The Indianness

October 14, 2006: dinnertime. I am on a starched bed in a labor room, about to give birth to my first.

“Sheena,” my husband says. “I told Krishna. Text me if he comes.”

My sister and I will never be like Vishnu and his younger brother. We talk once a month, if that, and never for longer than five minutes. Texting is something she would never do, though she has the money for it, and is young enough that electronic bewilderment is not a plausible excuse.

Both of the brothers’ weights fluctuate every six months from lean to chubby and back again, but Krishna, being taller, carries it in a discreet way. Right now, Krishna is lean, Vishnu is chubby.

Krishna is the more attractive brother. I am attracted to him when I am not attracted to Vishnu. His face is boyishly handsome. His eyes are darker than Vishnu’s. Most days he comes over unannounced, smelling of sweat after running through Central Park, wearing one of those bags worn by men without wives⎯one strap hugging, diagonally, across the chest. “Vishnu’s little brother!” the doorman sings when Krishna walks into our building. He is only twenty-five, eleven years younger than Vishnu, six years younger than me.

Vishnu gave Krishna a key well before I moved in. He does not hesitate to use it. He opens the door without ringing the circular black bell centered on the top third of our door. When he takes off his sneakers, his large, wide feet stink. His confidence allows him to make no apology for the smell. He takes a towel from the linen closet, showers in our bathroom, and puts on Vishnu’s underwear, shorts, and a white V-neck tee. I have seen him naked only once, from the back. His butt is round, relatively hairless, and dark. Three shades darker than Vishnu’s.

His tattoos are large. Green, orange, blue, black, and red, on the entirety of his right pec, his left shoulder, the side of his left leg, and on his left ankle. I like looking at them, especially the one on his ankle: Lord Krishna seated in lotus position. Five green serpents garland the naked blue chest and a bright red dot glows at the center of the forehead. I see it best when he sits at one of our dining table chairs, his left leg pulled perpendicular over his right knee.

His name makes him most attractive to me: choosing a tattoo of the god he’s named for, having such a sexy-sounding name to begin with. Who has the same name as God?

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