If Jaya had been paying closer attention, the tea wouldn't have been necessary. It had seemed like an extreme measure to take, relevant only to those with severe anxiety instead of distracted suburban women like herself. Yet how mild were its effects now, just the amplification of these animal sounds through the windows Nilesh insisted on leaving open since the shutdowns, the chirrups strangely in sync [End Page 8] with the forgotten CD playing on her computer, as if the squirrel flicking its tail on the grass was keeping time with Adam Clayton's bass.
"Did you try Jeff's stuff yet?" asked Melanie, Jaya's former supervisor, when she had popped by before the last in-person staff meeting held by their counseling practice that year.
"He gave you some, too? Psilocybin?" Jaya clarified. Her colleague Jeff had wrapped it like a tiny Christmas present, which sat hidden in her top dresser drawer amidst old makeup and birthday cards. Jaya hadn't wanted to admit then that even as a relatively hip woman in her forties who'd never voted Republican, she hadn't planned on sampling it.
Melanie had been studying the latest family photo Jaya had placed against her hutch—one of herself, Nilesh, Kareena, and Raj dressed up for Diwali and squinting in their front yard. "He claims it's for research purposes," Melanie finally said, lifting her eyebrows. "I'll send everyone some articles about its success in treating PTSD. It's making waves."
As a deeper awareness of the sound layers from the CD began infusing Jaya's mind, what she held onto from that moment in February was how envious of Melanie she had been. Melanie, so poised in her worsted wool skirts, her full blonde hair with gray only visible in it from less than five feet away. Her toneless neutrality. Is that what had made Jaya finally take it—wanting to appear cooler? Was she no better than a peer-pressured teen?
Jaya sat now on the bed in her guest room with the artifacts from the attic spread all around, the grind of a lawn mower and the calls of industrious birds outside forming a strange synesthetic web in which she was suspended and waiting for something more to happen. God, listen to that! she told herself. This song was so good. How could she have packed U2 up in the attic? What were those rising notes The [End Page 9] Edge was playing? She had no idea. She hadn't touched a violin since entering high school, which had saddened her mother just like her own teenaged children were doing today to Jaya. What was happening here? Wait.
She felt like dancing. Not the kind of dancing Kareena knew about, or the viral trends Raj performed in the kitchen, his right elbow flapping as he chanted, "I got a new Glock and do a dance with it." At which point Jaya would interject.
"Raj, what are you saying? A Glock!"
Jaya was trying to be lucid now, trying to follow her memories back even as the mushroom should have been kicking in. As if her real reason for indulging in this illicit experience wasn't the very thing she needed to take a break from, her problem with Kareena, which was pinned to her mind like a hair accessory Jaya had been forced to wear against her will, as if she and not Kareena were the child. Kareena and her enormous wall of photos of herself standing in a line of blonde and dirty blonde girls making duck lips. Kareena and her requests to go early to and stay late at these blonde friends' houses before and after football and basketball games. Kareena and her pouting responses whenever Jaya hollered up the stairs for her to wake up so she wouldn't miss dance practice on the mornings after those late night gatherings at her friends' houses. Kareena shirking the same extra bharatanatyam classes she'd begged for a year before, after talking her parents out of their reservations about the expense of an arangetram, a formal recital demonstrating mastery in Indian...