We had to stop him from swimming in the floodwater. A dirt sea. Mama said she was scared that broken glass hid in the murky brown, lining the gravel roads like shark’s teeth. My brother clawed at Mama’s wet pant leg, screaming at the thunderstorm, and at us. “I swim! I swim! I swim!” Then we took him inside, filled the bath. It was only lukewarm. “There,” she said. “Swim.” So he did. He thrashed so violently and so enthusiastically that the tub lost half its water to the walls and the floor, which became sudsy-slippery, with white light splayed out all over in small translucent rainbows. He dozed off, still in the bathtub.
When he woke, he plodded into the living room, tracking water with each step, and reached to me. His hand, outstretched, had the skin of a prune. He shivered.
That night on the news we saw a man kayaking down a waterlogged street. A monitor lizard. An uprooted tree. I imagined, for a moment, that we lived in Venice. But my brother screamed again, and cried, tears rolling down his cheeks, onto the floor. A small puddle beneath us, growing softly into a river. Mama ignored him, as she did sometimes in the late evening, his voice bouncing dejectedly off the countertops, getting caught in the whir of the ceiling fan. “Hey,” I said, crouching by him. He did not respond, only leaned forward and grasped, with his two hands, some strands of my hair. He played with them for a small while, and I allowed it. Mama changed the channel, so she could watch her soaps.
Still there was torrent outside, the third night of tropical storm. I had grown so used to this rain that its thunder ceased to scare me, instead blending meekly into the backdrop like the sounds of cars on the road and the chatter of birds in the Judas tree. More flooding, they said, three days of rain, maybe more. Too much water for soil to hold. A blustering world, overflowing, overrun. Water rushing down drain gutters. Every canal a raging river. Mama turned off the television and guided my brother back to his room. Closed the door. Turned off the lights. Little glow-in-the-dark stars shining green on the ceiling. Droplets hitting the window pane, dripping down, heavier and heavier.
I slept well in bad weather, and liked to fall asleep listening to storms. I listened, and listened. The normal sounds. Precipitation, thunderclap. Water hitting water. Water hitting metal. Water hitting. Hand hitting. Mama’s voice, then my brother’s, unintelligibly. A scream. A scuffle. I listened. I listened to the rain, the low rumbling. I listened to the water, which should have drowned everything else out. Then another yell. Thuds. Maybe picture books falling onto the floor. I got out of bed and opened the door and walked down the hallway. Mama peeked her head out. “Where are you going?” I did not look into my brother’s room, because I was afraid to see his teary face. Afraid to be confronted with the nothing I could do to dry him. “Where are you going?”
I closed the front door behind me and began to run down the stairs. The water had risen. In the parking lot, I waded ankle-deep. I went out to the main road, and then down further toward the dim light of a partially-submerged streetlamp, near where the canal had overflown. There, in the shallows of the flood, I lurched forward and began to sink.
Divya Maniar is a Singaporean writer. She recently graduated from Brown, where she studied Comparative Literature and Philosophy. More of her work can be found in Joyland Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, and Hobart. More of her can be found on Twitter @divyalymaniar.
Lead image: “It’s Raining Again” (via Flickr user Tom Lee)