Minal in the Winter

Published in:

Sulekha, 1999

Clean Sheets, 1999

Herotica 7, forthcoming

Minal in Winter

Dear Raji Aunty,

I hope you and Vivek Uncle are well. How is the painting going?
The painting you sent on my birthday — of the women bathing at the
waterfall — hangs over my bed. I think my mother would be shocked, but
my roommates are very impressed that I have an aunt who paints such
things. The women in their bright saris remind me of home…

All my letters to my aunt start like that, and never finish. I have
written twenty or thirty of them in the last week. Words and lines and
paragraphs of politeness, all true and all lies. I cannot write what I am
really saying. I cannot write that I am in terrible trouble, and I don’t
know what to do. I cannot write that I want to leave here, leave school,
leave Chicago and flee to her in Connecticut, that I want to hide in her
guest bed with the covers pulled up over my head until it all goes away.
I cannot write and ask her to fix everything for me. I cannot do anything
but write and write and write these letters that say nothing and that I
crumple up and throw away before starting again.

Dear Raji Aunty,

I hope you and Vivek Uncle are well. I am not. How is the
painting going? The painting you sent of the practically naked women,
with the water coursing over the bared necks and pointed breasts and
arched backs, makes me think that maybe you might understand and be able
to help me. Didn’t you have a scandalous youth, once upon a time? The
aunts always fell silent when I entered the room, but I heard bits,
fragments, perhaps just words I wanted to hear. A scandalous youth, and
an white man for a lover — but now you are married to a nice Indian man.
You are married married married. How can I talk to you?


Minal barely notices when her roommates come back, when they ask
her to join them for dinner, when she shakes her head no, when they leave
again. The snow is falling outside their window, and she takes her
unfinished letter to Rose’s bed, to sit near the window and watch the snow
fall on the highway and the lake, watch the waves crashing up and down,
higher each time, the wind whipping them up until the white ice of them
crashes up and over the thin strip of snow-covered park, reaching to the
deserted highway. It is terrifying. The monsoons had been hard and
fierce at times, had uprooted trees and drowned the fields — but they had
never been so cold.

She has been cold for months.

She had arrived in September, fresh off the boat from India, with
a full scholarship for the sciences and plans to be a doctor. Her mother
had insisted Minal wear the warmest clothes she had, so she had sweltered
in the layers of heavy sari and warm sweater on the long plane ride, and
still, when she stepped out of the airport and into the brisk wind, she
had instantly been cold, chilled through. Her mother’s sister, Raji, had
flown from Connecticut to Chicago to get her settled, had taken her
shopping for more appropriate clothes, had made sure that she drank hot
tea and soup and even fried samosas for her in the dorm kitchen — and
Minal was still cold, deep inside. The chill had deepened when her aunt
left, leaving her alone with her roommates, who seemed nice enough but who
were so terribly pale and alien.

She wore turtleneck, shirt, heavier shirt, sweater, stiff new blue
jeans, two pairs of socks, and a thick wool coat. She shivered in the
unforgiving stone buildings that wore the artificial heat like a thin
blanket over grave-cold bones. Calculus class, high on the third floor of
a grey gothic building, was the coldest. The first weeks she spent
huddled in on herself at her desk, only raising her head long enough to
copy down the equations on the board. Minal would practically race back
to her dorm afterwards, to strip off all the clothes, turning the water on
with shaking hands and chattering teeth, waiting until the tiny bathroom
was full of steam before taking off the last layers, stripping to the skin
and climbing into the blessedly warm water.

The water covered her toes, her feet, her ankles, her calves —
and then she sank down into it, so that it covered her stomach and ribs
and small, pointed breasts, lay back in it, so that her hair was soaked in
water, spreading out around her like a night-black fan, lay back until
only her nose and mouth lay on the surface of the water, disembodied.
Steam filled the room, her bones warmed, she was happy — but eventually,
always, the hot water would run out, and she would have to climb out of
the tub, dry off, wrap her thin body in a robe and step out into the
chilly air that hit her face like a slap.

Sometimes she thinks that if it hadn’t been for Diego, she would
never have warmed at all, just slowly frozen into a thin icicle of a girl,
so cold and hard that even when they shipped her back home, she would not
melt, not even when her mother’s tears rained down on the ice.

Sometimes she thinks that would have been better.


Dear Diego,

I need to talk to you. I have something to tell you. Meet me
downstairs at Cobb, tomorrow, at…

I don’t get further than that. I can write the words that I know will
frighten him, insert the place, the date — all it needs is the time and
my signature before I slip it under his door, down the hall, just four
doors down. He’s waiting for it. Our notes have become something of a
joke on the floor, but a friendly one. When I first admitted to my
roommates how we’d gotten together, how I’d written him a note and slipped
it under his door, like a schoolgirl, they’d laughed and laughed. But
eventually Rose decided it was just too romantic, and Karly had agreed,
and soon it seemed the entire floor had adopted us as their very own
storybook romance.

Romance, hah! If they had seen how my hands were shaking all that
night, how I tossed and turned, how little I slept, waiting, expecting him
to sadly but firmly shake his head no, with a little hateful pity in those
coriander-green eyes… well. They probably would think that romantic
too. Idiots.

I admit, I had grown fond of the notes, these last four months.

Minal, meet me for breakfast?

Diego, I’ll see you at 8:00.

Minal, do you have time to visit the Museum on Saturday?

Diego, I’m skipping calculus this morning — join me?

We never wrote anything that seemed of importance in those notes
— and yet I kept every one. I knew what they didn’t say, what they
didn’t need to say. They didn’t say, ‘I’ll give you a dozen kisses if you
get up early to eat with me.’ They didn’t say, ‘Let’s skip the
electricity exhibit and go neck in the statue garden.’ They didn’t say,
‘Rose and Karly are going to their classes, so we have an hour — join me
in bed?’ They didn’t need to say any of that — we knew.

And if I send him this note, if I finish it with a time and sign
it and slip it under his door, he will think he knows what it means. He
will think it means that this is the end, that I have grown tired of him,
or that I have decided this was a mistake after all. And he will be
wrong, but he will also be right.

This is the end of something.


October. Minal sits in the lounge past midnight, struggling with
equations. Tea water is heating on the stove, heating, boiling, boiling
over, hissing, and she swears as she jumps up, grabs the pot handle and
lets go again, grabs up some of her skirt to help her hold the handle as
she lifts the pot off the range and clunks it down in the sink, spilling
boiling water everywhere and just missing scalding herself again —

“I’ve never heard you swear before.”

“What?” Minal swings around, her long black hair swinging with
her, straight and smooth like a waterfall, and he bites his lip.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear. Do you need help?” He
is leaning in the doorway to the small kitchen, taking up space — taking
up so much space. Minal loses his name for a moment, then finds it again
— yes, Diego. A second-year from four doors down. She has a little
trouble understanding him; he has an accent. And his eyes are very green.

“Why would you know, or care, whether I swear?” She turns back to
the sink, lifts the pot, pours the hot water into the mug with the tea bag
waiting. She puts the pot back on the stove and turns off the flame.

“I’ve been watching you.”

She is startled, but will not look at him. The words could have
sounded menacing, in another mouth, but from him they sound sweet, and
slightly sheepish. She takes down sugar, and pulls out a spoon, and milk,
before answering.

“Really.” She does not know how she means that — challenging,
inviting? But it must have come out wrong, because he is pulling away,
stepping back out of the doorway so the light comes spilling back in,
walking away.

“Sorry. I should really get to bed. Good night.”

And he’s gone. Damn.

She writes him the first note that night, and slips it under his door, and
doesn’t sleep until almost dawn.


I’m sorry if I snapped at you earlier. Would you like to study
together tomorrow night?

When tomorrow night comes, they share a table, and she helps him
with his calculus. His hand brushes hers. Her hair falls across his leg
as she leans in over his papers. His breath quickens. She feels it on
her cheek. She turns, or he does. He leans, or she does. Their lips
meet, and hold. Their tongues, tentatively, dance.


October 18


Yes, my studies are going well. I am working hard, and getting
all A’s. Do not worry. You asked what my days are like, here in America.
I get up in the mornings and have breakfast — a bagel, which is a kind of
bread, and cream cheese. I go to classes all day. I have lunch and
dinner in the dining hall. If you could send some of your curry powder,
then I could cook curries sometimes. The food here is very bland. There
are Indian restaurants, but I do not have a car, so it is difficult to get
to them, and besides, they are too expensive. The food is filling enough.
After dinner, I study until bedtime. I spend many hours in the dorm
lounge, working. If I am not in my room when you call, it is probably
because I am in the lounge or the library, studying.

And kissing.


November. She recites poetry to Diego. In India, she had escaped
the endless rounds of family gossip, the sisters tearing into each other
and the aunts nagging, by reading her books. English books too, of
course, but also the ancient Indian poets. She tells him the Ramayana, in
pieces, in between calculus problems. It is a reward, when he solves a
particularly difficult one. Minal recites translated poems until he knows
them too, and can recite them back to her. Vidyapati, 15th century:

First Love

The new moon stirs pangs of love.

Scratches mar her proud young breasts.

Often hidden, sometimes they lie revealed

like treasure in the hands of the poor.

Now she has known first love,

desires flood her mind,

she trembles with delight.

Safe from the eyes of gossipy friends,

she studies her reflection in a jewel,

knits her brow, and oh

so tenderly

touches the blossoming

love-bite on her lip.


I cannot count the classes I have missed, for kissing Diego.

He is from Puerto Rico. Well, his family is. He whispers Spanish
words to me while he kisses me. He starts at my toes, mi dedos de los
pies, and works his way up, kissing and whispering, so soft I can barely
hear it, barely feel it. Te quiero; tus pies. Tus rodillas. Tus
caderas. Then he stops, and moves to the top of my head, and starts
working down. Tu pelo, tu nariz, tus orejas. The first time he licked my
ear, I felt a shock run through me, not so different from the time I stuck
my finger in an unshielded outlet as a little girl. But now I am greedy.
I do not want him to stop at my ears. My hands are on his hips, on his
back, on his shoulders, pushing him gently, urging him down.

Te quiero; tu garganta, tus brazos, tus mu–ecas. Tus u–as, tu
est—mago, tu cintura. He would linger at my waist if I would let him,
would play with my belly button, but I do not allow it. I urge him
onwards — quickly, hurry hurry! We have only twenty minutes left,
fifteen, ten before Rose and Karly return. And they are lovely roommates,
such nice girls, and if they come back before you finish, I will kill
them, and then you. So hurry, hurry, por favor, my darling.


December. They have settled down a little. They have started
going to classes again, and her professors are relieved. The leaves have
all fallen off the trees — Indian summer is long gone — but Minal is no
longer cold.

She is blazing so brightly that she is amazed that others cannot
see it. She is feverish with heat. She sits in class with her legs
crossed and her coat tightly closed. She has slipped an arm out of a
sleeve and with it caresses a breast, squeezes a nipple. She pulses the
muscles of her crossed thighs, there in the large lecture hall, with Rose
to her right and a stranger to her left, taking notes with one hand though
her eyes are almost closed and her ears are filled with the thundering of
her own pulse and she is on fire. She will blaze up like a goddess, she
will strip off all her clothes and burst into flame and dance along the
desktops, with a dozen arms spread wide and one on her breast and one
between her thighs — she will roast all of these pale-skinned people with
her heat until their clothes turn to ashes and their skin turns to
burnished gold and then they will jump up with her on the desktops and

She takes a deep breath. Minal releases her breast, smoothes down
her sweater and shirt, with slight awkwardness slips her hand into a
sleeve. She relaxes her thighs. The professor is making his closing

Minal resolves, again, to pay more attention in class.


Mahadeviyakka lived in the twelfth century, and left an arranged
marriage to become an ecstatic devotee of Shiva. Did she believe that the
god came down to her, that he pierced through her, giving her the courage
to abandon everything?

On Her Decision to Stop Wearing Clothes

Coins in the hand

Can be stolen,

But who can rob this body

Of its own treasure?

The last thread of clothing

Can be stripped away,

But who can peel off Emptiness,

That nakedness covering all?

Fools, while I dress

In the Jasmine Lord’s morning light,

I cannot be shamed —

What would you have me hide under silk

and the glitter of jewels?

Would they have stripped her of her clothes and dragged her through the
streets? Would they have proclaimed her shame to the village, to the
kingdom, to the world? What did her mother think? Did she lead the


Minal goes alone to the Women’s Clinic.

She tells them about the broken condom — it is hard to say the
words. They want to discuss the situation; all she wants is for them to
be silent and to please just give her the pills. Finally, they hand them
to her, and a woman who does not believe that Minal speaks English repeats
the directions over and over and over. Two with a meal. Two more later.
She goes back to her room and takes off her coat. Removes her boots and
places them carefully at the foot of the bed. Lies down, eyes open.
Stares at the digital clock as the minutes click by. It is two hours
until dinnertime. It is surprisingly cold in her room today, but the
blanket is at the foot of the bed, too far away.

Twenty minutes before dinner, Rose runs in and out again, in a
flurry of words. Among them, “I grabbed your mail too — looks like a
letter from your mom! Here y’are! Gotta go!”


My darling Minal

I have such news! Your aunt is a miracle-worker! Your father’s
eldest sister, Bharati, has arranged such a match for you! A doctor from
Delhi, the son and grandson of doctors, with a big practice of his own —
now you do not need to become a doctor! So much better to be a doctor’s
wife, with servants to cook and clean and fan you and take care of your
babies. A life of luxury! Bharati Aunty says he took one look at your
picture and said, “This is the girl for me!” No need to finish out the
year — come home, we will have such a celebration. And we need to start
shopping for the wedding saris, for the jewelry, for the shoes — I hope
you have not put on too much weight eating that terrible greasy American


And so, I write letters to my aunt that I will not send. I stare
at the now-useless pills, left too late because I am a confused,
weak-willed fool. They are enshrined in a small green glass on my desk, a
testament to stupidity. I write notes to Diego and tear them up again. I
look at the photo my mother sent. He is not bad-looking, this doctor.
His skin is fairer than Diego’s. Maybe I should write to him and ask him
what I should do. Maybe he will volunteer to perform the operation
himself, and then we will be married, and all will be well.

At least I have learned something out of all of this. I have
learned that while I like Diego very much, and I like his body even more,
I do not love him.



His skin, Amma, is like your milk toffee with almonds, creamy and
soft. His eyes are a startling green, coriander-green, except when he is
tired, and then they are the dusky darkness of curry leaves. His body is
tall and strong, like a young palm tree, firm and unmarred. His fingers
are supple, and his tongue is skilled, and when he touches me, I become
water falling, a river coursing down the tumbling rocks, down into the
waiting arms of ocean.

Amma, the poets spoke truly.

Amma, why did you not tell me that such pleasure existed? Why did
you not warn me that it would turn my brain to water? You should have
spoken clearly, sharply, like a knife, telling me exactly what would
happen when he first breathed on my neck, when he cupped my chin in his
hands and tilted it up, when he cupped my breasts in hands so broad that I
disappeared into them, when I lowered myself onto him, and he thrust into
me, like a young god.

How could vague whisperings of shame and family disgrace compare?

Amma, I do not even love him. Though for a little while, I
thought I did.


That night, we were down at the lake, clambering across the
shattered rocks at some hours past midnight, dodging the spray as the
waves came crashing up, laughing. I don’t remember being cold as we
danced on broken stones.

Diego was standing quite still when he did it, though. He stopped
still on a rock and I stopped, facing him. He caught my hands in his and
tipped his head back and shouted into the night, “I love you, Minal!” A
great shout — his voice was usually so soft — I hadn’t known he had
such a sound in him. And a blaze of warmth in my chest, and I was
shouting too, shouting like an idiot into the night, shouting that I
loved Diego. Laughing and then running across the rocks, chasing each
other until he slipped and fell and bruised his side, and it could have
been so much worse, there on the sharp, slippery rocks. That sobered us.

We went quietly back to the dorm, and down to the empty piano
room, the only public room in the dorm that could be locked, and there we
made love, very carefully at first, and then less so, burning in our
fierce desire.
That night.


She puts down the phone, slowly. The clinic has told her that
they can do nothing right now. That she must wait until late January, at
least. That she should come in and talk to a counselor. That they can
schedule the appointment now, if she’s sure. That there are other
options. She was polite to them, though absent. It seems that some part
of her brain is accepting the data, processing it, even though she cannot
think about it at all.

It startles her a little, how competent she has been about it all.
The pharmacy, the purchase of the little box, the ripping open of the
packaging, the careful following of directions. The disposal of the
final, damning, results.

It is Friday. Exams are over and her roommates are gone. Diego
leaves for Puerto Rico tomorrow. She leaves Sunday, to spend Christmas in
Connecticut. Raji Aunty has written, saying it is not nearly as cold
there as it is in Chicago, and that there will be another guest at the
house as well. That almost shook her resolve, but surely there will be a
time when the guest is away, out Christmas shopping perhaps. Minal will
talk to her aunt then. She will ask her what to do.


One might think, that under these conditions, I would be less fond
of sex.

This is not true.

Was it greedy of me, not to tell him until morning? To take one
last night, with his hands between my thighs, stretching me open for his
tongue? To spend hours licking every inch of his body, yes, even those
inches shyness had kept me from before? My mother always said I was a
greedy child. I took more than my share of caramel pudding, of milk
toffee. Well enough. I do not regret that last night. I will remember
always the surprised look on his face when I took him deep in my mouth,
the groan he gave, the tensing muscles beneath my digging fingers. I will
remember his hands, above his head, clenching the pillow as he arched. I
will remember later, the way my head fit so perfectly in the hollow of
his shoulder, the slowing beat of his heart, his hand stroking my hair.
Poor Diego.

In the morning, I told him I was leaving him. I think he had
expected it. I hope so.

I didn’t tell him the rest. Perhaps I am a terrible person.
Perhaps I will write him a letter.

Dear Diego,

You may soon have a son. Or a daughter. Sorry I forgot to
mention it earlier…

Perhaps not.


Minal waited long hours in the airport, through one delay, and
then another. She paced, up and down the carpeted halls. The heating
wasn’t working very well — despite the crowds of people, she felt quite
cold. And when she finally got on the plane, her neighbor insisted on
turning his air jet so it hit Minal too. Her right side slowly froze.
She asked for a blanket, but there weren’t enough. She used her coat as a
blanket, and unbuttoned the top of her long skirt, sliding her fingers
inside. It only warmed her a little.

When she finally arrived, past two a.m., her aunt bundled her
quickly into bed, with a hot water bottle for her feet and extra blankets.
There was no sign of the other guest, but Minal was too tired to talk.
The morning would be soon enough. Her aunt patted the blankets one last
time before she left, turning out the light as she went. Minal curled
into the blankets and quietly cried herself to sleep.


I haven’t been in my aunt’s house before. It’s embarrassing. I
know my mother would want me to write and tell her all about it, but what
do I say? That my uncle’s medical sketches of the human form are hung up
right next to my aunt’s lush oil paintings? That while either might be
innocent separately, they are clearly lascivious together? That when I
sat in the kitchen drinking my breakfast tea, waiting for my aunt to wake
up, a nude reclined before me, a brown-skinned woman basking in the
sunlight, her sari a discarded crimson puddle around her, her face caught
with an unmistakable smile? Oh, Amma would love that.

Raji Aunty comes down, Vivek Uncle behind her. Is his hand on her
back, or her buttocks? Is that faint scent perfume, or her own musk?
Must I see sex everywhere? Is there something wrong with me? He says it
is good to meet me, and that he is sorry he has to rush. We’ll talk at
dinner. Then it’s a kiss, a long kiss, for his wife, and it’s off to the
hospital. That’s it — I’ll ask him to perform the procedure. That’s
perfect — just keep it all in the family!

Ah, one of these days I’ll say the wrong thing and get myself into
real trouble.

There is no sign of another guest. I ask my aunt when they’ll be
arriving. She tells me, with a little smile, that the guest was already
here. She’s pregnant, it seems. She had been having a little joke with
me. They just found out. The baby is due in July.

If there are gods, they must hate me.


Raji and Minal sit at the kitchen table, sipping morning chai.
RajiÕs eyes are sharp, focused on MinalÕs face. Minal is sure she is
noting each new line, realizing that it has only been a few months since
they last met.
“Are you well, Minal? You look a little tired.”

Minal bites her lip before responding; it has been bitten raw.
Her fingers tap the table, click click, click click. “Well enough.” She
tries to smile, but does not manage to pull it off.

“So. Your mother has written to me, about this doctor. A
brilliant match, I hear.” Raji’s tone is careful, inquiring. Minal’s
lips purse, just slightly, but enough. Raji nods, and says, “Your
mother….she’s a passionate woman. But she isn’t good at admitting when
she’s made a mistake. Ever since she moved back to India, she’s become
more Indian-than-thou.” She pauses, but Minal says nothing. Raji
continues, gently. “Maybe it’s the right thing for her; she does seem to
love it there. Even your father’s behavior wasn’t enough to bring her
back home. But maybe you aren’t ready for marriage, or at least for a
traditional arranged marriage; maybe India isn’t the world for you…?”

Minal’s fingers tap, but her eyes are fixed on the tabletop, and
her lips stay shut.

Raji falls silent as well. They continue drinking their tea, and
after a while, she reaches out for a pen and a long pad, starts to
scribble on the paper — a shopping list. Cauliflower, eggplant, fresh
chilies, more paper, Cadmium Blue. She asks, “Do you think we need
anything else?” Minal hesitates, then takes the paper away from her aunt,
and writes something on it. She pushes it back, and Raji reads it.
Pickles and ice cream. She laughs. “I haven’t been craving either of
those, but thank you for the thought.” Minal doesn’t laugh. She says,
quietly, “I have.” Raji stops laughing. They are silent for a while.
Minal counts to a hundred in Spanish, and then back down again. She
wishes she’d learned more of it. Her chest is aching. O, mi coraz—n!

Then her aunt leans forward, and whispers, “Pickles and ice cream?

Minal starts to laugh. “No, not really.”

“Well, good. That’s something, anyway.” Suddenly, they are both
laughing. This may turn out all right.

They compare dates. Minal is perhaps three days later. They
agree that that’s something, at least, though they’re not sure what. Then
a little silence again, and then Raji asks the dreaded question.

“What do you want to do?”


I could draw a chart. The branches: tell my mother, or not; go
back to India, or not; have an arranged marriage, or not; have a baby, or
not; be a doctor, or not; tell Diego, or not; marry Diego, or not. Some
options exclude others. I don’t really think I can have a baby and an
arranged marriage. And I’m not even sure I can tell my mother and have an
arranged marriage. There are many things I’m not sure of, but there is
one thing I do know, sitting here with my aunt the painter, looking at her
nudes beside her husband’s medical sketches.

“I don’t want to be just a doctor’s wife.”

Raji Aunty nods. She knows what I mean. I want to stay here,
which means no arranged marriage back home, which means I’ll have to write
my mother. Amma can’t make me go back, not with the scholarship
supporting me here. Small blessings.

“And I don’t want to marry Diego.” That part is also clear, and
has been for some time. He is sweet and kind and lovely in bed — but I
don’t want to marry him.

“School?” she asks. I nod. Definitely school. Only two choices
left to make. This is going faster than I’d expected. I feel a little
dizzy — or perhaps that is the baby.

“If you want…” she says it slowly, “I could help you raise the
baby. You could transfer to Yale, and I could tell people I’d had twins,
at least at first, if you wanted.”

“That’s too much.” It is too much, and yet I know she’d do it.
Family. She was family, after all. Even if she had had an arranged
marriage, even if I hardly knew her.

“Or, I could ask Vivek to recommend someone.”

“No!” I couldn’t stand him, a stranger, my uncle, knowing.

“Or I could take you somewhere myself.” She waits, patiently. I
get up, and start pacing. Back and forth, back and forth. I can put this
decision off for another month, if I want. If I said so, she would pick
up her shopping list, and we’d go off, and nothing else would be said, and
nothing would be decided. I think I could love Raji Aunty very much, but
right now, I almost want her to be more like my mother, just to have
someone who would tell me what to do. Finally, I stop pacing and face

“You want your baby, don’t you?” I ask her quietly, knowing what
she’ll say.

“Very much. We’ve been trying for a while.” Her dark eyes are
steady, and I know that she knows what I am about to say. I bite my lip,
then speak.

“I don’t want this one.”

“Okay, then. I don’t see any need to tell your mother. I’m here
to take care of you.” Her voice is firm, decisive, and with that last
decision taken out of my hands, with everything over, finished, I sink
down into one of her kitchen chairs, and bury my face in my hands, and do
not cry.


Dear Amma,

I am very sorry to write you like this, but I must tell you that I
do not want to have an arranged marriage right now. I am busy with my
studies, and still have many years of school before I become a doctor.
Please thank Bharati Aunty for me, and send my regrets to the young man in
question. I will visit you this summer, but do not plan to set me up with
anyone then either. Raji Aunty will be coming for a visit then too, so
you will get to see us both at once…


I am modeling for my aunt until the holiday ends. This is a
little strange, perhaps, but she promises that my face will be turned away
in the picture. The family in India knows she paints, but nothing of the
subjects. They undoubtedly think it is a pleasant hobby for a doctor’s
wife, and that she paints wildflowers, or sunsets. She will be exhibiting
her paintings in New York next month. I will be in one, with my body thin
and bare, with my arms outstretched, with the snow surrounding me. She is
painting me a tree in winter, barren and brown, waiting for spring. It
isn’t as cold in Connecticut as it is in Chicago. It is easier to
believe, here, that spring will come.

I can stay quite still while she paints, but the muscles get tired
and eventually start to tremble. The trembling is interesting.

I am glad that she does not need to paint me and the snow at the
same time. Her studio is warm and steaming, and there is always hot tea
on the kitchen stove. My uncle knocks before entering, so that I have
time to dress in an enveloping robe, and we have been having some very
interesting talks about medicine, about muscles and sinews, electrical
synapses and rushing blood. I think I am going to like being a doctor.
Bodies are fascinating.

I will talk to Diego when I return. He deserves to know. He probably
also deserves to have a say in this, but I don’t think I am strong enough
to give him one. Hopefully he will be all right. I’d like him to be

Perhaps I can set him up with Rose. She likes him, I know.

As for me — the world is wide, and there are many possibilities.

Snow falls outside my aunt’s window, quietly blanketing the
ground, lacing the trees.

It’s really quite beautiful.

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