Grandmama fusses over the low tables laden with fried fish, rice hot off the pot, humid weather clashing with spices - an alimentary assault. The fans dance in clumsy gaiety chasing off heat trailing breath, to no avail, as we continue to sweat profusely from the combination of chilli residues ringing in our ears and the unforgiving glow of midday sun.
We soak our bare hands in the flavour, skin meeting the unification of tastes, our teeth gnashing sticky rice clinging to dental corners like children playing hide and seek. I look out the window, at the small bridge arcing over the now-empty artificial pond where we used to feed the fishes with leftovers that our tiny bellies couldn't stomach. The fortress of our girlhood, the transit stop for gangly boy cousins pronouncing their manhood in makeshift pirate costumes. Each of us had made a crossing, the crossing into the realm of adult uncertainty, the crossing of leaving and returning.
These walls have seen much of us, the house of mirth bubbling the laughter of newborns, the lower dais first christened by my parents' marriage over two decades ago, the slaughter of lambs for qurbān, the less pronounced and bloodless slaughter of daughters muffled through wet pillows at midnight when we thought no one was watching, these walls which had bared witness to Death claiming grandfather when we thought he would live forever.
How did we not see the the footsteps of decay entering the front door, Azrael's perfume heavily stenched with rotting corpses in the antechamber, when hibiscus blooms lining the verandah have not borne the weight of virgin petals for nearly a decade?
One by one, we begin to perish.
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