"I apologize again for having troubled you so early. I was hoping one of your sons would be visiting, and I would bring him with me."
"All three children are far away, the boys and the girl," he says as he rummages. There is a lobster buoy from Maine, USA, that is used as a doorstopper at the back of the house on hot mornings, to let in the sun and the trickling song of the stream which runs beside the narrow lane there; the stream that is more stones than water as the summer advances but a great catcher of pollen nevertheless, the stones white as chalk in the sun, black underwater. During autumn the speed of the water is so great that you fear your foot would be instantly sliced off at the ankle if you stepped into it.
Outside, as he walks behind Kiran in that below-zero monsoon, there are gentle skirmishes between the falling snowflakes now that the wind has risen a little.
Two sets of Kiran's footprints lie before him as he follows her to her house. Each perfect cylinder punched into the deep snow has at its base a thin sheet of packed ice through which the dry leaves of the field maples can be seen as though sealed behind glass. They are as intricate as the gold jewellery from the Subcontinenttreasures buried under the snow till a rainy day.
Planted between two field maples on the slope, the telephone pole has had several of its wires broken during the night, and, encased in thick cylinders of ice, they lie snapped like candles in the snow. The chilled air is as keen as a needle on the skin and the incline is forcing him to take a hummingbird's 300 breaths per minute. A frozen buried clump of grass breaks under his weight and the cracking sound is the sound that Kaukab produces when she halves and quarters cinnamon sticks in the kitchen.
Excerpted from Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam Copyright © 2005 by Nadeem Aslam. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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