She had her first Daahl Bhat in four years last night.
Eating it with a fork felt unnatural.
She worked hard to learn how to eat with her right hand. Never eat with your left hand, that is the dirty one used for bodily things.
Nepali grandmother was pleased when she started eating properly.
Wash your hands before the meal.
Observe the food before you with gratitude.
Scoop a little ball of rice into your hand and punctuate it with daahl, curry, saag, curd or her favourite, achar – a type of fresh pickle made with whatever is seasonal. Repeat as necessary. Forgive yourself for the messy curry marinated hand.
At the end of the meal go outside and rinse and wash the platter.
Yesterday’s evening meal has pulled her slightly out of place or it could have been the whispers of Nepali she could hear leaking out from the kitchen or the pictures of pre earthquake Kathmandu and Pokhara.
It was visceral.
She could feel how the air texture changes as you cross that invisible line at Dombre.
The dust shaking out from lungs soaked in the essences of Kathmandu, temple, dirt and poverty.
The view from Monkey temple on a clear day when the vultures circling or a monkey screaming in her face is nothing but beauty despite the thousands of steps to reach such sacred ground.
Salt lassi, buff momo, street dogs telegraphing neighbourhood gossip via howl.
One evening after a fight with Lover, House Dog begins to howl as Lover’s footsteps click away down their narrow street.
This howl is picked up by another, and then another and over a course of an hour the dogs of Kathmandu sang to her a lament.
A lament of broken things and discordant love.
As the howls once again grow close she wraps a blanket around her waist, slips on jandals and pitter patters her way downstairs to the street.
Greeted by House Dog -howls swim through her – a proximal hum.
House dog has let the canine world know they have fought again – this one is loud.
But House Dog loves her and she him.
They are howls of concern, love songs with deep sorrow as they all know the night isn’t over yet.
Walking back upstairs is an act of placing eggshells on the floor. Each step mimicking the disruption that will be his return.
She smoked cigarettes in those days. Actual or black market Marlboro Gold – the secret to telling the difference was the blue or pink tinted “imported” sticker.
There was a comfort to this self destructive ritual.
Tap the soft pack, place the filter tip between softly pursed lips, to the left hand side of the bow, fumble between couch pillows for the lighter, flick the self contained flame into being, inhale deep smudging yourself with smoke.
The cleansing release and filth of it all.
Smoke one, smoke another, fall asleep.
Wake up with Lover standing over her.
Drunken wanting eyes looking her up an down.
Her as object.
“Hey baby, I’m sorry baby.”
As his hand reaches out towards her hip.
There is a moment that many women know – capitulating to sex is “easier” and/or safer than stating a boundary.
“Are you mine, baby…are you?” tone of voice shifting ever so slightly.
Internally she is a very firm NO, actions and machinations are whirring a strategy out.
A clockwork of survival.
But a no means shouting, broken things, and the neighbours have a new baby.
If she says yes it will hurt a little, he’ll be mean, but it is a pain she can live with.
As it happens House Dog begins lamenting.
It spreads across Kaldhara, Thamel, Lazimpat and she’s sure that howl crossed the sacred but violated Bhagmati River.
Once the life blood of the city it’s waters now sometimes turn black, it looks thick and uninviting, with the odd cow floating under bridges entangled in plastic bags. Children still swim here, wild pigs and landless families battle for space and a little breathing room.
A relentless subsistence existence.
Daughter’s disappear along the river banks – often.
Young pretty women working for trafficking cartels befriend the vulnerable. After a few days these new friends decide to have a “spontaneous” adventure to India. And the next thing you know said daughter is in a warehouse in some hidden nook in the arse end Kathmandu and about to be shipped out to the circuses or brothels of Calcutta.
It is a normality for the lower castes and landless either that or some nice “education agent” turns up at the village and offers to take the children to a very good school in the valley for a very good fee.
“Oh you have no money – no problem – why don’t you sign this piece of paper (holding your land against the cost of the education) Nothing can go wrong this is a very good deal for you. I promise.”
A few weeks later that child is in an orphanage and some white lady is paying the owners $200 per week volunteering to help the poor orphan.
Isn’t distraction a marvellous thing.
Lover is done, fallen deeply into a rough sex induced stupor.
She never calls it what it really is. That would be too bold of an unpacking.
She tip toes out out of the room, patters down the stairs, eggshells smashed underfoot, opening the door to be greeted by House Dog.
Together they sit.
Housedog and her as the sky cracks open to dawn’s cacophony of howls.
Sometimes the howl is all there is.
It swallows her whole.