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When life as a curiously paired, young married couple in California–in the midst of a growing state and national economic crisis–becomes literally unworkable, Rodney, an earnestly toiling, playboy of a husband, unilaterally determines that he and P.V., his ambitious but naive, exotic wife, should relocate to Texas. So P.V., a struggling sophomore realtor and avid foodie, and Rodney, a newly unemployed marketer and sports addict, sell virtually everything they own and embark upon a downsized existence in the heart of North Texas–Dallas. But an eerie and horrifying morning dream that P.V. previously experienced becomes a dark and ever-unfurling, pain-filled prophesy that ultimately threatens the very foundations of their humanity. Sex, depravity, despair, and an uneven pavement of good intentions lead to a black, one-way road with a shocking and hair-raising end.
But then one day, unexpectedly, the sun rose sweepingly black upon the state—and it wasn’t the only one—and they awoke to find themselves holding onto nothing but what was standing in three dimensions, and what little they had jointly saved. They had eagerly spent—as if single college co-eds—without much store-housing, always encouraged by the reality that together, they could easily generate sufficient and more. So, in the fresh darkness, their carefree, economic togetherness began to crack, splinter, web. It all started when on a Monday, Rodney’s bosses assigned him to train a new marketing team member from their New York office, and then summarily that Friday, swiftly laid him—and his entire marketing unit—off, except for the one employee he had been forced to mentor. The fragmenting downspiral continued with P.V. realizing that the once flock of eager, wild-eyed buyers had run, scattering well deep, into hiding. Accordingly, she helplessly—an additionally, inexperienced one—watched as her real estate-for-sale listings inventory rolled and aging sat, month after nail-biting month. Resultantly, for income, the two began to snatch away anxiously at the rest of their dwindling, pea-sized savings, and at the vapors of P.V.’s plummeting realtor commissions.
Suddenly, the two together were thinking older, living older—too much older than their individual years. They began redefining the meaning of frills, and withholding those like penny-pinching pensioners, things they once thought of as basics, that they used to, in better times, allow themselves without blinking. And so, they were struggling to maintain no longer the burgeoning, middle income luxe that they had begun to build, but dearly, just the very safe that they had at least, once been. Yet, somehow, the very last to be redefined—to go—were Rodney’s expensive man-crew weekends away to revel, and the first to be jettisoned, long before the redefining, P.V.’s buffering girlfriend trips to cook and soothingly dine. And then one day, in the choking grit and dust wake of it all, for the first time—inclusive of the days of their respective singlehoods—they were broke, miserable, and officially stuck with someone. They were left id-minded, like runaway children caught up in a typhoon at blind-side—force-dragged into an undertowing cycle downward and downward still, eyes squeezed shut intermittently and little arms looped, each round the other’s, league by league in the under together.
Rodney awoke with a jolting, eyes-up-open-in-a-flash, start. It was as if a hypnotist had bid him loudly, firmly to wake up—snapping fingers together with an equal harsh force, to facilitate his return to full reason. His eyes were the only part of him that first moved, and he let them do the work as he lay there—rest of body static—by increments perceiving, breathing in the morn. Yellow-white rays of California sun were just beginning to stream slightly in through the luxe, half-slanted open, teal linen blinds. They shifted to illuminate too, the lower tips of the matching, clean-lines-contemporary window treatments that neatly boxed both windows. At an angle out like a tipping domino, the elongated shadow of the window loomed on the pristine—and real—white oak floorboards. Rodney twisted slightly to ease a twinge of pain, the minor injury a result of having slipped and almost fallen the night before, on the pristine, white and grey marble tiles that paved his and P.V.’s master bathroom. P.V. was a heavy head to his chest, her mass of black, medium-length, hot-curled hair almost neatly contained in the crook of his elbow. She was still breathing in the realm of sleep, but her little body was tossing and gesturing at intervals, as if walking and acting in that unseen world. And at that very moment, in fact, forever unbeknownst to him, P.V. was indeed dreaming—of Nani.
In the dream, Nani appeared physically as her normal self: she was a beautiful—almost brown—bent-forward-midway-at-the-waist and thin, but wide-bodied, woman. Her parabolic bearing always made her seem as if she were perpetually giving salaam, a condition caused by her incorrigibly poor posture as a girl, and the late stages of osteoporosis in her end years. Her smooth, black hair was parted in the middle, and streaked with coarser, fly-away strands of white, all disappearing into a long braid that peeked out again near her waist. She was standing in Trinidad, outside P.V.’s parent’s first home together, in an alcove portion off the veranda that was sheltered by the low, Spanish-tiled roof of the house. In the distance, P.V. could see the blanched sands of the beach, and the sparkling, green-blue waters rolling and retreating on its thin lip. But Nani was oddly barefoot—and alarmingly sheathed from top to bottom in a white sheet that was wound about her body in sections, as if on a mummy. She was muttering and curved over a roti flat pan and board, spindly fingers slightly floured and glistening from the oil mix. One roti was already sizzling on the flat pan, and to her left, there was a large, white china plate with a royal blue pattern, heaped high with all that she had previously cooked.
The sky suddenly darkened into a night, with a large, spinning patch of daylight in the distance—and bright, rich, almost blindingly deep-blue flowers began to fall out of the air to everywhere. The blooms, each as if clovers springing out their vivid blossoms from a single stalk, dropped on top of Nani’s head and onto her shoulders, immediately bouncing off on impact to the area around her. And they fell onto the food and preparation table, sticking into the mixing bowl containing the remainder dough, and blanketed the entire surface of the ground and tiled veranda floor. One huge stalk fell violently and lodged behind Nani’s ear, its tip caught in her hooped, gold earring.
And Nani seemed to abruptly become aware of P.V’s presence—whipping about sideways to face her, straightening completely up from the waist as would have been impossible for her, braid jerking to and fro with the immediacy of the motion. In her right hand was the stack of roti, topped with the new roti that had been in the pan—which was still gleaming—a flaky, beckoning nourishment, slightly charred and golden in spots. And grunting, face ashen and gaunt, she extended the breads to P.V., wrinkled right hand shaking out an urgency for her to take them. But when P.V. reached for that right hand, Nani moaned and extended her left, which—flesh inexplicably missing in parts—began to gush a dark red blood, thick from the palm and up over like discovered crude oil, from deep within its center.