Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Samyukta aka Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. This is my first attempt at writing a novel. I started this project as part of #NaNoWriMo2020 before I fell off the wagon. Hope you will read along as I get back to writing it. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page. Subscribe to my writing here.
Sam lay in bed with her eyes closed. Even with her eyes open, the darkness she felt was so pervasive that she could not see the world around her. She didn’t sense Achams twisting and turning in her bed unable to sleep. She didn’t sense the rise and fall of her parents’ voices as they stewed in their argument.
Night time was always the worst. All the emotions she kept under wraps during the day came to the fore at night. They roamed free, popping up everywhere, sending her into a silent panic. There was fear, neon yellow, unmissable. It twirled around her stomach before leaping onto her throat. She felt breathless. What was she going to do? How was she going to get out of here? Then there was ocean blue anger, vast and deep. The more she watched it, the more menacing it grew. It danced on her knuckles, white from clutching the pillow tight. Why were they doing this to her? What had she done wrong? Anger was holding hands, dancing a lively number with a leaf green hate. Hate looked young and virulent, seeming to grow before her eyes. Why didn’t Mama-Papa love her enough to understand? How could they do this to her? She searched everywhere for love. In the folds of her thighs and the small of her back. She combed her fingers through her hair in search. She touched her lips. Finally she found it, grey and shrivelled up between her toes, too weak to move. She thought of Madhu’s laugh for a split second. She pressed her face into the pillow, drew the blanket over her head and sobbed.
Emotions always brought up a wave of memories. Of late, painful ones. Today’s memory was from class 8.
There were two boys in Sam’s class—Adil and John—who shared a desk. They were peculiar, but nothing unlike all the other teenagers around. Adil was a geeky, soft-spoken boy with a stutter. He was the kind that ran away from a football during a game. John, on the other hand, was the goalkeeper. He was a strapping, friendly and fellow with kind eyes. Teachers liked him because he was always polite.
No one knew where this rumour started but suddenly everyone in class seemed to know that Adil and John were gay. The first round of conversations around this were dodgy. Adil was too pasty. John was too friendly. Details that didn’t sway many into taking the news seriously. Then there were reports of them sitting at their desks with their thighs touching. Someone had seen them hold hands in the Chemistry lab. Someone claimed that they had data to prove that Adil and John always synced their toilet breaks. Some of these claims were outrageous. Like that they played with each other’s dicks during class tests when everyone else was busy.
As the days went by, the stories got more and more outrageous. Boys claimed that Adil stared at them in the toilet while they peed. Some of them made a show of running out of the toilet when either of them entered. Girls weren’t too far behind. Whenever they passed Adil and John’s desk, they held their breath and tiptoed as if jumping over a nasty puddle. If either of them passed a chit or an assignment or a notebook down the row, they would hold it tentatively between two fingers as if it were something dirty. This was far too common because Adil and John sat in the second row.
If either of them passed a chit or an assignment or a notebook down the row, they would hold it tentatively between two fingers as if it were something dirty.
One day, Miss Mathews caught Adil and John sharing a textbook in her Biology class because one of them had forgotten to get his. Miss Mathews was a stickler for decorum and discipline.
“Adil, John, are you two married?”, she said out of the blue when she noticed their transgression. The whole class exploded in laughter. “Class!” she shouted and the laughter immediately dialled down to looks and giggles.
Both Adil and John were silent. “Adil, you are literally sitting in John’s lap. What are you doing there? Studying body fluids and circulation? Stand up!” she said referring to our previous class on The Human Body. The class went wild as if their claims had been vindicated till she glared them into silence again.
One of them passed down a post-it to stick on Adil’s back. It said, I SUCK HIS DICK →
“I asked you both a question. Adil? John?” Miss Mathews was on her infamous and terrifying questioning spree.
“No ma’am”, said John, sounding jovial. No one had ever seen him in a bad mood. Unlike Adil, he didn’t seem to take anything too seriously.
“Adil? What about you? Looks like you would like to be married.” He shook his head while staring at the desk. “Then why don’t you answer?” she persisted.
“No ma’am”, he said, softly.
“I didn’t hear you. Stop staring at your shoes like a bride. Look up at me. Be a man!” She threw a chalk piece at him. It landed below his belt.
He looked up and sniffled. “No ma’am”, he said, a little louder.
“Oh, don’t be a sissy now! What are you even crying about? That’s enough. Go wash your face.” She shushed him, ending her tirade just as quickly as it had started.
Sam had laughed at them with the rest of the class. She had believed all the stories that floated around about them. She had fanned the fire by sharing those stories with incredulous wonder. She had laughed at the post-it. She had laughed even after Adil cried.
What had they even done wrong? They hadn’t decided to sit together. Their seats were assigned to them. No one had really seen them kissing or doing anything remotely sexual. Even if they were gay, why was it such a big deal? Why had she laughed at them? There it was, a purple flare of guilt, shooting off of her genitals. It tingled and ached, not in a euphoric fashion, as she turned onto her stomach waiting for the feeling to pass.
Thank you for reading today’s chapter. As this is the first draft of the novel, I expect a lot of changes in subsequent drafts before this goes to print. I would love to hear what you thought of this chapter and how I could make this better. Hope you will leave your tips in the comments below.
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