When they unlocked their second story, there was presence of light inside just enough to illuminate the receding hairline of the midwife. He turned and she turned. “All we could find for a source of light was the TV” said the midwife, sat his back to the TV, right beside his obstetrician wife, the TV and them facing the prepped bedroom. Two pair of hands moved. Hers reached for the switch and his for the board. She turned on the sunlight and he the noise-cancellation. “Where could’ve you been?” Two pair of legs walked toward the guests and they belonged to Epiphany and Selvan. For over an hour, for a random trip, they’d been to sight a volcanic eruption. “We been to an unfriendly, violent beach” Epiphany replied, huffing as she did, and Selvan rushed with her, almost dragging her, toward the room to be draped, feebly crying: “Why does it have to ache so much?”
When he was screaming and she was grinding her teeth, it might’ve been easy to isolate the one who warranted the utmost care but it maybe wasn’t wise to dwell on positives that turn out to be negatives. The OB team of two now had one life to save. Two pair of hands worked indefatigably. The birth cord loosened and loosened and at hours five from the birth orifice schloup popped the baby out and who it was was a baby boy. There was the blood-stained drape between Epiphany and Selvan and it wasn’t easy to say who’d bled the most. The midwife held the baby dearly, unmindful of the quiet around and the obstetrician checked Selvan’s hairs and nails for signs of life. He hung his head like a sleeping cat. She raised hers, feebly smiling, glanced the baby. She then receded to her part-fetal posture to feel the ache that wasn’t of the flesh.
Voice from the TV: …yet another study insists that postpartum deaths occur to as many women as to men…
The view from their first-story kitchen isn’t a sight of slow decay and it isn’t precisely one of extreme pictorial pleasure either. The gopuram beyond the circular billboards bells minutes eleven and chants Songs of Sulaiman set to no-fi zitar. Epiphany twists her side out of habit wanting to head butt Selvan and he withdraws so as not to bend the cord between them.
“Who gets fired in times of affluence?” she despairs. “I just wanted unpaid leaves. Is it because I’m twenty-seven?” “Perhaps because I’m twenty-two” Selvan reassures her. She brings her hand across to cup his love and he brings his around her handle. “The receptionists below say the bigger the fetuses grow, fatter and aparter we’ll grow.”
Writing on a billboard: Stay-at-home fathers—you who raise the kids and make the homes—you deserve to be paid much, much more for what you do and we promise you will be. Vote for Democracy Margins.
The table for two, now occupied by Epihany and Selvan, was made of coal. She wanted him to sit beside her. “I thought it’s better with you facing me” he slyly persuaded her. This seemed better. With just plates, forks and spoons between them, it would be each other’s gestures.
“We deliver as it is” the waitress began. “No modified delicacies here. We serve them fried, boiled, half-boiled, whatever—they come yolks and all.” The waitress went recital and wouldn’t end it. “When it’s between others we say it’s sex snidely and when it’s between ourselves we call it’s love, even more snidely.” Part of it was because she had everything in two and twofold starting with her head. Selvan thought they were twines but then they couldn’t be. He puzzled Epiphany “Does this happen between…” “Happened…happens” she assured him, “They’re a twain.”
Selvan was seventeen and Epiphany did know it. “I swear he looks to me not a day younger than twenty-one” she’d say to herself. How to behave like twenteen-two—she did know that as well.
Epiphany had to voice it at last. She said “You’re not coming through” in a voice so lowish it was a tone of marvel than one of complaint. Selvan was like “I’m not coming through”. It’d take a couple of servings and bites, some more mastications and gesticulations. “Does she know it?” He was getting omelets, half-boiled, salted. She was trying hard-boiled, peppered. “Does he know it?”
Finally when he did come through, her hands reached for his and he whispered “Why” loud enough she could hear it. “You don’t want to stay a twain even for ten minutes.” Not this early. “You know it but sometimes she couldn’t help it and sometimes he.”
For a first, they weren’t the best, they were good. “Waitresses…” Epiphany rang for them, in part-dazed stupor. “Just waitress would do.” “…the bull?” They came tiptoed and signed the check.
Epiphany slid the door open. Selvan stepped out of the diner. Over their heads, illuminated in neon was the sign: Hirs Delicacies. Further overhead, there were columns of concrete and protruding rods of metal—first story either abandoned, postponed or in the pipeline.
From the wall of the deli: You have it. You mightn’t want to want it.