Watermelon Juice

Cable TV, 2003;
Cackles ominously
Sunshine carves a void into our pupils
May is the time for watermelons
Says my grandmother,
She sits on the floor of the living room
Saree splayed across the mosaic
chessboard under her feet
And her fingers dissect the green from the pink
With all the deftness of a parrot cleaning its wings
She picks apart the stray threads on the kalamkari carpet  
They robbed me, the scoundrels, it’s already coming apart 
But she keeps the threads in an old paan tin
I wonder if she’s collecting them  
Planning to knit a whole new carpet to douse in watermelon juice
I wonder if that’s a carpet I can keep

The nights taste like acid on the tip of my tongue
Petrol festers on my spit each night as I brush
my teeth crouched over the porcelain sink
But when the windows are closed
I taste the watermelon seeds lodged
in a back tooth I can’t (don’t want to) reach
I wonder if the stories she tells me are true;
Of a woman larger-than-life and a heart punctured by sorrow
Of frogs hitch-hiking to Tomorrowland
Of two boys who laugh till their faces are more tears than skin
As I lay my head next to hers each night each summer each year
And I look into her eyes
I realise I don’t care for truth
Only for soft sarees and stray threads and watermelon juice.

Cable TV, 2008  
Falls silent
Shiny young women point at detergents and move their mouths soundlessly
From under a sheen of dust
The rain floods the window sills and drips to my feet
I taste the empty house
The nest of moth eggs under the kalamkari carpet
The broken salt shakers and the last pair of shoes
Stacked against the door
I wonder if the stories she told me were true;
Her punctured breast now ash, scattered to the winds
Frogs floating in through a broken drain in her abandoned kitchen
Two brothers passing their tears off as raindrops
Her last story echoing through the flames
There is too much room for truth in this house now

She said
You tell your children my stories when I’m gone, that way I’ll still be around
I tell a new story
Scratch the inside of the front door once
For each untouched saree in her closet and each needle in her body
Each thread in the paan tin and all the carpets she never knit
Until the door is all bark, no wood
And for once, I chop my own fruit; tell her story
Drop the seeds in the kitchen bin for someone else to find

I leave the air tasting
like watermelon juice
And she knows I was there.

Hiya Chowdhury is an 18-year old student and aspiring writer from New Delhi, India. She was named the Senior Runner-Up at the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition in 2017, authored a children’s fiction novel in 2018, and has been the only Asian writer shortlisted in the International H.G Wells Short Story Competition in 2019. Her work has appeared and is forthcoming in Rust+Moth, BBC 500 Words, Blue Marble Review and Sky Island Journal, among others. She is currently on the Editorial Team of the international student-run literary journal, Polyphony Lit. In her free time, Hiya enjoys drinking her weight in coffee and spending time with her beautiful dog, Naina.