Newton

— Ravi Mangla

The frame is fated to fall. It will fall. Of this, I’m convinced. It is only a question of when. I lay on the couch, a tennis match idling in the background, staring at the framed photograph above me. I feel its weight bearing down, pressing against my chest, pestering my breathing. Nadia asks why I keep looking at the image—an unremarkable photograph of a covered barge gliding down the canals of Amsterdam. (I don’t want to bother her with my preoccupations, but she is drawn in nonetheless.) I tell her that I’m certain it will fall, come plummeting down, any moment now. Nonsense, she says, having witnessed me reinforce the photograph with a second bracket from the mom-and-pop hardware store across town (more expensive, sure, but we can take solace in our patronage of a small, family-owned business). On a long enough timeline, everything falls, I say. Yes, she says. But not today. At night I dream of the frame snapping from its mooring and crashing down onto the floor, the glass splintering into countless small pieces. I wake up, drenched in sweat. Nadia, half-asleep, pulls me toward her and strokes my head. (I wonder what I did to deserve someone like her, so patient and forgiving.) When I was nine or ten, my father dropped a blender on the kitchen floor. I remember its contents—a pink smoothie mixture—pool across the linoleum in a slow ooze. My father looked ashamed. He was in his first round of chemo treatment (which he would survive; it was the encore that got him). This was the moment that the picture of my father as infallible was displaced by an ordinary reality. But the frame is not the blender, the bracket is not my father’s quavering hands, and the comparison of the two glass objects—one a frame, one a blender—is tenuous at best. But the modest request that I should be able to enjoy the old-world charms of the Dutch capital without distress seems a reasonable one. It’s not as though I’m asking for my father to come back from the dead or the blender to piece itself back together. Those requests would be decidedly less modest. Nadia reminds me that not everything that falls is worthy of lament. There’s the rain, meteor showers, fruit from boughs of trees. Newton owes quite a lot to falling fruit, she says. What if the frame is your Newton’s apple? she adds. A moment of sublime revelation. Sublime revelation? I repeat. That’s right, she says. So we wait, the two of us in the quiet of the living room, for a great reveal.


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