Arrival city

The air smelled of orange blossoms and tea, as it always did when she was around. I closed my eyes and opened my lips slightly, as if to taste the air, letting the smell-memory of my childhood unfold around me, to a time when we were more than just two of us, when the air was fragrant and moist, when the hot wind would blow through the palm trees on the polished Ceylon coast. It always surprises me slightly that my big sister still holds these smells in her skin and her clothes, though eight years have passed and every time I think back to what I remember, the details don’t even exist for me anymore; I just feel the heat and the wind and a band of glare from the white sands and the Indian Ocean. And I would go into my sister’s closet, where the smell remained the strongest, and close my eyes to strengthen my senses make all of those fragments that remained to me burn stronger, before there was nothing left at all.

Maybe because she was older when the tsunami hit that her Indian identity has not been erased as effectively as mine; me who hides within myself the secret that should the long-awaited “home coming” ever come to pass and we should leave Toronto back for Tamil Nadu, I would in fact mourn the loss of the true home that this Arrival City has become to me. She was 18 when we left, and I was 10, now I am the one who is 18, and my whole becoming-time has happened within the white-washed walls of this apartment. She has kept the traditions in me as best as she could. She has spoken our language to me so that I would not forget, at the expense of her own comfort in the English, in which I now think and dream. Sometimes I want to yell, to just shake her, and say wake up! This is your life here! Sometimes I want to walk into her room and find that the smell of orange blossoms and tea has finally scattered into the breezes to be lost forever. But still in my most secrets of moments, I come looking for its fragrance, to enwrap myself in its essence, and let that invisible part of me, that part of me that is her, find its home.