The Letter K

teaSitting in the middle seat of the car is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s the best seat if you want to listen to what everybody has to say. Payam’s eyes are set on the road ahead. Azadeh has her head turned around from the front passenger seat. Matilda and Alanna, to my left and right, are talking about the flies (dead and alive) back at the school house we have just left. It is to do with the winter and the cow dung from farms around, Matilda argues, while Alanna has her own scientific theory of a dead decaying body of something in the attic.

As we pass through farms on the road back to Borås, the familiar smell of dung fills the car, even through it’s closed windows. I think of bajai and the cow shed back in Taji. The last time I talked to ama, she said that bajai would go ahead and plant crops this year too…maize, rice and probably, millet too. She’s 83. We’ve been trying to convince her to move to Kathmandu and live an easier life. But she won’t listen.

I wonder how it would feel to visit her in the village now, without baje around. Without him taking his afternoon nap on the tiny mud porch – his blue Nokia mobile and Panasonic radio by his side. His muffler wrapped around his head and the fluorescent pink towel around his waist. Coughing sporadically in his sleep.

Baje went away peacefully in January.

The car is moving through rows of endless fir trees. If we had been leaving Kathmandu Valley, instead of Kalv, we would have been winding down the hills to Naubise. We would have been taking in the dust of the highway and hoping that we wouldn’t fall off the edge as the car swerved around the corners.

I glance at my nails. They still carry traces of mud from the digging I did at the school. Azadeh filmed me as I shoved the tiny spade into the moss and tore it up to spell out M-A-Y-B-E.

“It feels so violent,” I said to her. She smiled back and shook her head. Two guys walked past the school, eyeing us suspiciously. One digging, the other filming. We exchanged one word.

“Hej”.

“Hej”.

I thought of bajai then too. As I dug.

Of bajai’s hands.
The leathery wrinkles collected at her joints.
The coarseness of her palms.
The funny crookedness of her fingers tips….

The huge blue and white signs along the road distract me and I lose my train of thought. I start a new one.

I go back to trace the events of the weekend. Azadeh and I talking about our reasons of being here at Valand. Agreeing and disagreeing, but listening to each other. We missed Maria. Payam doing most of the dishes after our meals. Alanna hurrying up and down the house to film the flies. She was discovering new things by the hour. Matilda going on long walks in the area. She brought back an old leaf for me from one of her walks.

“Sunlight is the only magic we have,” I remember her saying, as we ate outside in the sun.

I agree.

It was the sunlight in Panter Rummet that had drawn me in, in our previous and second group visit to Kalv. Sometime in mid-March. A Saturday morning. I had settled on a chair in the middle of the room to untie the knots of the strings I had found in our brief walk from Kalvsjögården to the school that morning. But the cooking from the night before had left me exhausted and in the little time I had to myself, I felt more disconnected to the place.

Places, cities, towns, squares, roads, alleys, puddles, bricks.

Kathmandu.
I always go back to Kathmandu.
K for Kathmandu. K for Kalv.
And I am the oscillating K.

I connected to patterns instead. To the metal grids hanging on the ceiling of the room. To the squares of the cork board. To the shifting shadows of the window blinds. To the green nets hanging off of the goal posts. The color took me back to scaffolding nets in Kathmandu, where tall ugly buildings are crawling up to the surface. Creating eclipses. Swallowing everything slowly.

That night when we got back from Kalv, Azadeh wrote to us, “Sometimes, life is too heavy.” I had replied:

‘i feel that way too. that sometimes, life is too heavy. like i am carrying boulders on my shoulders and i am trying hard not to trip or fall or sprain my ankle again.

but what is this weight i feel, in front of those who work at brick kilns, those who fill their dokos with sand, rocks and stones, those who toil in the heat, cold and wind. what is this weight in front of those who live on a daily wage, who beg on the streets, who sleep in the corners of dark alleys.

what is this weight that i cannot even put on a scale and yet, i claim that it is too heavy?’

I replay my own words in my head as we near Borås. I realize I am eternally confused.

Early this morning, I sat swinging in the garden, staring at the goal post. In a spontaneous move, I jumped off the swing, removed the net and dragged it into Panter Rummet and hung it from the grids above. I loved it but as the day waned, I didn’t. For some reason, my action felt violent again.

Now in my middle seat, I think of taking the net back to the goal post the next time I am in Kalv. It belongs there. I will go to the field instead. I will serve tea in the middle of the field, I tell myself and feel pleased. There were even cups in the closet that looked similar to those in Kathmandu.

I must make tea.

bajai – grandmother

baje –  grandfather

ama – mother

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