The Third Part of Monsoon Tiger by Rain Chudori
When I was fourteen my body was covered in obvious flaws like scratch marks on the inner part of my apple white arms and my hair was constantly in braids to hide my father’s curly hair that I had inherited. Michael would lick them as a sign of affection like I imagined tigers would and said, “I fucking hate your father” not for giving me curly hair, but for giving me something that I hated. I said thank you a lot because I knew it was a phrase he knew of but never heard.
For some reason, Michael decided to love me. Maybe it was because at 14 Michael barely knew how to read and in exchange for his love, I spent nights rewriting children’s stories in the simplest way possible and reading it to him during lunch time while I fed him slices of persimmon. When he finally learnt how to read well enough to pass the standardized test he was given every few months, he knew that he had to love me back. The afternoon that he passed the test, he invited me to his house where his mother had placed, in the dining room table, a store bought cake with “better luck next time” spelled in frosting. He threw the cake against the wall.
“This is an important watch.” I said to Monsoon, touching the glinting hard-cased face of Michael’s grandfather’s watch. “I know you think he’s a bad person but he’s not.” Monsoon frolicked between the nettles, what is left of the bath water glinting in his eyelashes, which he flicked, hitting the grandfather’s watch. Outside, I could hear the sound of rain kissing the pavement and saw that, amongst many things, Michael had forgotten his raincoat again. It hung gently behind the bathroom door, worn too much and forgotten even much more. There were drops of mildew from the lapel of the raincoat, trailing down the hems, hitting the floor in slow rhythmic nuances, pushing the nettles from Monsoon’s fur between my toes. “He can be very sweet sometimes.”
Michael never wanted to read again and the books retired under our mattress. I crawled underneath the mattress, the children’s books now tethered together by cobwebs that have long since been killed off by our restless bodies. I stayed there for a while, between the marks of our romance, from the torn copy of A Mother’s Thoughts Comes In Fists to Fields of Shambles, the marks of many afternoons spent guiding Michael’s fingers through words that seemed foreign and loveless to him. Suddenly there were no more standardized tests to pass and children’s books to copy cigarettes to finish and each other to love. With all the spare time he suddenly had, Michael spent it with different girls with different scents. There was Wood Musk, and Mint, and Coffee. He chose girls who left their scents on him, no matter how much he cleaned himself with rain, the scents stayed. That’s what Monsoon loved about me, I think, that I was scentless and therefore harmless.
I crawled out with a few of my favorites and came back to Monsoon still reclining in the bathtub. I watched the nettles in the bathtub brush against monsoon’s fur every time he took a breath. I read to Monsoon day and night as if he was mine, while Michael, tired from having touched every girl but me, would slip into the room and repose until morning came. He didn’t realize that the missing books underneath the bed now lay scattered around the bathroom, along with Monsoon and I. How warm and safe it must be to be a tiger. How warm and not at all filled with pain.
Read Chapter Two here.