Made in New York (excerpt)
Morning came again, undeterred by the anger still present in the apartment. The sunlight felt disingenuous against the blackness of muddled thoughts and the controlled despair that consumed Ela. The usual reluctance she felt in the morning following a fitful night of sleep was absent today. Instead, she was eager to attend to her revived creative fervor.
Smoothing out the back of her nightgown, which had ridden up as she fussed for hours on the couch, she rose and walked into the bedroom, where Abhay was still sleeping. She frantically dug through the dresser drawers—not caring whether or not she woke him—clawing through the clutter for the thickness of the sketchbook she had hidden under everything else, tucked away so it would not constantly remind her of her lack of creation and ambition, her abandonment of a dream. Both the sketchbook and her colored pencils were soon unearthed and in the grip of her hand. She sifted through dozens of colors in the pencil case, deciding against a typically flirty theme of pastels helmed by a soft pink or vibrant magenta. Blue, black, lavender and gold were all possibilities; she was inspired by complexity this time, not wanting to tell the same played out story with her designs. She envisioned an outfit made of immaculately sewn hems and sharp angles, in a soft color cut into with a darker one, something unexpectedly fierce, yet still feminine.
Abhay opened his eyes and looked directly into her own. But he said nothing and just as quickly, his eyes closed again. He now rested on his back, arms sprawled out over the entirety of the mattress since she wasn’t in bed to restrict him today.
She took her supplies with her and tiptoed out of the bedroom. Seated at the kitchen table, she flipped through old sketches: colorful tunics that had grown so popular here in the States, long ruffled skirts, dresses patterned like saris and slim fitting pants that collected at the ankles. This is what inspired her in India—the fusion of tradition and modernity in culture. No clashes or conflicts as she had so viscerally experienced here.
Sometime later, Abhay emerged, showered and dressed. He was groggy, for sure. “Morning.”
“Good morning.” She didn’t look up; the anger inside of her started to burn again and she worried that it had spiraled further from her control. She couldn’t blame him for her failures. It was up to her to revamp her designs. The sketchbook was seventy-five percent full, but all her ideas were over a year old, created for her classes in Mumbai.
She shook her head. “Too much caffeine.” Still, she drank chai occasionally. Both her mother and sister had as well, in moderation, though she never shared this with Abhay.
All the knowledge he gleaned from the baby books seemed to fall away in the early morning. He appeared almost tongue tied, but she was sure it wasn’t regret or remorse. More genuine than these, he likely felt unsure of what to say and how to act after she had lashed out at him the way she did yesterday, with anger that had been silently festering for months.
“Right now, I don’t want anything.” Turning to a blank page, a fresh canvas begging for her ideas, she began to see her anger in shades and tones; in addition to the colors she’d already selected, she imagined eggplant purple and a furious blood red infused in fabric.
Though she’d begun with such conviction and fervor, the morning grew to feel like a void, empty and lonely. In Abhay’s absence, her anxiety elevated, but she fought against the default of aimlessness. Instead,
she drew a long jacket with cropped sleeves over a slender female frame. She pressed her black pencil against the sheet and pulled it along the paper to draw feminine contours into unexpected shapes that conveyed confidence through abundant volume and unconventional cuts. Filling page after page, she outlined how the fabric would fall and where everything would lie, and then shaded in the colors that most provoked her. The final product did not seem to be hers; perhaps the anger had controlled her. How many times it would come again, she couldn’t predict.
Though there was no moisture, she felt heat on her brow. When the light gleamed in her eye as it had earlier that morning, the sun was falling, one last twinkle as the sky’s blue fell away to blackness. She’d fall asleep easily that evening, exhausted from a full day of work.