“What Might Come After You” by Rachna Kulshrestha


It is early afternoon when I decide to re-arrange your closet. The sun is kilted with clouds, spouting heat on the far end of the horizon. I glance at the bathroom mirror and see the dust assembling into a portrait of our relationship.

I fold your slacks, pair the slippers, and pick up newspaper cuttings. I imagine you standing here not too long ago with frowned eyebrows over round, gold-rimmed glasses settled on your Afghani nose and striped pajamas below your dense belly, holding a bunch of pages and a pair of scissors. For me, you were not made of bones and blood but alive with head-to-toe contradictions and rare, loving glances in your curious eyes. Your long torso and broad shoulders carried the weight of our dead and only son and later, my pounding fists when you could not bear to see me beating my chest anymore. Your feet occasionally scratched and bled my skin, waking me up when I sobbed in my sleep. You soothed me with plush fingers that wove intricate designs on high quality wool and silk. Your rugs were as conceited as your glare after a hot day had passed with good food and satisfying sex.

Often, you looked like my father, bulging with the confidence of knowing everything. You had strong hunger and it reflected every time you got up from the dinner table blurry eyed and confused, even after consuming a full meal.

I sift through the shirts that are older, and dear to you. One of them has a blood stain from the day when you accidentally cut yourself. It was the same day you found out you had diabetes. You cried like a baby.

You said, “I was fighting the unfairness of life with sugar and Allah took my candy.”

I watched you the entire day; I followed you in your studio as you pulled and pushed silk between spaces where stubborn air accumulated. As far as I know, it was the only day when you did not pray.

Once, I had a dream in which your desire swelled like a huge tongue devouring a mountain of sweets in one swipe. When I woke up, you were unusually calm, as if the dream was real and your willingness to indulge was a way to convey your grief.

Diabetes did get the best of your body. You filled the studio with unfinished designs, aimless threads. You stayed in bed most of the time, pretending to be asleep. When the mid-day glare settled into soft pink evening, you asked for minted ice tea and speculated what you might like for dinner. After a month, on a quiet Ramadan evening, you passed away, your eyes half-open, staring at the picture of our son with a faint hope. I stood next to you watching your frame as if I didn’t know who you were.

As a couple, we led each other into our hearts and stayed there for a while. And in some frivolous moments, I realized my love for you. The rest of the time, I tried to understand my devotion but took it as a by-product of being married to someone for a long time. However, you always loved me with a constant fervor, sarcasm, and anger. During my frequent outbursts when I cursed our marriage, you always corrected me: “Fight with me Begum, not our relationship.”

I open the trash bags and stuff your belongings inside; catching the sight of the chenille duvet we bought in Cairo. The one on which you bargained for hours. When I called it a labor of someone’s love, you exclaimed, “Begum, it’s just a duvet!”

“It is more,” I fumed, trying hard to dismiss you. “But what would a rug weaver know of love?”

You wrinkled your nose. “How else would a weaver push those threads into places where it hurts the most? But in the end, it’s just a rug, sold for the right price.”

I push the duvet into the trash bag. And like a torn page from a history book, I try to anticipate what might come after you. It’s like following dappled sunlight play across a dense forest floor, not knowing which leaf will blaze and which will stay in shade, hoping to be discovered.


Rachna Kulshrestha lives in McKinney,TX with her husband and two teenage kids. She moved from India to the United States two decades ago and is an Electrical Engineer by profession. Her work has appeared and/or is forthcoming in Redactions, Jersey Devil Press, Prime Number, Dewpoint, FlapperHouse, 2 Bridges Review and Columbia journal of Literature and Art Online.