ETWA|Ch5a: What’s Happening Here?

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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.

I woke up knowing that life as I knew it had disappeared as I slept. So had all the relief I felt in letting my parents know that I liked girls. In its place was a jumble of sadness, anticipation, longing and fear. A heavy dread carried this ball of emotion from the pit of my stomach, dragging its feet all the way to my throat. 

I had to distract myself to survive this day. As I lay there refusing to get on with my morning, I closed my eyes and conjured up Madhu’s lively guffaw that always filled the room around her. I concentrated, rather intently, on her shoulder bone peeping through the collar of her school uniform as she laughed. I felt that new yet familiar sensation starting up between my legs. Just as that pleasant feeling spread like warmth under my blanket, I was pulled back into the present. 

It was Mama. She was rummaging through my things on the study table. What was happening? These days, nothing I hold dear is just lying around for anyone to find. It’s all in the virtual realm where she would never find it. But it was still bothersome that Mama was going through my things. I could feel her suspicion sneaking around my room, slimy to the touch, leaving indelible stains. 

“Woke up already? Your acting didn’t fool me!” Mama broke into my thoughts.

“What are you doing Mama?” I tried to keep my voice from breaking. “Why are you going through my things?”

“It’s a surprise inspection! I’m going to find everything you are hiding.” she said matter of factly.

“Mama, I’m not hiding anything. I told you everything last night!” I barely recognise my quivering voice. 

“If you have nothing to hide then give me the password to your laptop”, she hissed giving me the side eye.

“But why are you going through my things Mama? You can’t do this. You can’t go through my things”. I am not entirely sure if I said this aloud or if it was in my head.

She’s entering the password now. Did I give it to her? I don’t remember. She won’t find anything on my laptop. But that will only make her more suspicious. What is happening here?

It was as if the sense of safety, privacy, security…call it what you will… that I felt at home…that I felt around my parents…was being undone, one slow stitch at a time.

Next, she goes through the books on my shelf, flipping through each of them. She checks my bag and does the same to my school books. She looks calm. She’s in no hurry. As if she were browsing in a library. She’s paying me no attention. I stare at her in disbelief for a while. Achams is not to be seen. I look at the time. She must be having breakfast. That’s why Mama’s here now.

I head to the bathroom because I can’t stand this anymore. I leave the water running and cry my heart out. Why is Mama being so mean? Why doesn’t she care that she’s making me miserable? I take my time in there, waiting to calm down.

But when I come back out, she is still here, looking under my bed. When she hears me, she looks up. I try to look away because my eyes are swollen from all the crying. But I needn’t have. She doesn’t ask me if I’ve been crying. What is happening here?

Mama has always known when I am upset. When I got home after school, she would know how my day was just from an inflection of my voice. It seemed like she had stayed up last night building a stony wall of otherness between us. Now, she was like the Other Mother from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. She looked like my mother but when she spoke, she was cold; sinister even. My mother would never do this to me.

“Hmm, a girl child…she is like a paper cup at parties”, Papa goes off on a tangent.

Achams was done with breakfast before I sat down. Once she left the table, Papa cleared his throat.

“We have always been proud of you. We have told all of your friends’ parents that we trust you enough to do the right thing. We’ve never kept tabs on you…” 

I sniggered to myself at their short term memory. It’s true that they tell other parents that they trust me. But it’s also true that I have had to leave my phone with them after dinner everyday since I started high school.

“Hmm, a girl child…she is like a paper cup at parties”, Papa goes off on a tangent. “It works perfectly well the first time. But if you refill it a couple of times or hold it at the top, the paper loses shape, begins to leak or worse, it will cave. Now, it’s bizarre to try to eat a slice of pizza from a cup, isn’t it? But if you insist on doing that, you will definitely ruin the cup. Instead, if you place the cup down at a table, hold it around the middle and drink from it at intervals like a normal person, it will last you the whole party. What I am trying to say is that, no boy will ever want to marry a damaged cup!”

“But Papa, I don’t want to marry a boy!”, I blurted out.

“You. Will. Keep. Your. Mouth. Shut!” he snarled at me, grabbing my ear and twisting it with each word. What was happening here? I was so shocked that it almost didn’t hurt. They have never laid a finger on me before. Ever. This was all new to me. Perhaps because I was so much younger than my brother or because my parents were older when they had me…I don’t know. But they have never, ever hit me before. But it’s happening everyday now. I feel like I have taken a wrong turn in my life and completely lost my way.

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Next Episode: Ch5b: What’s Happening Here?

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