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by Priyanka Sacheti

Once we finally finished talking, we sat there in silence until dusk as if by tacit agreement. We did not have to wait for long, though. Dusk arrived suddenly, like the evening tide, bringing with it all the cumulative griefs and laughs and colors of the day and depositing them at our feet. All this time, you had been playing with a pile of rust-colored rocks, trying to balance them atop each other. It reminded me of the first time we had met at Jill’s party: you had been building a house of cards, your face pursed in determination, oblivious to the chaos around you. Then, you had succeeded: today, no matter how hard you tried, the rocks always gave away at the very last moment.

As the sky began to turn into a painting, you abandoned the rocks to stare at the sun, almost as if you were seeing it for the last time. If we had still been talking, you would have said, “Don’t you feel like we are in a painting?” But even though we were not talking, I heard your words all the same.

I felt the naked tree next to us shiver. There was a large, untidy nest lodged up high inside its bare branches, possibly abandoned, unused, even. I felt in my jacket pocket for the rejected diamond ring, the ring which was growing heavier with each passing minute. I did not know what to do with it: perhaps, by tomorrow, I would have an answer. But for now, it too was an aborted nest, of a life that could have been, a life that would now never be.

Each mountain before us was now becoming a mood: a melancholic damson purple, a contemplative teal blue, a mournful slate gray, a commiserating dull navy. In the sunlight, they had lacked character, merely appearing as prosaic, folded convolutions of the earth. It seemed that it was only in the impending darkness that we could now see them for what they actually were. I glanced at you, wondering if you too were looking at the mountains — but your eyes were still upon the sun, as if you were determined to see the very moment it vanished from our sight.

I could hear the sound of a gurgling river: why hadn’t we heard it all this time? An owl hooted, bats swooped low and high above us. The mountains had virtually swallowed the sun by now, it was getting cold. Your arms were bare and goose-pimpled for you had forgotten to carry a sweater: you always forgot how cold the desert became once the sun set. We sat there shivering, you and I, and yet, we still did not put our arms around each other. And so we remained sitting, waiting for the first star to come out and tell us to be finally on our way.

Inspired by the painting Us Two With a View by Angeles M Pomata.

Priyanka Sacheti is a writer based in Bangalore, India. She has previously lived in the Sultanate of Oman, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She has been published in numerous publications with a special focus on art, gender, diaspora, and identity. Her literary work has appeared in The Brown Orient, Porridge, Barren, Berfrois, The Lunchticket, and Jaggery Lit, as well as various anthologies. She’s currently working on a poetry collection. She explores the intersection of her writing and photography on Instagram @anatlasofallthatisee and she tweets @priyankasacheti.