it has been a week since i moved into this new home. a week since my Saturday morning of loss on Via Cesare Baronio. there are so many things you can do with dry eyes if you set your mind to it -- even when you are broken inside. i signed every single page of that rental contract with one thought burning up the inside of my head. how can i be doing this on the day you died?
i tried to explain to Antonio, that in my culture -- this mixed-up culture of people who think and work and live and even love in English, but who hide a layer underneath all the others of their acquired identity, a layer that is made up of relationhsips and emotions that can be only be expressed in Urdu. in this culture, we do not call an aunt an aunt. the word aunt is left for your mother's friend, for your best friend's mother, for the lady that lives two doors down. it is an almost arbitrary tie -- anyone can be an aunt, as long as they are older, and female.
your father's sister is your Phupo.
i remember Lindsay loving the way i spoke to my brother about how our Shahida Phupo had called. to her my aunt's name, said together with our word for aunt -- the whole thing sounded like something from a children's storybook, a person you wanted to tuck you into bed at night, a fairy-godmother you called on when you were afraid.
your mother's sister is your Khala.
it has always been hard for me to explain, to people who are not South-Asian, how interchangeable these women are, with your own mother. i did not even live in the same city as my aunts, for most of my childhood. but i lived in the house of one or the other for every single summer holiday through primary and secondary school -- a bevy of cousins in a bungalow in Islamabad, fighting over who got the drumstick at dinner, calling shotgun for the ride to the video store, winning and losing and cheating at everything from Ludo to London Statues.
and through all these summers of monsoons and mangoes and Monopoly, there would be a Khala holding forth. managing the overeaters and the undereaters (i.e. yours truly), the bee-stings and the stolen-Barbies, the first crushes and the crushed egos. all of us, at some point, before we learned to say the word for Khala, referred to a mother's sister with some appropriation of the word Amma -- which is our word for mother.
i don't know where to focus all the feeling. on the fact that you shouldn't have to lose a father one year, and an almost-Amma the next. on the conviction that this didn't have to happen. or on the saw-toothed guilt that i feel, at the last six months that i put off a phonecall i kept meaning to make.
last year my father died. and it taught me how you cannot do other, than forgive someone after they're gone. this year i get to learn that it doesn't work the other way. you cannot be forgiven by someone, after they're gone.
[Cafè Cafè, Roma]
[domenica 26 ottobre 2008 ore 11:26:03] [¶]
it occurs to me that almost a year ago to the day, i bought myself a red coat.
one table over, five Italians are comparing notes on their favorite winter soups. (to my quiet delight, one of them closes the discussion with an ode to ribollita. i could kiss him.)
the wine bar is playing Norah.
i shall move in two weeks. i shall cover the couch in scarlet corduroy. i shall walk to work. (and when i don't, i shall get off at the Colosseo stop.) i shall make friends with this ornery man at Enoteca Kottabus. and i shall, eventually, i suspect, want fun and love, again.
it's been over a year i have been back. so many anniversaries that do not contain my father's memory. so many new memories. i feel old and young and exhausted and so very many other things. Romolo tells me of his mother and for the first time in a year i am not immediately and breathlessly cut to pieces by the thought of someone losing a parent -- not quite. for the first time, it is not All Over Again.
i hear the hurt in my mother's voice when i explain that i cannot leave. that i have to work on me, for a while. that i am just starting to feel the bones stitching back together. it's more than that. i want to enjoy this. it's been too long, since i got to live a life that doesn't have some kind of tick tock timer tied to it. that is unconditionally, mine.
[Enoteca Kottabus, Roma]
[domenica 05 ottobre 2008 ore 21:22:28] [¶]