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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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MY AYAH
 
by Townsend Walker


It was she who taught me that people create their own kismet. When I close my eyes I see her: smiling, arms open, wrapped in yards of bright colors. She was there the day I was born in the small house in Jodhpur. And because my mother and father travelled, she took care of me.

My parents were Presbyterian missionaries sent out from Southampton. They were pious people and treated the Indians humanely, much better than many of the others who came out to preach. In 1927, my parents sent me to America to university. And it is most unclear why they chose Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, perhaps the school’s name.

I didn’t think to ask them at the time. Tomorrow, I will.
 
I had a difficult time in Fort Worth. It was horrid, very horrid. My Ayah had taught me to revere cattle, but the cowboys poked and prodded them through the dusty streets, then led them off to the slaughter houses.

I left after a year and continued university here in San Antonio, at Trinity College: an oasis tucked into a sprawling city. Here I stayed, teaching English literature to a dwindling band of students. It has been years since I’ve taught. Only the occasional lecture, though not since my attack three years ago. I’ve become increasingly reliant on others. The doctors are now forcing me to leave this house where I’ve lived more than half my life. For my own good, they say.

There is no one left in my family, least that I know. I’ve corresponded with a few of my former students. One is a publisher in New York. I am sending him a manuscript, though it is but a slight work. Once it was 1000 pages; now, less than 150. What one thinks is important diminishes, as time goes on.

I need get out of this chair and put the manuscript in the mail. The cerberin will soon take effect. One cannot choose the time to enter this life, my Ayah told me, but one may select the moment to pass to the next, and with that had given me a small vial bound with a strip from her sari.

I should have sufficient time to walk to the corner mailbox and return to my chair.

I am mistaken, but my Ayah is here.