them up a little, but when I was eighteen and attending community college, she was still sleeping with a framed photograph of herself and my father. That summer evening, I left my mother and her students in the spare room at the back of the house that she had transformed into her studio, which she always made sure smelled of sandalwood from the incense and fresh tuberose from her offerings before a small bronze idol of Krishna, and stepped out for a hunt in the local library. She had once tried to teach me how to dance but it turned out that I couldn’t coordinate my hands and feet enough even if my life depended on it. I was far more comfortable diving into words, no matter their species. It had started with me rummaging through my father’s collection of Physics books which she never touched except when dusting the shelves on alternate Sunday mornings whilst muttering to herself. I was quick to learn that there was a possibility of my father continuing his existence in the universe because matter can neither be created out of nothing nor can it be destroyed. The protons, neutrons, and electrons that he was made of were still out there, perhaps, as specks of dust dancing in the sunlight beams from the skylight in the attic, or as algae in the pond in the Millers’ backyard, or as a new-born Beluga whale off the coast of Russia. And as if that wasn’t enough information for a ten-year-old, a funny-looking gentleman suggested that time is an illusion relative to its observer, and with his friend, he raved about bridges through space and time. However, the Physics books never divulged workable secrets for me to know where to begin looking for my father. And I really wanted to so my mother would stop the muttering while dusting his bookshelves, or cook anything other than poha for breakfast because that’s what he liked, or not lose sleep over a broken pot of peace lilies in her bedroom because he had gifted her one, on the day he wed her. Somewhere amidst that search for my father, I discovered science-fiction, and that summer evening, I was headed to the one place that always dipped my soul in a warm creamy soup of hope—the town library. I’ve outgrown that little girl in more ways than one. Having lost my faith in Physics and having realized that science-fiction is just what it is, fiction, I moved on to make platonic love to the myriad of crafted beings residing in words strung together. And then, I capitalized on my love for the human soul, finding ways for them to cope and heal and move on. When my mother laid in bed, comatose and broken from an ugly fall, I sat by her side without holding my breath in childish hope and held her hand until she crossed over. Thirteen evenings later, which was yesterday, I put up the house for sale along with all of its furniture and prepared to return to New York. On the curb outside the house, I bumped into a gentleman about my age. I apologized but he, insouciant, continued to stare at the dead house which I once called home. There was a strange familiarity about him; I couldn’t put my finger on it. Perhaps, it was his musky cologne, his thin mustache, the crescent moon scar on his left cheekbone, or his tousled curls in desperate need of a wash and a trim. “I’m too late,” he finally whispered, the corner of his eyes welling up. “And now I can’t go back.” He tore his eyes away from the house and stared at his dusty boots for a moment before turning away and leaving, never once looking at me. I did what I do best—I shook it off and went my way. Tonight, I sit on my apartment floor with my back against the kitchen counter, staring at the framed photograph my mother used to sleep with. The thin mustache, the crescent moon scar on the left cheekbone, and the untamed curls were the things that stood out about my father, a man I barely knew, a man who my mother said left for the University one morning to never return. I noticed my bare wrist earlier this evening and realized that I’d lost my bracelet. And I now know where and when because twenty-odd years ago, I found that bracelet on the curb outside my house, right where I bumped into that familiar man who I barely knew. As for him, well, I hope he can find his way back home even though he thinks he cannot.
About the Author:
Tejaswinee Roychowdhury lives in West Bengal, India, and writes fiction, CNF, and the occasional poetry. Her work has recently appeared / will appear in Ongoing, Amethyst Review, Ayaskala, Roi Fainéant Press, Yuzu Press, Alphabet Box, and elsewhere. She is also a lawyer and tweets at @TejaswineeRC.
This piece is part of Issue Two: CHRONOS. Read more like it here.