Every Thing We Are | Ch 1b: Life in Code

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Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. My first attempt at writing a novel, this is being written 1000 words a day through November as part of #NaNoWriMo2020. Hope you will read along as I write. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page.  

Long before those lips I devoured today talked to me in real life, you had liked a photo I posted on Instagram. It featured Sheru, the street dog at Nritya. She was grinning as I gave her a belly rub. I had refreshed the page so many times that day just to check if I was seeing this right. When you followed me on Instagram, I was finishing dinner with my family. We have a no-mobiles-on-the-dining-table rule. So I leave it on the chest of drawers behind my seat. I leaned over to subtly check the notification and legit fell off the chair when I saw the ‘MadU2001 started  following you’ notification!

Still, I would often remind myself that none of this is true. That you probably don’t even know that I exist. That it was far-fetched to imagine that you would fall for someone like me.  I remember what I was wearing the day you talked to me. It was a Wednesday and I was in my sports uniform which was once white. I was late and hurrying to the changing room while taking off my tie and shoving it into my bag when you came over. Frankly, I was annoyed. Of all the times you could have talked to me, you had chosen this one day when I was late. 

I lit up like someone had fired a flare gun at my face.

But you just stood there before me and said so very matter of factly. “Sam, shall we get a juice outside after class? I think I like you.” I lit up like someone had fired a flare gun at my face. I sat in aramandalam with great diligence. I prayed for the class to end early. I felt focused, as though my body and mind were moving in unison.

And just like that, there we were drinking orange juice at the Juice Centre across the road from the dance studio. Months of playing out scenarios in my head and in the matter of an afternoon, my life had tipped.

I must confess that I remember next to nothing of what we spoke off. My mind was preoccupied with your lips. They seemed like a thin, long line, a tightrope stretched across your cheeks. Below were a mouthful of teeth waiting for me to explore them. Further in there was a tongue, fierce and untrained, revving to go. You stuck it out as you shook the upturned glass to get the last drop of juice onto the tip of your tongue. I could feel my ears get hot and my toes get sticky inside my shoes. I wanted you so badly. I wanted to touch you. Feel those fluid lines that make your body. Dance with you, matching your moves, making you move. Together. Alone.

R olev blf, 

Ulivevi blfih

Sam finished typing her love letter, encoded it using Atbash, a simple reverse cipher that replaced A-Z in reverse order from Z-A. She and her friends had read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code last summer and were enamoured. They had spent a good number of days learning alphabets in the reverse order and practising reading and writing in reverse. They used it in all their text messages. They changed their ciphers every month as they expected to be intercepted by family.

This journal that Sam was writing in was private and no one knew it existed, not even her gang, Akira, Ayaan, Siam and Zara. This was the one big secret that she kept from them. They knew about Madhu and everything else, right down to the minute. The year she entered high school, her parents had read through her diary and confronted her about why she wrote that she hated ‘the lovely’ Miss Mathews, their biology teacher. That incident had made her extremely conscious of her journalling. It had also made her secretive. She had started a private journal on WordPress. This was in addition to the public blog she maintained as suggested by her father. Papa had told her that a blog was important to build her extra curricular portfolio online. She blogged avidly about her dance, her Olympiad prep, competitions in school, what she learned on holidays and even her favourite dog, Sheru. But for the private blog, called This Coded Life, she knew that only a cipher could keep her thoughts truly private. So in addition to a password, each of her posts were written in a different cipher and she spent a lot of time labouring over it. 

As she shut down the computer and got ready for bed, she recalled from her brain’s recent folder, the events that transpired this afternoon. She sent Madhu a smiley, just as she was stepping out of the conscious world.

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Next episode | Ch2a: Welcome to Samiverse