Swimming in the Monsoon Sea

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

Book: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shyam Selvadurai
hell you did. Why would I be in the damn pool, if I knew Amrith was coming?”
    Niresh used his name as if he already knew him. Amrith, who had been intimidated from the moment his cousin had cried out “fuck,” saw now that there was a theatricality to Niresh’s stance. He had his hands on his hips and his voice was raised louder than necessary. This was for Amrith’s benefit.
    “But I told you twelve o’clock, Niresh,” his uncle insisted. “Don’t talk nonsense.”
    “You don’t talk nonsense, man. You’re going senile.”
    His uncle was enraged. Yet his son was taller and stronger than him and, as if to make this point, Niresh stood close to his father, towering over him.
    “I don’t have time for this nonsense,” his uncle said, stepping back. “Wipe yourself off. Put on a shirt.” He stalked away with as much dignity as he could.
    Niresh turned to Amrith, winked, and grinned. “What do you get when you cross a lemon with a cat?” He indicated towards the retreating figure of his father. “A sourpuss.”
    Amrith gave a surprised giggle, and his cousin threw his head back and laughed at his own joke.
    Niresh held out a wet hand. “It’s really great to meet you.”
    Amrith offered his hand and his cousin gave it such a hearty squeeze that he winced.
    Niresh took up his towel. “Sorry about the mix-up.” He grinned at him wickedly. “My fault. I got the time wrong.”
    Amrith was staggered at how well his cousin had faked outrage and innocence.
    Niresh rubbed his head vigorously for a few moments, flung his towel on a lounge chair, and put on a shirt. His hair, which came down to the nape of his neck and covered his ears, stood out at all angles. “Come on, let’s walk around a bit.”
    Niresh led the way along the balustrade that bordered the terrace. “So,” he said, after a few moments, “did you even know I existed?”
    Amrith nodded.
    “Well, I had no idea about you. And
know who’s to blame for that.” He grimaced ruefully at Amrith. By doing so, he both acknowledged and, at the same time, laid aside what was really a tragic omission in both their lives.
    Niresh stopped at the corner pedestal of the balustrade. He reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a pack of cigarettes. He offered one to Amrith, who quickly shook his head.
    Amrith tried not to stare as his cousin, right out here where anyone could see, lit a cigarette. Even the worst boy in his school would not dare to smoke so publicly.
    “So, if a baby was aborted in Czechoslovakia, what would that baby be?” He waited as Amrith dutifully shook his head. “A canceled Czech.”
    Amrith did not think it was that funny, but he grinned nonetheless and his cousin laughed.
    They began to talk, or rather, Niresh questioned him about Colombo and Amrith answered, pointing out various landmarks in the distance, showing him the bottom of their street and Kinross Beach, where they often went swimming.
    Niresh asked him about the Manuel-Pillais. He seemed intrigued by Uncle Lucky’s aquarium, but when Amrith told him that Aunty Bundle was an interior decorator for an architect who specialized in buildings that drew on ancient Sri Lankan architecture, his eyes grew wide. He asked Amrith numerous questions about her work and the buildings Lucien Lindamulagé designed. He wanted to know exactly what constituted a Sri Lankan style ofarchitecture, and Amrith told him about the courtyards and mada midulas, which were interior gardens around which the houses were sometimes built. He also told him about specific wood carvings on pillars and doorways and the latticework above windows.
    His cousin also wanted to know about Selvi and Mala — how old they were and if they had boyfriends. When Amrith explained that Aunty Bundle and Uncle Lucky did not want any of them to date until they were past eighteen, Niresh shook his head in amazement and said that was “far out.”
    As they talked, the high monsoon waves crashed against the rocks below

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