Monday Night on the Verandah
This is the short and precious time between dusk and dark.
A good breeze keeps the mosquitoes at bay.
There is just enough light out here on the verandah for me to write.
It's a Monday, so everyone is recovering from the late, loud weekend nights and returning to normal life. Surprisingly, even for a Monday night, the only music within hearing range is our own; a Christmas playlist on Carla's computer. No techno, rap or Bollywood soundtracks tonight, except for snatches from a passing car. Everyone seems to be enjoying either a quiet evening in (I can see the lights of several TV screens from here) or an equally quiet evening out.
The two men seated, motionless, hands folded in laps, on the wall across the street seem to be expressing the sentiments of the entire neighborhood. Not much to see, not much to do. The little kiosk down the way that sells snack foods and beer is nearly deserted. Its light, shining on the empty chairs, seems vaguely futile and definitely lonely. The proprietress, probably tired after the weekend revels to which she was privy, leans her head languidly against one hand and watches the passers-by.
Much of life is lived out in the open, so there are always passers-by and there are always people to sit and watch them. A neighbor family has turned out in force, to beat at a tree at a tree with a long stick, presumably to dislodge a chicken for supper. I can overhear the more animated portions of a plethora of conversations; cheerful greetings, expressions of surprise, something (I think) about the chappa drivers' strike. There is a constant shuffle of sandaled feet as people saunter past in conversant groups; many of the women with enormous bundles balanced on their heads and babies tied on their backs in capulana slings.
With all these comings and goings, there is rarely ever anything approaching silence. Tonight's atmosphere, though a calm one, carries still the undercurrents of conversation, traffic, a dog fight. The wind is like a distant and estranged relation of the wind to which I am accustomed. It is seen, its effects greatly appreciated, but it goes unheard. There are too many other things to hear and life is more strident than the breeze. I watch the silhouette of a palm tree bend and I try to imagine the sound that the wind would make is it filters through the fronds.
The breeze dies a little, life goes slowly and noisily along the street. The night grows darker.
Streams of light paint along the roadways as cars, trucks, motorcycles, chopellas rumble and rattle past. Illuminated cell phone screens prick out little spheres of radiance, while occasional street lamps create oases of yellow light. The sky become a featureless expanse; too dark to discern the clouds, too bright to observe the stars.
I can barely see to write.
Dusk is over, the wind goes down, mosquitoes start to swarm.