Poetry | ‘Paranoid Love’ & ‘Divorce’ by Vivek V. Narayan | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Paranoid Love

“Put the fruit on the table,” she whispered.

I laid out
grapes
oranges
peaches
green apples
pears
and a very ripe
pomegranate.

Minutes before she left,
I offered, “Fruit?,”
trying not to sound too worried.

She shook her head,
the pomegranate nuzzled against the soft peaches:
a comfortable position to explode in.

“Don’t worry, I have everything I need.”

The clock was a patient time bomb.

“Lipstick?”
“Yes.”
“Nail polish?”
“Yes.”
“The tracking bracelet?”
[…]
“Gloss?
“Yes!”
“Mascara? Your armored purse?”
[… ! …]
“Spare bullets?”
“Hmmm.”
“Escape money?”
“Always.”
“My phone number?”
She glared. Her inbreath hissed.

“The ear rings in their mother-of-pearl box?”
She checked, smiling softly as the sun
sprayed blood on the horizon,
and soothed, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Good. I felt safe.
So she had carried her armoured handbag,
reinforced with chainmail,
slung like a rifle from her shoulder,
loaded with lipstick and bullets.

Good. She was safe.
I felt in the mood.

The pomegranate exploded in my mouth,
spraying claret juices everywhere.


Divorce

The only thing left between us
is a washing machine bought
on your card.

On credit, too. Credit, 
Still left then.

Once,
long ago,
I remember,
I was 23 and the girl 32.
We left two ways from Mumbai:
she eastwards to Calcutta
and I to Ahmedabad.
In more ways than one,
I turned left,
and she, right,

We shipped birds and cats
memories and refrigerators;
no washing machine,
we’d always done our dirty laundry in public
(my friends still have nightmares about
her tirades to them
of how they’d ruined her
pre-ruined life).
Her TV had gone to my parents
and my DVD player to hers.

But you, now that we must
divide the loot of our discord,
tell me –

What must we do with the washing machine?
Shall one of us take the washer and the other, the dryer?
Or shall we run a chainsaw through the middle,
severing all that was common?

But how will you wash out
from the washer
the smells of my loneliness;
from its walls: the muck of my despair?
Will you spin out
from your dryer
(to tell at parties)
stories of my ineptitude?
My looniness?
My circular illogic?

Perhaps
you will laugh,
in a violent rattle like
the dryer sometimes had,
a malicious laugh like the death rattle
of an old washing machine
whose credit has run out.


Vivek V. Narayan is a writer, performance-maker, and scholar, who recently graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Theater and Performance Studies, and a PhD Minor in Anthropology. He is an alumnus of Royal Holloway, University of London, where he completed MA Theatre (Directing) on a Charles Wallace India Trust Award, and of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, from which he graduated with a BA in English Literature.

He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the Departments of English and Performing Arts, at Ashoka University. His writing has appeared in The CaravanJ-CASTEThe HinduFountain InkAZURE (3:44:3), and The High Window, while his theatre work has been staged in India, the UK, and the US. His work has been recognized by the Bluestone Rising Scholar Prize, the Charles Wallace India Trust Award, Thespo awards for young theatre practitioners in India, and was shortlisted for the Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award.  

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