If we were not divorcing, you’d gaze with expectation of my response when telling me that large fragments from outer space crash onto earth, create craters that never fill, except with a perennial stream. If we were not discussing lawyers and fees and settlements in our stopover at Lonar lake en-route to Mumbai, and our separate ways, we’d look around the place we met years ago, because it has lasted 52,000 years, managed to survive so long, it even fails compasses and signals. If we were not arguing for most of the time, we’d leave the hotel room, trek down the muddy path, forgive our grazed knees, point at a golden oriole, or a gazelle or a flock of peafowls, and when near, you’d shout excitedly — How green is the water! If we were not so busy in our happier times, we could bring the kids here, where sci-fi meets religion, civilization meets timelessness, and on some rainy night, regale Shiya and Rana with stories of how in the bowel of this crater was the demon Lonasura’s den, and how Lord Vishnu slew him, while they listened enthralled how the spilled blood gave the lake its murky color. If we were still in love, now, we’d stand on the balcony, the distant basaltic rim of the lake stoic in its jaggedness, the dark forest whistling a soft ancient tune, the moon looking at itself on the glassy surface of those lake waters, salty and sweet at the same time, the ripples waiting with bated breath to hear us whisper into each other’s ear, while the abandoned temples by the lake’s periphery with their carved sculptures of couples in love, would count the dreams we’d be weaving of our life together.

Mandira Pattnaik’s fiction has appeared in Penn Review, The McNeese Review, DASH Journal, Contrary, Watershed Review, Passages North, Miracle Monocle, Amsterdam Quarterly, Wigleaf Longlist 2022, and Best Small Fictions Anthology 2021 among other places. Her work is forthcoming in AAWW, Quarterly West, Variant Lit, and DIAGRAM. She is Editor and Columnist, trampset, and Contributing Editor, Vestal Review. More work can be perused at mandirapattnaik.com. This is her second piece in Scrawl Place.