I found it the afternoon my mother slept through her Hindi soap opera, head lolling on the
couch as I dropped my backpack on the floor and walked back out the front door. The braid she had wrested my hair into that morning was loose, strands descended netlike to shroud my cheeks and neck. From above, I must have looked like her, out for a midday shopping trip, and my father in the attic would not have noticed, even if he did look out past the aging cherry tree, beyond his fleet of figures and devotion to congruity.
I walked like I wasn’t 13. I walked like I knew it all—the body’s flirtations with wreckage, the immensity of unexpressed tenderness. I stalked adult knowledge, kicking from my path every pretense of protection.
That was how I made it: unassuming in my strength even as the sun crowned me king of the pit. No neighbors stopped to talk to me that day. No curious look or kindly wave. I was not to be disturbed. Even the freeway lay carless, understanding today it served a greater purpose. From a respectful distance, birds followed me. Sparrows for a train and robins to hold them up. The earthworms, half-dead from heat, revived as I stepped over them. Tinnily, they thanked me, as I cut through Mrs. Restren’s backyard and made my ritual way to the inner wilderness, long forbidden to me.
It was nothing very special, Cormorant Road. Just a faint cut of civilization four miles into the woods. From the incline of the unmapped hill, I traced that subtle pavement. Then I set off to meet it, the birds fluttering up from behind me to watch from looming trees. Sunlight grew weaker here, my skin dimming with every step. And as I reached the dirt path that merged into Cormorant Road, I was not surprised to see them standing there.
Moss crowded their armored limbs, falling in a thick fringe over their helmets. On each rusted shield, a fanciful insignia. Tar-tipped boots greeted me when I crossed over to where they crouched, the cautious eye of Cormorant Road following my trajectory. It watched, narrowed and furtive, as I examined the alien asphalt, the green knights fruitlessly on guard. Dusk fell now in slivers around us, casting a blue-gray sheen on the hands tensed at their scabbards. But when the tremors started, I knew to hold my ground.
There was nothing I could not win against, you understand. No power on earth above sullen girlhood. All the same, men of flesh or steel or vegetation can never help their heartfelt attempts.
My mother stirred, picking up the arm that had fallen to the floor in a dancer’s arc. Onscreen, the sister-in-law was weeping, her nefarious plot foiled once more. She would have to wait till the next episode for the heroine’s forgiveness. Ma sat forward, licking her dry bottom lip. At her call, I half-turned from the window, submitting to sweat-dappled hands. Outside, clouds hurried to gather themselves into an army before our door. I nodded and they held still, waiting for the hordes.
Amrita Chakraborty is a Bangladeshi-American writer and graduate student in comparative literature at Cornell University. Her work has been published by Kajal Magazine, BOAAT, Ghost City Press, and more. Currently, she serves as a blog correspondent with Half Mystic Journal. You can find her online at: amritachakraborty.com.