The first time Nakajima stayed over, I dreamed of my dead mom.Maybe it was having him in the room that did it, after having been alone so long.
We had driven for never-ending miles along what seemed to be more a mudbank than a road between fields of virulent green – jute? rice? what was it this benighted hinterland produced? I ought to have known, but my head was pounded into too much of a daze by the heat and the sun and the fatigue to take in what my driver was telling me in answer to my listless questions.
The dusk settles over a day in late autumn. The sun sets above the East Henan plain, a blood-red ball turning the earth and sky a deep shade of crimson. As red unfurls, slowly the dusk turns to evening. Autumn grows deeper; the cold more intense. The village streets are all empty and silent.
Dogs are in their dens.
Chickens at roost in their coops.
The cows have returned early from the fields and are snug in their sheds.
Deeti's shrine was hidden in a cliff, in a far corner of Mauritius, where the island's western and southern shorelines collide to form the wind-whipped dome of the Morne Brabant. The site was a geological anomaly – a cave within a spur of limestone, hollowed out by wind and water – and there was nothing like it anywhere else on the mountain. Later Deeti would insist that it wasn't chance but destiny that led her to it – for the very existence of the place was unimaginable until you had actually stepped inside it.
Lonely, as all such posts are, this one is particularly frightening. No habitation for miles around, and no vegetation except for a few wasted and barren date trees leaning crazily against one another, and no water other than a trickle among some salt-encrusted boulders, while also dries out occasionally, manifesting a degree of hostility.
Nature has not remained content merely at this. In this land, she has also created the dreaded bad-e-sad-o-bist-roz, the wind of a hundred and twenty days. This wind rages almost continuously during the four winter months, blowing clouds of alkali-laden dust and sand so thick that men can barely breathe or open their eyes when they happen to get caught in it.
In the top floor room of the dilapidated town house across the Terrace, a light has been on all night. From your bed it was visible whenever you turned towards the window, which you had to do in order to fetch your bottle from the floor. Most nights, the same. The bulb is lighted at dusk. In the mornings, a couple of moments after the street lamps flicker out, it dies, and the ragged curtain is closed.
And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city. The path that drops down from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and crosses Morningside Park is only fifteen minutes from Central Park. In the other direction, going west, it is some ten minutes to Sakura Park, and walking northward from there brings you toward Harlem, along the Hudson, though traffic makes the river on the other side of the trees inaudible. These walks, a counterpoint to my busy days at the hospital, steadily lengthened, taking me father and father afield each time, so that I often found myself at quite a distance from home late at night, and was compelled to return home by subway. In this way, at the beginning of the final year of my psychiatry fellowship, New York City worked itself into my life at walking pace.
She'd been lying in the hammock reading poetry for over an hour. It wasn't easy: she was thinking all the while about George coming back with Cecil, and she kept sliding down, in small half-willing surrenders, till she was in a heap, which the book held tiringly above her face. Now the light was going, and the words began to hide among themselves on the page. She wanted to get a look at Cecil, to drink him in for a minute before he saw her, and was introduced, and asked her what she was reading. But he must have missed his train, or at least his connection: she saw him pacing the long platform at Harrow and Wealdstone, and rather regretting he'd come. Five minutes later, as the sunset sky turned pink above the rockery, it began to seem possible that something worse had happened. With sudden grave excitement she pictured the arrival of a telegram, and the news being passed round; imagined weeping pretty wildly; then saw herself describing the occasion to someone, many years later, though still without quite deciding what the news had been.
The Authors (out of order):
Joseph O'Connor, Ghost Light
Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table
Teju Cole, Open City
Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger's Child
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
Jamil Ahmad, The Wandering Falcon
Banana Yoshimoto, The Lake
Yan Lianke, Dream of Ding Village
Kyung-Sook Shin, Please Look After Mom
Amitav Ghosh, River of Smoke
Rahul Bhattacharya, The Sly Company of People Who Care
Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories
Anita Desai, The Artist of Disappearance
Steven Millhauser, We Others: New and Selected Stories
Which ones appealed to you the most and why?