Saturday, April 5, 2014

Honeymoon Over?

It is Saturday and I am sitting in my office. It is completely silent save the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, the dull hum of the flourescent lights overhead, the clatter of a wrench at the bottom of the tool box as three men tinker with machinery at the other end of the room, the sounds of the traffic, omnipresent, outside. Okay, so maybe it is not completely silent, but this room gets loud during the work week, so, relatively speaking, it seems silent.

I have to work today. The sun is shining. Elise is at home, struggling alone against the daily travails of raising three children. She called a few minutes ago to tell me that after she had packed everyone up to go to the pool, then had to turn right back around and go home, because Clementine threw a temper trantrum for not getting to open her banana by herself. Wow. I should be glad I'm here, away from the insanity, but I hate those calls, because they make me feel so completely and utterly powerless. There is literally nothing I can do to make anyone feel better. To say "I'm sorry" feels so hollow and ineffectual, and it is.

To my amazement, some of my colleagues come to work of their volition on a Saturday. Even those with kids. Again, wow. No words. I have to be here. What's their excuse?

The days are growing longer and hotter. Summer is almost here. We cling desperately to the fair weather that greeted us upon our arrival, only to feel it slipping through our fingers. Unable to stomach one more run on the treadmill, I ran outside at lunch earlier this week. Actually, it was my knee that protested. On the treadmill it only goes in one direction at one speed. It called to me to take a corner, go up a hill. The mercury hit 89. It felt hotter, but I was glad I did it, not knowing when I would get to do it again.

When we first arrived in India everyone told us, "Oh...just you wait...", remarking on how pleasant the weather was then and warning Elise and I of the heat to come. We brushed them off. We'd been warned before. This wasn't the first time someone told us to "wait and see". We'd received similar warnings before we had Sam and again before we had Peter. By the time we had Clementine, I guess most people figured we could handle it and stopped warning us.

We thought we could handle the summer, too. We'll see. We're not off to a good start.

The hottest part of the day comes after the sun goes down. The breeze dies. The mosquitos swarm overhead. Bats fly from their daytime roosts and are slow moving silouhettes against the violet sky, like Gotham City. A few nights ago, I peered under the hood of our Honda CRV, myself, our driver, Sundar, and the mechanic, having the most circular conversation in a cruel amalgamation of English and Tamil, until I broke out into a full sweat from the heat and had to go inside, as much from the frustration of the conversation as the heat. I wasn't sure if I was relieved or disappointed that the mechanic had put electrical tape around the power steering fluid tube and called it a 'repair'.

India is a complex place. Elise calls them layers, and we share our frustrations of being at the same time endlessly enchanted and perturbed.

In my work, people will say you go through phases when you arrive at a new assignment. The initial phase is the honeymoon phase when everything is new and wonderful and interesting. During the last phase, you are already making prepartions to depart the country. Your body and belongings are still there, even if your mind has moved on. Somewhere in between, the grind of daily life settles in. The honeymoon wears off. This never happened to us in Brazil. Much like our own relationship, our love for Brazil grew deeper and more involved with time.

I don't know if our honeymoon with India is over. Sometimes I think Elise and I hang on by a thread. Our lives are baffingly complex, wonderfully so. Between my work, her business, three children, keeping track of two schools, domestic staff, moving from country to country, thinking about our next assignment overseas, it seems that even the slightest shift in routine can send the entire train careening off the tracks. This may have just been what happened when Clementine got lice.

Yes. Lice.

The next few months will be interesting. It will get hotter. Sam will finish kindergarten. Maybe Clementine will start using the baby potty more. Maybe Peter will stop sneaking out of his room at the crack of down and raid my wallet for rupee notes.

One thing is for sure. I won't have to work on Saturday again.

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