Fiction by Dipti Anand

Eve’s Inner Witness Is Not a Monster

On a winter night stitched together with dark clouds shrouding like funeral fabric, Eve shudders under a sizzling gas heater, intercepting the evening’s chill, while its glow lights Adam’s face up. The restaurant is filled with an idle quiet, lacking, aesthetically, groups of happy diners. The last of the servers occupy one table, chugging the remains of opened, unfinished bottles of wine. Eve and Adam occupy another table wrestling with cold chicken parmigiana. All their talk, like fireworks, erupts as aghast faces that disappear without a trace. Together they make note of how plentiful jackfruit is this time of year, in their salads, in their cocktails and conversation. Afterwards Eve cuts through a big bite of pavlova cake and wrinkles her nose at its fateful tartness.

When she eyes the menu under his plate, its stains incandescent from his sloppy eating, Adam tells Eve she’s prodigal, and that it’s not good to waste. I’ll have a glass of port wine,’ Eve says, making up her mind which is already made-up. Reluctantly he gestures to a server, who nods along distractedly and slouches off making his way to the bar inside. A rift of laughter erupts from the other table. The server returns with two glasses and says they’re on the house. Though Adam thanks him, he refuses to take them from the server’s outstretched hand and Eve happily claims both pours.

When the other table quietens down again, Adam tells Eve that he’s thinking about leaving. Okay,’ she says. She picks up her purse only to set it down, not knowing why she reached for it in the first place.

The city,’ Adam clarifies, not saying anything else that might reveal the city as a metonym for pronouns that otherwise sound safe in the mouth. He picks at some loose tendrils of chicken with his fingernails. Please stop that,’ she says, slapping her hand down on his.

They’d lived together for so long, they’d already discussed their deaths. Eve wants to be cremated, her ashes used as compost for a tree. Adam wants to be buried by the sea, so little by little it can take him away. They used to lay awake at nights with their legs intertwined, debating whether they’d be happier living by the beach or in the mountains. Trees could grow anywhere, Eve reasoned, on all kinds of cliffs and shores while the ocean needs to fight for its space. Later Adam tossed through the night but she slept soundly knowing she was going to be the happier one.

Her attention shifts to the tablecloth, how rough it is from excessive bleaching and how its cross-hatched pattern of white on white can never quite be new again. A few weeks ago Adam had worn a similar shirt in a simulacra of white. He’d rolled his sleeves up to his elbows to finish housework and chores after a long day at the museum, while Eve quietly re-folded every other shirt in his closet. The next day he asked if she’d seen his blue shirt with the green paisley print. No,’ she had said. Eve just didn’t like paisley.

We’ve been here too long,’ Adam says suddenly, jumping to his feet and Eve briefly brightens up thinking they can catch a night cap at the bar down the road, where the day drunks stay till night and the night drunks never go home. He corrects her, says it’s still the city he’s talking about.

After they pay the check, Eve reminds Adam how they’ve lived here forever and elsewhere is just a nowhere place they liked to talk about. She throws around the word forever as if it is prefixed and immutable and not a product of occasion. Forever is just a trail of days, he tells her, of which there are many more to come. Adam is always telling her something. On last count it was the difference between dragonflies and damselflies. Damselflies, despite their intricately veined, equal-sized wings, manage delicate flight, while the lopsided wings of dragonflies are tougher, reconciled as they are to their imperfections. Known to those who know, of course, he added stupidly.

Now that Adam can see himself in a whole other world Eve finds herself hoping he will tell her what she’ll be like elsewhere too. What am I like?’ she’s prone to ask him, and in the past he would rub his tired eyes and silently kiss her to sleep. Eve would wake up floating, feeling as though she’d forgotten something important.

This new Adam, with his shoulders rounded out, sucking the sweetness out of the last sips of her wine, wants out of their death plans. She pictures him with gray hair, how in time his back will crinkle and his skin will first stretch then collapse. She didn’t know it was possible for time to pass by so unhindered, perhaps only at the end of something. Eve then wonders what Einstein would say about such relativity, after two cocktails and three-quarters of a bottle of wine. E = motherfuckin’ I’ve had enough of you,’ or so she imagines. He might admit that inside her is a bitch fox but that he’s really enjoyed this dinner with her.

The drive home feels longer than they’re both used to. Eve wonders if Adam has done it on purpose, to trick her into thinking this whole place, and their memory, is make-believe. Adam’s gaze remains steady, surpassing the headlights. He doesn’t turn his head to look at her even when the car turns. Eve wishes she could laugh hysterically. She couldn’t find her way back home even if she was covered in eyes. Still she insists she knows which is which among the stars that are all a blur in the windswept motion of the windows. These are her stars, she tells him, no matter where he will go. They burn like ash cherries piercing through silk sheets.

Dipti Anand

IG: @dizzlesss

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