Last changed 09:07am 11 October 2000 by
Copyright Sunir Shah. All rights reserved.

Carnival Red

We parade down to her basement, she leading and I chasing, my eyes tied invisibly to her liquidy red hair. My heart drums to the march. Snippets of conversation filter to my consciousness ("This video is going to be good," her voice says. Followed by mine: "Yes, it is going to be good."). Then sudden, nauseating adrenalin on invading a secret world, a foreign and private planet, suffocating under a landscape of books -- Harlequin romances and Stephen King thrillers. And then the sight of the dirty laundry. And then the unmade bed.

I stand as frozen as the snowman I once built in the slush days before spring, unable to avoid the melting glare of the red-headed sun. I stare at the sun, like my mother told me not to, as it travels the room.

"Just looking for the remote," she laughs, or attempts to laugh, then excuses the mess. I help her search, museum careful of the precarious balance of the room.

Behind me, I hear a comforting electric hum and static crackling. Then the artificial speech of a pimple cream commercial. "Found it," she declares. I wonder if my zits are noticeable. She fumbles with the cassette case. Ages later, the mechanical whir as the tape slides home and the show begins.

The chaos everywhere forces me towards an old two-seat couch, whose carnival red colour reminds me of a rollercoaster I tamed a thousand years ago as a child. As I take my seat the lights die valiantly, hurling us into our own personal darkness. As she sits down in the couch's far corner I feel the cushions underneath me rise slightly.

"Mind if I put my legs up?"

"Huh? Sure." Her legs cross my lap, locking me into my seat. Femural safety bars.

"Hey, a Cronenberg film!" I say, thinking other things. Her legs warm my own.


"A famous Canadian director. I can't believe you don't know who he is." I can't believe I said that.

"Well, I don't."

"Well, he's good."

"Shut up. I want to watch this."

Merciful darkness hides my reddening face. Sickness burrowing in my stomach.

[written c1997]