The needle passes through the cloth-once, thrice until eight petals are formed around an orange-red pistil, encasing it completely. My mom sells them for four hundred bucks. I want to buy one, but they are all scattered around me. I have slept on such fabrics. We call them pillow covers. They came into existence when my mom was new to the craft. Now we use them as covers only, to cover the bed, shelves, old photographs, and our old bodies lurking within the new ones. My mom wraps her wet hair with a fabric. The rolled-up cover is a canvas for the bird and her huge eggs. My mom’s hair has turned grey. I have developed breasts. I see myself floating within those eggs, drenched in the yellow yolk, glowing and curdling in the sunshine. I hatch very often. She lubricates the sewing machine with some oil. The smell of clothes has changed a lot through these years. We wrap ourselves in the worn-out threads and smell like cold kerosene. Now the customers pay five hundred bucks and their hands and wallets smell like repellants. I add the prices, I count changes even when there’s no reason for me to go back.
Once, I found some woollen socks. I used to wear them during my childhood days. We have his muffler and mom’s wedding photographs. He might have a beard, purple lips, yellow canines, a speckled chin, a hefty body. These are my comprehensive understandings of my father. There’s a big wedding ring on mom’s hand. It’s on her finger, completely covering a part of her skin. It has seen her twisting the yarn, sewing buttons, cocooning my infant body with an entire ball of woollen yarn. My father is alive, somewhere, even if not on the big rhinestone. But my mom didn’t want to stay with my father. We changed the house. She had knitted a pair of gloves. I see a big antique clock patch worked on it, it says nine o'clock. It’s random, something not meant to show the time. My mom twists her hair and pushes the strands into a bun. I see her scalps with brown lesions. Something similar to rancid machine oil, a slag iron, a blister, a big patch on my left hand. On the gloves, there are some black hairs. It must have been when they were together.
When I talk about my mom’s ordeal with relationships, our relatives tell me that she must have had an affair. I remember my mom moving a pointed needle through a rayon cloth in the shape of a circle. She created a sparrow inside it with a brown body. It wasn’t alluring enough to be articulated on a piece of cloth. It had a sharp beak, to feed her children, I suppose. I have also seen an antique painting in the storeroom. It’s spotted with lizard’s poo. It’s black and white. I see her black mole. Her face doesn’t induce that contrast. She has no entomophobia. She asks me to drive out lizards. Sometimes, she is carefree about it.
That isn’t enough to write something about how much they loved each other. I can’t say if they loved enough. What’s the scale to define love? My birth is the scale? My smiles whisk rapidly when I think that I’m still named after my father. No fabric tells me that I floated for the last time when my mom’s water broke. Were they together when my mom was expecting? They aren’t together anymore. I sneeze on a beautiful peacock. That muffler is coiled up inside my mom’s old saree. It is blue. She wears the saree with another blouse, a yellow blouse.
I see the matching blouse, without buttons. It’s been altered so many times that it appears to be an unstitched mass. I see her painting the garden pots. She sells the pots for two hundred bucks and tells me that my father wrote her name on the wall of a fort. But she doesn’t love him anymore.
I know we have to raise our child. But my parents want me to get married to a Catholic girl. I can’t tell them that you and I have a daughter.
The rest of the letters are on the cracks and folds in the paper, between the lines. It is there with me. My mom never reads it, neither through my eyes nor through the big working area in the hall, where we sleep on fabrics and eat yarns, My mom has stitched so many handkerchiefs and mufflers since that day. Perhaps this single room where we live is somewhere they didn’t fall in love. Maybe my dad is also an artist. Maybe he was my mom’s first customer. Maybe they got married when I was with them. Maybe he loves my mom and maybe he is driving out lizards through the smell of repellants. My mom has sold the last piece for the day, a customized piece. She has written on it in Urdu, the only language she knows. Then, she told me that the marigold plants were planted by my dad. The flowers wilt once every three days. They are alive. I cut their stems, my mom tells me to do that and throws the earthworm into the moist soil outside. The soil in our backyard is rich in ore. I don’t want to mine it further. I cut off the stems, she never looks at them before throwing them into the dustbin, full of yarn, expired machine oils, finished woollen balls and blunt needles. She believes they will regrow. She keeps her glasses inside a box, the unstitched pile of fabric lying there to be picked up the next morning when she will sew them into clothes, or use them as covers for our body and head.