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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Every Thing We Are | Ch 1a: Life In Code

book cover for Every Thing We Are
Image courtesy: Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

I am not a confident writer. This chapter was meant to be published yesterday but my nerves didn’t let me. What am I so afraid of? Writing badly? Being judged? But I am fully aware that writing is a muscle more than a skill. And I am exercising it everyday. And it can only get better with time. See, logic always has a point. But I am so wrapped up in overthinking that I am rarely listening. So here goes!

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.  

When you kissed me Madhu, I felt my centre of gravity explode. I couldn’t feel my feet or hands anymore. I felt light, weightless. As if I, Sam, were floating over the both of us, watching the scene from above. I couldn’t feel the redness spreading across my face and colouring my ears, though I could see them. I couldn’t feel your arms convene over my lower back, tentatively, palms outward but I saw their awkward stance. All I could feel was the numb excitement of your mouth electrifying mine. Kissing was like a million tiny wands of invisible lightning coursing through you with purpose. I imagined this is what neurons firing felt like.

The thrill of kissing you back erupted outward as a colourscape of joy. The pleasant warmth of your body pressed against mine, etching into it, the memory of you. With courage I did not believe I possessed, I placed my hands on your forearm, unsure. You didn’t notice or seem to mind. My hands climbed your forearm, all the way to your shoulders. I could feel your heart run an indoor marathon. In the exhilaration of summiting your shoulders, I felt brave enough to do it. I ran my hands through your hair. 

Oh, your hair. I could write an entire post about your hair. You have no idea how long I have wanted to do this. I have ogled at your hair, at your shoulders and your bum more than I have ogled at your face. Your silky, straight hair that flirted with your shoulders, sometimes touching, sometimes not. My fingers inhaled their scent and I knew for certain that they smelt exactly as I had imagined it. Soft.      

Isn’t it weird that you can’t see anything when you’re kissing? When I kissed you though, I imagined your eyes looking at me. I thought of the first time I noticed you looking at me. That was back in May when our team went to that audition in Koramangala. I was sure there was something stuck in my teeth or that my hair was out of whack that day. Why else would you be looking at me? I also thought I was imagining it because I liked you so very much. I didn’t even ask Zara to confirm this was happening because I was sure it was a figment of my imagination. To me, it was so unthinkable then that we would be here, you kissing my neck, making me gasp with your urgency. 

I see that all the nerve endings on your face are dancing in celebration. Definitely, mine are too.

What do we do next? I am not sure. Neither are you. I can hear you thinking whether to touch my breasts pressed against yours. Your courage seems to be running on fumes. I want you to touch them so badly. But the words to make that happen elude me. We kiss till our throats are dry and our faces hurt. We stop to look at each other. I see that all the nerve endings on your face are dancing in celebration. Definitely, mine are too. We grin at each other, proud of our afternoon’s activity. Even as the thrill settles into my core, I know that I have stepped over a line. There is no going back from here. I can’t get enough of you. I hug you once more, with confidence this time and smell the crook of your neck. I twine your fingers in mine and wrap your hands around me, cumbersome but snug. I want to stay here in your embrace forever. 

I feel alive and present. Just like I did when I saw you for the first time during Vijayadashami last year when you joined our dance class. When did you first notice me? What did you notice about me that first time? I’ve had my eyes on you since that first day. At first it was your skill. The grace with which you move, as if your body were fluid, with no skeletal system to speak of. I’ve spent days of practice just standing in a row behind you and daydreaming. I loved how delicate and elegant your ankles looked. This might sound weird but in my head, you and I have conversations every day. I am funny and you are floored by my candour. 

In real life though, our first interaction was only in July when I shared a water bottle with you. Since you had touched that bottle, I began speaking to it before bed. I was livid when I forgot it in an auto one day on the way home. I still get angry thinking about it. But whenever I feel angry, I think of the day we met in Nritya’s office to pay the fees. When I got off the plastic seat, it made a farting noise. I could have keeled over and died of embarrassment. But you just burst out laughing before blowing farts out of your elbows. You didn’t have a care in the world. I was so grateful for you that day.

to be continued…

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Next episode | Ch1b: Life In Code