I never fully understood it. But I liked to play along.
You’d say I was like ice.
That water was a bland, boring thing you’d drink to survive. But ice was just the opposite. It transformed anything it touched. It made whiskey sweeter. Turned juice into popsicles, and most importantly, took plain, bland water and turned it into salvation from the scorching sun.
Anything you ordered, you’d order with ice – water, lime juice, whiskey. Looking at me with a side smile to see if I noticed. I always did. If we went somewhere that didn’t have ice, you’d look at me, feigning disappointment. “I need my ice” you’d whisper to me.
Our fridge was always stocked with it. You loved to make a big show of picking the cubes up from the ice tray. You’d hold them gently. Pretending you were holding miniature versions of me before dropping them into your glass. “Enjoy your swim” you’d chuckle, watching the cubes plunge themselves into the water before coming up for air.
You’d take a big gulp, swallow and say “Ahh”, as if all was right with the world.
In our small kitchen, under the scorching sun, watching you drinking a cold glass of water always felt like you were paying me a compliment.
I didn’t fully understand it. But I liked to play along.
As the years passed, these antics faded.
You’d order whiskey on the rocks, and I’d scavenge your face for a trace of your side smile. But it never came.
“Do you want ice with that?” I’d sometimes remind you, if you were pouring yourself a glass of water. You’d absentmindedly open the freezer and drop the cubes in it. You’d take a large gulp. And I’d hold my breath for your “ahh”, like an audience waiting for the climax of a magic trick. But it never came.
On most days, you’d simply stop by the kitchen, grab a bottle and gulp the water down with a rash urgency. Ignoring the glass that ached to have your warm palms around it, the ice cubes that craved a swim, and water that wished it wasn’t so boring and bland.
One day I stopped refilling the ice tray. It dawned on me that ice simply didn’t interest you anymore. Perhaps it was inevitable. Ice would always, eventually turn into water. Getting smaller and smaller. Until it turns into the bland, boring thing you only drink to survive.
You can only be bored by the things you take for granted.
So I started to put less water in everything. In my curries, your morning chai, the plants in our balcony. The bottles in the kitchen were always half filled and the ice trays continued to be empty.
You’d drink your chai and say something was missing. But you could never tell what it was.
“It needs more sugar”
“Its too milky”
“Did you try a new brand? I like the old one”
One afternoon, you asked me to make you a cup of tea. I filled a pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. Watching, as little bubbles lined the sides of the steel pot. The bubbles got bigger and busier. I watched the water slowly turn into steam, rising above the pot and disappearing as if it were never there.
After a while, you called out for your tea. But there was no answer.
You wandered into the kitchen, calling my name. But there was no trace of me.
Just a forgotten pot of water on the stove that had turned into steam, and escaped into thin air.