The Ancient Art of Kathak

Harding sat massaging his temples, elbows on the table, a thick textbook in between. He’d read the same line twenty-seven times, restarting rhythmically with the sound of stomping feet and clashing metal coming through the wooden ceiling. Clang-clang-a-lang.

The kitchen door opened and Bunny entered. He shook the snow from his heavy woolen kurta and hung his shawl from a metal hook. His boney Indian frame and sparse tufts of grey facial hair lent him the air of an aging mountain goat. When he spoke, which was rarely, it was with a wobble of his head and a monotone accent that made it hard to know whom he was addressing.

“Lovely Mamijee, always dancing,” he said. Harding didn’t respond.

Bunny had come home with Harding’s mother, Lotus, a little over a month ago. They had met during her six month spiritual journey through India, and had been married by a man of no legal authority on a hillside overlooking Nepal. Lotus had also returned from the journey with a tattoo of Buddha and a semi-mastery of the ancient Indian art of kathak, which she now practiced in what used to be Harding’s sister’s room, one floor above.

Harding’s sister, Lily, and father, Michael, had left a year ago. The last thing his father had said, before tugging his sister out the door and slamming it behind him, was “Sorry son, it’s just those fucking pots!”

Lotus, a struggling ceramicist, unwilling to waste materials or sacrifice vendible goods, insisted on stocking the kitchen with those oblong pots and pans that had emerged from the kiln askew. The off-kilter dishware gave the house a queasy feeling of lopsidedness that made standing for long periods of time intolerable. Needless to say, it had been too much for Michael.

The stomp-stomp-clang-clang stopped as Bunny bent down to untie his boots.

“Honey?” Lotus called down. She appeared at the top of the stairs as Honey Bunny made his way uneasily forwards. “I have bad news,” she said. She wore a gold and green sari, her wrists covered in bangles, and on the forefinger and thumb of each hand were tied the tiny metal symbols that had only just finished their chorus of clang-clang-a-langs. Bunny looked up at her admiringly, stabilizing himself against the table.

“Just got a call from the embassy,” she continued. “It looks like you’re not going to get that green card after all. The marriage wasn’t exactly on the books, if you know what I mean. But who the fuck are they to tell us what love is, right?” she gave a short laugh and waved a bangled wrist ironically.

“Oh Gawd,” he said, nearly toppling over with the weight of his accent.

“Your visa has you here for another two months, but I figured, since this is going to have to end anyways, we might as well bite the bullet and move on with our lives. I booked you a flight for tomorrow at five, okay? Don’t look so glum Bunny, we’ve got to be realistic about this. There’s no point crying over spilt milk.”

Bunny sat down across from Harding and stared at the crooked pots, bewildered.

Of course, the only truth in what she’d said was that Bunny was leaving tomorrow at five o’clock whether he liked it or not. There may or may not have been a phone call. If there was, it certainly was not from any embassy. It was Harding’s father, calling to surrender himself back into Lotus love and vertigo.

Harding looked at Bunny with a twinge of sadness. It had happened the same way with Carlos from Peru, Paulius from New Guinea, and Sam-Sam from Jamaica—each one with that same expression. He knew his father would be home in a week, dragging Lily behind him, more in love with his mother than ever. That was just the way it worked. He looked back down at his textbook and read the line over for the twenty-eighth time.

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