The phone wakes me out of a sound sleep. I am tangled sweetly with my husband and don’t want to move. He’s been very kind lately, which worries me a bit: maybe my recent outbursts have him concerned for my mental health. I’ve noticed him talking to me in soothing tones, and listening to my crazy white lady rants with unusual patience.
“Pam – electricalmanhere,” Bhaskar barks from the phone.
“AC, AC, AC, repairmanforAC.”
Our air conditioning has been down for weeks now and every night, despite sleeping under a mosquito net slathered in DEET, I am raped by insects and wake up with welts that I am unconsciously tearing at. I have scabs on my arms like a junkie; it is disgusting and I will probably come down with malaria any minute now. Cold air is the only thing that immobilizes them.
I climb out of bed and pull on a floor length cotton dress because I know there are men downstairs. Indian men, leering Indian men, who will likely talk about their visit to the white people’s house all week long. I come downstairs expecting to open the front door to let the “repairmenforAC” in, but no, they are already inside – looking around at everything on every wall and surface. They look confused and amazed. The young one’s lower jaw is actually drooping like Billy Bob Thornton’s in Sling Blade; and he can’t decide where to settle his eyes, on the white lady’s chest or the swimming pool, so his glance darts between the two.
There is a mound of dogshit on the floor in the pooja room, and three puddles of dogsick in the hallway. We kept Kaiser in last night because he twisted his leg and has been limping. If left outside he patrols all night long, throwing the top half of his body over the fence and barking manically at the packs of stray dogs that roam through the night, and the Nepali night watchman who walks through the street smacking his stick on the ground and blowing his whistle every minute or so. He threw up because somehow in his convalescing state he managed to pull a box of kheer kadam off the shoulder-high shelf and ate a dozen pieces of sticky white sweets. There are chewed up bits of box all over the dining room.
The parade steps around the vomit and follows me upstairs to the roof. I explain that the air conditioner in the bedroom has become a rain machine.
“Water, whoosh. No air. Water only.”
Baskhar translates something to the repairmen, though experience has told me the translation may contain only the minimum of actually accurate information, if I’m lucky.
“Okay?” I say, “They understand, yes?”
It is hard to tell, as they all appear to be just staring at the cold air machine.
“Okee-okee,” Baskhar says, wobbling his head with a gesture I can’t stop reading as no.
Good morning India. Please be nice to me today.