Things I brought home: What I left in Bombay

Words by Katia Pase

Published on March 12, 2013

He calls me up one day when I’m mopping the floor in the backstreet cafe that pays my rent. Baby, he says, how are you, and I imagine him standing in the doorway of a cheap Kabul hotel room, the contents of his camera bag scattered across the bed, the pillow he stole from Emirates business class buried under the cloths he runs over his lenses each night in a ritual he keeps even when he can’t be fucked showering.

He’s talking to me about a bird market, of hundreds of cages filled with tiny orange birds, pink birds, green birds too, and I’m listening from a city that’s entirely familiar already. I know what days to expect the junkies, and I know their names too, and I know which table they’ll chose to drape themselves over like a cloth when they can’t sit upright. And there are bedrooms across the city I know how to navigate on a pitch black night, and I know the bodies of the boys in them, and I know how to work the deadlock on the back doors so I don’t disturb sleeping housemates.

And just this morning I was feeling like the fierceness he saw in me was shut in his rolls of film, locked in a bag in a Bombay basement, but he calls me up and says, Baby, how are you, and I’m sweating in the Melbourne heat, and it’s snowing in Kabul, he says, it looks like a fairytale, and I lean into the mop and listen to his words coming at me from the other side of the world and I remember the fierceness he saw in me, I remember what it feels like.