Shades of red, green and burning blue cast across a sea of faces, most of them smiling or drunk. Hanging above these heads are neon signs that bathe the crowded street in its multi-coloured hues. Here, in the heart of the Soho district in Hong Kong, the low hum of the lights can barely be heard over the usual Friday night commotion.
It starts with you. With a body. With a body like all other bodies: water and dirt and light shaped into the image of God. With a body like Matti’s body, which was large and clay-coloured and, like any other body, had lungs to smoke with, and hands that could hold a drum, and two legs that carried him for half a century, caving only slightly after Maduro’s second win, when Matti looked at the bucket he’d pissed in and saw blood.
AINHOA SANTOS GOICOECHEA
It was some hours past midnight and the struggle to stay awake finally stopped. The little boy’s eyes snapped open as the stirrings of a tune wafted into the room. He stood up and gingerly tiptoed towards the window, where he leaned out to listen. A snatch of song. Ankle bells jangling, bubbling laughter. They were awake, and they were dancing.
We almost believed it would last. The summer was drawling on, the flies crackled in those long evenings, but we knew we were seeing our friends for these final times. There was a sense that somewhere on the other side of this, we would run into each other again and talk like different people. How had our lives been so far?
Miss Mamta’s house felt small in spite of the big windows overlooking the sea. The sun was hanging ripe and heavy over the cityscape, about to drop into the water. Ruhi sat in the living room, ankles pressed tightly together, waiting for Miss Mamta to come out of the shower. She wiped her palms on her skirt. The walls of the house seemed to beg for some breathing space.
I have attended three funerals in my life. This feels like a prophetic number, but also a reminder of grace – a blessing, to be able to count loss on one hand. The first was for a woman I barely knew, a relative I saw on Eid mornings. The only memory I have of her is a house with mossy vines growing on the balcony, the smell of spices wafting out of an over-crowded kitchen.
I have this perverted habit of looking into apartment windows. I think it started when I moved away from Mumbai for the first time. I remember I had felt like I was being assaulted by the malice of London’s winter. The cold winds would blow with a bitterness, like a punishment, and I’d tense my shoulders as I walked against it, my hands balled up into fists in my coat pockets.
Death – stupid, annoying, final. I did not like death before, and now I am even more opposed to the concept. What is it about death that makes everyone treat the bereaved like ghosts? Maybe it is something about how sadness smudges, until you are nothing but a reminder of loss. No one looks at me anymore. Grief is not contagious. But it feels like it is, sometimes.