I had to move on to the next picture after a while because my head was overrun by an unbearable lightness of being. You know, that feeling he talks about when you look over a ledge, when the fear is not of falling but of the secret craving to accept the invitation that the space below has just extended you. Veracity thinks its too many intoxicants over too short a period of time and not enough food. I think I hate missing you.
They told me at the gallery that she was standing on the 17th storey of her apartment building overlooking Ipanema when she noticed the potential in this perspective. Somehow this perspective seemed too familiar. Every time I caught your eye across a crowded room, I was elevated to the 17th storey over the bay of Ipanema, your eyes like the blue, sometimes gray, and in this case, greenish water below. The exhilarating feeling of falling into you just off the surf down below would overwhelm my conversation.
Across the room, your eyes were soft and calm but now when I recall this image from the sea of my memory, gray plumes of smoke float weightlessly over the surface of your eyeballs, licking your chameleon eyes. And when I look at the Manjari Sharma in front of me I cannot tell whether it’s the sand below the surface that’s been disturbed by the thrashing waves or a billow of smoke floating above that has obscured the space between us. I return once more to the picture.
Upon second glance I see that it isn’t you, but me in that picture. I’ve climbed onto a rock barely submerged in the water. I test my balance against the incoming tide as I stare at the gray smudge below and around me. You can see every bone that makes up my shoulder blades, for I am malnourished by your absence. Even when I’m in the picture I cannot tell the nature of these smudges. I am at once standing in your eyes and unseen by you.
The photo is called Born, a large format archival inkjet window looking onto the South Atlantic. The woman standing behind me begrudgingly waits her turn to gaze at the me in the picture, staring at the skeleton coast of Namibia over the horizon. The bushmen call it the land that god made in anger for the fog sits eternally suspended between the ocean and the sky. I stand firm and see far. I think of you as I stand on my rock, probably fast asleep in another’s arms. In a few hours you will wake up and have your ritual morning bada-boom and head to brunch and go gallery hopping together. I’m lucky that Paani is exhibiting in Alburquerque and nowhere close to Chelsea.
I am not perturbed even by the malnourished, ironing board figure; the protruding shoulder blades version of me, for I am stronger now than I ever was, than you will probably ever be. Even after your betrayal I know I will once more stand on the 17th storey above the bay of Ipanema. And no matter how much it feels like I am falling, falling, falling, falling, I shall not fall in.
Manjari Sharma was born in 1979, lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Waylon D'Mello is a writer breathing-in Pune.
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