Title: The Lake

Author: Nikhat Shameem

In: Sport 14: Autumn 1995

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, April 1995, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

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Sport 14: Autumn 1995

The Lake

page 101

The Lake

Her eyes dance at me out of their kohl-ringed sockets. Her hair, thickly braided, lies carefully, carelessly flung over her left shoulder. She had copied Juhi Chawla’s hairstyle from the Hindi film she watched last weekend. I had watched it with her when she insisted, not because I wanted to but because I was biding my time. I wasn’t ready to talk to her.

She smiles at me now, her teeth are white and even, as perfect as in a toothpaste advertisement. Her bright green and pink shalwar kameez clashes with the colours of the dam, the lake, the pines, even the gorse. I had tried to get her into jeans once—it had merely drawn a fit of giggles. I look away from her towards the lake. Jenny looks great in jeans.

The water is very still today. Hard to imagine that less than three meters below, enormous turbines are churning out gallons of water into the Waikato. From where I stand I can almost hear the machines, loud, intense, so much power under my feet.

She runs from side to side along the dam walkway, she gazes in awe at the ravine on the left, than runs back to look at the lake lapping close to her feet on the right. She calls out to me. I pretend I haven’t heard. When she gets to the chute, she stops and looks back at me. I know the chute well.

When we passed through here last year on our first (and only) skiing trip Jenny teased me. She said that if I married the chosen Riaqat, she would kill us both and throw the bodies down the chute. No one would ever find us down there. Who would care about two missing immigrants anyway? We had both laughed out loud then.

She reaches the chute now, it clearly fascinates her as it did us that day. I remember the length of that solid concrete tunnel, slimy with the green kai that forms after each overflow. She climbs onto the fence that surrounds it to take a closer look. She’s curious about everything. She found my letters once in my old suitcase. I had to almost wrest them from her hand. Then she made a silly joke about me not telling her about my gori girlfriends. We were married now, she didn’t care, she said. But what can I tell her that she will understand? She with her sheltered existence waiting for the eligible match. What can she know about this ache? I walk towards her slowly. She page 102 is still peering into the chute, her face completely absorbed. Just as I reach her, she turns around excitedly, she is saying something.

A bird rises over the damp slopes, gaining speed with every flap of its wings. The glassy peace of the lake is shattering. Yellow flowering gorse lines both sides of the lake. The Tokoroa pines tower over the gorse and are starkly reflected in the lake, stretching to meet across the depths in the middle. The lake shifts against the concrete of the dam, laps, soothes. The dam itself is grey, cold, empty. There is power here and peace.