The smell of Indian food wafts through my apartment, pungent and sharp and almost unbearable at 7 am. My newest neighbor, a plump but pretty 23 year old, has her family visiting from India. A mother, father, sister she hasn’t seen in two years. I assume the food is Indian although I’ve never asked her exactly where she’s from and would probably have to Google it anyway because I’m so bad with geography and it’s a part of the world I’ve never seen, although I’ve seen many other parts.
When I was young and didn’t know where some unknown, unpronounceable country or city or capital was, my father sent me to the globe that sat on his huge wooden desk in the library. I’d twirl it around, let my finger glide smoothly along its fancy paper colored in handsome muted hues, hoping it would stop on someplace wonderful so I could dream of going there and not coming back. Then I’d remember I was there to find the unknown place and report back to my father so I scanned the tiny words smaller than a bobby pin or needle. If the unknown place was so unknown I didn’t even know where to start, I looked it up first, in the encyclopedia, for a clue or breadcrumb before I returned to the globe. But usually I could guess and stubbornly stood there until eventually I found it and ran downstairs to my father where he sat reading the newspaper and I told him of the trip I took. My moment.
But back to Indian food. The family arrived late last night. I know this because I awoke at 12:30 am to the sound of their chatter and the clatter of dishes in the kitchen sink. My neighbor had told me their flight, the total trip took them about 24 hours so I hoped they might arrive and want to sleep. But after two years of not being in the same room, I guess they needed to talk. I got up to use the bathroom, turned on my fan to drown out the noise, and tried to sleep. Instead I lay there astounded that four of them, and they are not small people (I know this because this morning I peeked out my kitchen window and watched them returning from the grocery store, all four of them in tow and smiling and carrying bags and bottles of water and toilet paper) — Four of them are staying in that very small apartment for a week. I’d rather sleep outside, in the middle of Sunset Blvd.
My family of four, we sometimes shared a hotel room, many years ago when Kevin and I were small and we went places. Family vacations of the historic variety, to monuments and famous towns that people should see and learn about. We shared a bed, my brother and I, when we were still young enough it didn’t matter and wasn’t weird, and then my mother and I shared which I hated because she got angry at how I slept. I still sleep that way, moving about, changing positions until comfort comes, the perfect place where my limbs remain calm and lose the urgent need to move. Quit moving, hold still. Each time you move I wake up! she’d say in frustration. So I stopped, forced myself to lay there still and frozen, my bones in agony, my limbs screaming inside me for freedom, until I heard my mother’s faint and rhythmic breathing. Then I still didn’t move or sleep until morning came and I could get up.
But this isn’t about me, I realize at 1:30 am when I’m writing a text to my neighbor that I don’t send, and this morning am so thankful I didn’t. I decide I can practice tolerance and allow this family of intimate, close relations I can’t fathom or harness or understand, to cook and eat and chatter and thump or clatter or bang to their hearts’ content. I can turn on my fan to drown out the noise. And while all this is happening, I can also wonder at the amount of love and acceptance and respect they must have for each other. It must be huge I imagine, in order to live on top of themselves without space or privacy. Or am I just selfish and all families do this in peace and harmony? I don’t know.
What I do know is this — For one week I can watch and listen to a family of four be together. I can gleam some sort of love from how they do it, because that’s all it is, all they seek, all they are, all that matters anyway. Love.
image via fanpop.com