Intimate Spaces

A clutch of colorful leaves is in her long, tapered fingers. Laddu painstakingly searches for and brings them to her one by one. It turns into a bouquet. We are by a set of rocks along the road that runs parallel to the roaring horseshoe falls on the Canadian side of the Niagara. Saathi is out to get the car so the rest of us ladies can skip the long walk to the parking lot. The day has been grueling, the long car ride, the endless walk in the hot sun for the cruise along Niagara lake skirting the falls. Our legs are weary but the spirits are high. The kids are chattering as they zoom in and out with me as their focal point. Amid the busyness of everything, it is the intimacy that startles me. Laddu and Chithra lost in their world of leaves and nature.

Pattu leans over the railing that overlooks the falls. Her nose is upturned, her eyes wide, her face serene. She takes in the overwhelming beauty of tumbling water while I take in the beauty that is a child lost in rapturous wonder. Through the evening, I stop and stare at my children experiencing the falls for the first time. The spray, the wet walkways, the crowds that mill around, the pounding of water as the boat we are on nears the falls, the dripping water that soaks our shoes, the stickiness of the poncho, the oppressive heat.

We are on a ferry heading into the sunset toward an island. Our motley group is scattered over the different decks. I scramble to keep an eye on all of my children. Just as I despair of finding anyone at all, I spy Pattu. This time she is gazing into the water, her almost brown hair obscuring her face. I slow down, pause and raise my phone to snap a picture. She looks up when she realizes she is being photographed. We stay in silence, kindred souls, looking into the water and feeling lost in what can only be termed otherworldly experiences.

We are six of us in the car, two per row. Laddu and I are in the back, playing and gigging at her pranks. I stretch my feet onto the little divider between the bucket seats in the middle. I feel the twins before I see them. Ammu is tracing the bulging veins on one foot while Pattu is tracing calluses on the tiny toe. For a moment I am drawn back in time, drawing patterns on my dad’s hard, cracked soles. I remember the feel of the skin, the way I poked at the dead skin to provoke a reaction and asking repeatedly if he felt anything. I feel nails digging into my soles and I revel in the bond that seems to transcend time, the feel of skin on skin.

Cars are intimate spaces. We travel, the homes and farms whizzing past in a blur, the constant motion dulling us into a sense of suspended time. We let our guards down, we talk, we commune in silence and sometimes we link fingers and just let ourselves be.

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