Three steps up, she taunted him: the dress-length pink shirt, the loose pants billowing underneath. But it was the miles of scarf that poached his breath.
He knew what the scarf was called.
He’d seen Sana in a similar outfit once, after her sister’s wedding. She’d arrived after midnight in a bubble of magenta silk, used his bathroom, and emerged wearing only the long, diaphanous scarf. Afterward, when she dressed, she asked him to hand her the dupatta. She couldn’t stay. Later, when he caught pneumonia, she stayed. She took him to bed, breaking his fevers with the heat from her body and responding to his delirious mutterings: No, she wouldn’t let him die. Yes, she’d told his MFA advisor. No, she didn’t wish he were in medical school. She left him only to brew ginger tea and cook dal chaval. The scent of fried garlic and cumin settled into the corners of his apartment until it smelled like a future.
When he recovered, Akil appeared. A cousin, she said. But he was really just a childhood friend. In a month, she married Akil. He was a cardiologist.
At the top of the escalator, the woman turned. Her scarf was caught, choking her, lighting her eyes with panic. He tried to pretend she was Sana. He tried to leave her.
He grabbed the scarf and pulled. It tore, freeing the woman. On solid ground, she smoothed his face with her hands. He knew what it was called.