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Small Talk: Aadhi

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Aug 18, 2019

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Illustration by Shreyaa Krritika Das

Me – Who did you say was coming?

Niece – My friend, Aadhi.

Me – Is he the one you married?

Niece – No.

Me – He bites furniture.

Niece – No.

Me – It’s not that weird kid, is it? The one who doesn’t blink?

Niece – I can blink. See?

Me – That’s not blinking, that’s … what exactly are you doing with your face?

Niece – It’s blinking.

Me – Okay, have I met Aadhi before?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Did I like Aadhi?

Niece – No.

Me – Oh my god, it’s that weird kid.

Niece – Am I blinking now?

Me – Why is he coming here though?

Niece – To play.

Me – But he just stands there. Not blinking. And when he talks, I can never understand what he’s saying. Sometimes it almost sounds like English and then it almost sounds like Tamil and then it definitely sounds like Russian.

Niece – I can understand him.

Me – I think you just pretend to understand him to make the rest of us look bad.

Niece – Can I have some mango ice cream?

Me – No.

Niece – What if Aadhi wants me to have?

Me – What if Aadhi wants you to have mango ice cream?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Really, dude?

Niece – Okay, you can give me later.

Me – I’m not giving you any mango ice cream. You little extortionist.

Niece – Hm?

Me – Ex-tor-shun-ist.

Niece – Is that me?

Me – Yes.

Niece – It’s nice.

*

Me – Hi, Aadhi. What’s happening in your little life? How are your people? Also, I have no idea what you’re saying.

Niece – We are going to play Ghost Ghost. It’s going to be so scary bye.

Me – Ok. Have fun fun. Little dude?

Niece – Hm?

Me – You want to take Aadhi with you?

Niece – AAAADHIIII!

Me – Why don’t you come here and get him instead of rupturing everyone’s eardrums.

Niece – AAAADHIIII!!!!

Me – Go on Aadhi, don’t you want to have fun playing Ghost Ghost Ghost Ghost?

Niece – AAAADHIIIII!!!

Me – No? You just want to stand there? Not blinking?

Niece – AAAADHIIII!!!

Me – What if I offered you money?

Niece – AADHI COME I’LL DRAW ON YOUR FACE!!!

Me – Really? That’s a better incentive than money? Maybe it is.

*

Me – So, you’re both ghosts then.

Niece – Ya, I’m a intervisible ghost.

Me – Invisible.

Niece – Ok.

Me – And Aadhi is …

Niece – He’s another ghost.

Me – Which would explain the sheet which is covering him.

Niece – We are both so scary.

Me – You didn’t actually draw on his face, did you? Because I might get in trouble if you did. I mean you might get in trouble.

Niece – You can’t talk to me, I’m a intervisible.

Me – Okay. And Aadhi, you’re just going to stand there? With that sheet over your head? You know, our relationship could be so different if I knew what you were saying.

Niece – He wants to stand there.

Me – Well Aadhi, dude, I’m working here, so you’re going to have to stand somewhere else.

Niece – You’re just looking at your phone.

Me – No, I’m doing … stuff.

Niece – What stuff?

Me – I’m … okay, fine, he can stand there.

Niece – We’re going to dance now.

Me – Like, right now? Okay, you mean right now.

Niece – Is it nice?

Me – Yes. Aadhi you are as graceful as a gazelle, which is amazing and also a little alarming. Little dude, you jump up and down very well.

Niece – Should we stop now?

Me – No, keep going.

Niece – When are we having the mango ice cream?

Me – Never.

Niece – After lunch.

Me – Never does not mean after lunch.

Niece – Why?

Me – Because.

Niece – I think so it means after lunch.

*

Me – Where is it all going??

Niece – He ate it.

Me – I just put the rice on his plate. Like a second ago.

Niece – Aadhi eats fast.

Me – Is he inhaling it? It’s hard to tell with that sheet over his head.

Niece – He wants more rice.

Me – I don’t think there is any more.

Niece – Why?

Me – Because he ate it all. Aadhi, you want me to make some more?

Niece – He says yes.

Me – I was kinda hoping he’d say no.

Niece – We can have mango ice cream also.

Me – You really think that’s going to happen, don’t you.

Niece – Ya. It’s going to happen.

*

Me – Well Aadhi, it’s been a pleasure. You sure you want to keep wearing that bedsheet? I really wish I could understand what you’re saying. It sounds interesting.

Niece – He said yes.

Me – Won’t your mom think it’s weird if you come home wearing a bedsheet over your head? Guess not.

Niece – BYE AADHI!!!

Me – BYE AADHI!!!

Niece – Why you yelling?

Me – I thought we were all yelling.

Niece – I’m going to play now.

Me – Wait! Tell me about your day with Aadhi. Did you have fun?

Niece – He was sad I didn’t get any mango ice cream.

Me – Well, life is full of sorrow.

Niece – Did I draw on his face?

Me – What? Why are you asking me that?

Niece – Hm?

Me – You drew on his face didn’t you.

Niece – Ya.

Me – Well maybe he won’t take that sheet off, and it’ll be okay.

Niece – Can you draw on my face?

Me – I probably shouldn’t.

Niece – Can you draw a shoe rack?

Me – Pretty sure I can’t draw a shoe rack. Especially on a face.

Niece – I bring my markers?

Me – Absolutely, let’s do this.

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Written By Kuzhali Manickavel

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections “Things We Found During the Autopsy,” “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings,” and chapbooks “The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys” and “Eating Sugar, Telling Lies” are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/.

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