A rose stained in blood
A note splashed in wine
Painful and beautiful
These torn loves of mine
My passion is messy
So my poetry is bold
But in the end, a tattered self
Is all that I hold
“Have I changed?”
He was older, heavier-set, slightly balder. Success adding an unshakeable tower of confidence to the foundation of arrogance that he had always possessed. She took all of this in before pronouncing her verdict.
“You’re Jack, ten years later.”
“Better or worse?”
Ten years was a long time. Long enough for people and situations to change. But they hadn’t and it had only gotten worse. Or better, depending on where you wanted to come to it from. More intense, either way.
She thought about him constantly through the weekend, grimacing with each thought. It went against every principle she had imposed on her life, every value she had struggled to uphold. It was also secretly delicious, the feeling of being helpless in the face of forbidden thoughts.
On Monday, she was awakened by the sound of her phone ringing. Probably a salesman pushing a credit card, she thought and rolled over. But the caller persisted and with a grunt she rolled over. She had to prise an eyelid open to see the screen but when she saw his name, her eyes flew open.
“You’re still asleep?”
“Umm, yes. Was up late last night.”
This exchange had always been enough to terminate the conversation in earlier instances of sleep disruption. But curiously enough, ten minutes later, they were still talking and she didn’t even realize it until he made her catch her breath with,
“You do realize what’s happening here, don’t you?”
And sleepy or otherwise, she was alert enough to toss it back to him as she thanked a decade of mental discipline. To her surprise, he didn’t volley about. Yes, some things had changed. Maybe they had both grown older, more willing to accept things that were beyond control, less inclined to hide away.
“I’ve been looking forward to talking to you. I feel the need to call you, every day, every morning. That’s unusual, for me.”
She wanted to laugh with relief and exhilaration. And also curl up under her covers and never come out and face the world again. Or at least, never have to face him again.
On Tuesday, she begged off the morning conversation, citing work. In the evening, she refused a text invitation to meet saying that she just wanted to be ‘quiet’ for a bit.
“You can be quiet with other people but not with me?”
His message burned into the back of her mind and she had trouble falling asleep. Wednesday, she hoped would wash out uncontrollable feelings with wine. Instead, she found herself fumbling-thumbed messages of an erotic variety.
He called as usual the next day but his tone was cautious.
“What was that about last night?”
“Umm, nothing. I was drunk, that’s all.”
He didn’t comment further and their conversation proceeded. But in her mind, a wall had been breached. The much-discussed point of no return was in her mind and she had passed it some ten hours earlier. There was no going back on those messages, no turning back on the fact that she had propositioned a married man. That his response has been most receptive was of no concern. The horrific inappropriateness of it all was the most savagely desirable thing she had ever tasted. She had been a willing and more than active partner and the deed had already been set in motion.
Curiously enough, she only felt a sense of relief. You can’t be hanged twice she thought wryly, recalling a line from a movie. And now that she had begun down that road, she was just going to have to go all the way across to get through this.
Alive with these thoughts, she awaited his call the next morning. And told herself he must have gotten busy when it didn’t come. The day after was spent much the same way, albeit with a vague sense of panic camouflaged as restlessness. And then it was the weekend.
On Monday, her fingers shook as she held her phone and dialed his number. It was fear, from doing something she had always been petrified of – putting herself out there. And it was shame, of going back on her high principles. And it was resentment. And pain. It all tasted sweet, like blood in her mouth.
They met that evening. Three hours sitting in the carpark, the tension enveloping them both like a security blanket. Their relationship had always been defined by it, the crossed swords and it felt comforting to hold them again.
But when the clock on his dashboard clicked into place and he commented that he’d have to leave in ten minutes, she saw a glimmer in the darkness. His eyes, the ever hypnotic enchantment, full of intrigue and dangerous promise, were swimming in something she had never seen in them before. It moved her to something else, too.
He patted her on the head and told her to sleep well and not worry too much. The gesture made her smile and she in turn, put her hand up to his face and repeated the same thing. It made him smile too and then he pulled back his face into its brooding expression.
She completed his sentence,
“A scared child.”
It made him laugh, a deep, throaty rumble that made her innards twist with a familiar queasiness.
He wouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the week or the weekend. She spent the first few days in an uncomfortably suspended state of desperate desire. This was probably what it felt like to be a guy, she surmised, with a perpetual hard-on and no sign of release.
On Tuesday, she got up from her bed, her mind made up. They had repeated the cycle every few years. This time she had been sure would have been the culmination. But then again, she had only realized it was a cycle, this time round. It would occur again. It might be five years or five days. But they would dance around each other till, till…till fulfillment.
Her best friend, long-suffering from such stories told her that he had just lost interest. But Jill, she shook her head and firmly said,
“I don’t think he lost interest as much as he lost nerve.”
Burning with passion, she realized required courage under the fire. Maybe next time.
Eight years after hearing about it for the first time, I finally watched The Vagina Monologues. Wish me a happy birthday since I’m being reborn. On second thoughts, don’t say a word. Just listen as we speak – my vagina and I.
I hated being a woman. The restrictions, the rules, the fears of my mother, it made me angry.
I hated being a woman. Being smaller built than the boys, slower than them at games, lagging behind them on my bicycle, my scrawny legs pedalling furiously to keep up. I never could.
I hated being a woman. It took me a long time to get used to my curves. I walked like my flat-chested 12-year-old self till I was 17. Till a classmate told that it wasn’t the done thing for a girl to walk with such a straight back. Till, a boy said, “You walk with your boobs thrust right out at the world.” And when I did get used to them, I took them on with a vengeance and used them as lethal weapons. Bait? Hah! Call them Venus fly-traps! I loved their power and I hated them for the compromise they were.
I hated being a woman. Bleeding every month, feeling pukey and giddy-headed and sticky and smelly.
I hated being a woman. 10 years old and being told, “Boys can do whatever they like. But a girl’s reputation is like glass.” Twelve and my tuition teacher’s voice, “What a horrible laugh, so loud and monstrous! Look at Sonya, how prettily she covers her mouth when she laughs. And she doesn’t make a sound.” Thirteen and being admonished, “Sit with your legs together. Only a slut sits with her legs apart.” Yes, I really and truly hated being a woman.
But I didn’t always. I didn’t know I was a woman for some time. And then suddenly I did. Or more accurately, I suddenly knew he was a man. As he introduced me to his manhood and asked me to pat it, hold it, feel it.
Oh stop! I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I held myself back. And I held myself in. Realizing suddenly that if I didn’t, everything inside me would fall out of the hole. And in that moment, I seperated my vagina from me.
Sometime later, I summoned up the courage to tell my parents. I said he had tried to kiss me once. ‘Tried to’, not did. ‘Once’, not many times. ‘Kiss me’, not….
My classes were stopped and we didn’t speak about it again. I gave up trust that day as well as faith in men. I even stopped hugging my father. I assumed a genderless identity. And later, sexuality was paraded as an accessory, not experienced from within.
As the years passed, I built armour upon armour. The strongest of them was the desicion that when I was uncomfortable or hurt or unsure or unwell, no one would know, least of all the person who caused me pain. I banished the fears. I suppressed the blushing and giggles. I stifled innocence and wonder. I held back pain. I shut down tears. I sent them all to the dungeon to keep my shameful prisoner company.
I didn’t speak of it for ten years. One day a neighbor asked my mother about the guitar lessons I’d taken, since she wanted to send 8-year-old daughter for them too. When my mother told me, I asked her to tell our neighbor what had happened. She admitted that she was too embarassed to. I said, “If someone had told us the truth a decade ago…” and I left the room. There was nothing more to say.
Four years later, I was playing a silly game with my boyfriend, slapping and giggling. Then in a dramatic flourish, he pinned me down and held my wrists. That’s the last thing I remembered. The next thing I knew, he was shaking me very gently and asking, “What happened? I was only playing.” I didn’t say a word. Apparantly I’d gone all stiff and began whimpering.
My vagina was locked away into a dungeon when I was nine and went into silence after that.
As I watched the monologues and the vaginas of women around me sing and squeal and laugh and moan, I asked myself,
If my vagina could speak, what would she say?
And I heard her stammering, painfully shy reply so clear it made me cry.
I AM SORRY.
I’m sorry I disappointed you.
I’m sorry I hurt you.
I’m sorry you are in pain.
I’m sorry that I remind you of my existance.
I’m sorry I exist.
I’m so very sorry that I didn’t make you happy.
I’m really sorry that I don’t make you proud.
I’m sorry that you’re ashamed of me.
I’m so, so very sorry.
And as she spoke, her fellow prisoners stepped free from two decades of confinement. I had scratched off the worst I’d seen in my life and sent them down to my vagina, keeping the best bits for the part of me on show to the world.
My poor vagina, surrounded by my shame,
my bad memories,
…and my tears.
She cried, my vagina cried. And for the first time in years, I did too, with her.
Small wonder then that my relationships failed. Such a hellish place it had turned into that I’d only send those I wanted to banish down there. No wonder the very worst of men appealed to me and the very worst in them turned me on. And even they were petrified by what they found there.
I hated doing it in the dark.
I hated doing it on my back.
I hated doing it in bed. Or a couch. Or a car. Or in the open.
In fact I hated doing it so much that I never did.
Those who came to visit were offered a gracious cup of tea and then lulled into a battery of tests – a moat, a dragon, an army of defenses. And those that got past, walked up to the gates to find them locked. No entry into this love-lane, we’re shut, you’re unwelcome, go home. They did.
My new friend calls me a child and tells me that there’s a little girl he sees when he looks at me. Now I understand. At long last, I’m in the throes of an emotion nearly long-forgotten – TRUST. I banished it to my basement along with the other more tender emotions. If other people trust with their hearts, mine has gone made its home in the hovel downstairs. I trust from deep down there, like a slender creeper growing out of the ground. And what do you know? He’s right after all. My vagina thinks she’s only nine years old. That’s the last time she breathed free. Sweet child of mine indeed.
I used to be a sweet child. Warm, affectionate, trusting and open and always getting into scrapes. All of that went away with the confinement, right down into my vagina which is everything I am not. Sweet, pure, soft and warm. And it stayed that way for twenty years despite the confinement.
The book was wonderful. But the play brought it to life. It made me laugh (not smirk) and cry (not scowl). It gave my vagina her freedom and her voice too.
This is for Mahabanoo, Dolly Thakore, Avantika, Jayati (the moaner!) and Sonal Sachdev, the wonderful, spirited ladies who made last night come alive at Prithvi theatre. You made me whole again. You brought me back to life.
If my vagina were to dress up, what would it wear?
Well, it’s worn iron shackles for two decades. Now, if she could, she’d like something light and airy – preferably nothing at all. 😀
I read Lolita when I was eighteen. It was a revelation. One more step in what turns out to be a long journey. A journey of healing. A lot of people I’ve discussed the book with say that it is a sick book, making excuses for paedophilic behaviour. But I think, they just don’t know. Of all the people, I can hardly be an advocate for child abuse.
But reading Lolita gave me some perspective on what happened to me. I suddenly saw my abuser as a human being – a very bad and flawed human being, a sick human being but a human being nevertheless. Not a monster, but human. And human beings can be overcome, overpowered and even forgotten. Almost.
About 5 years ago I was at a doctor’s clinic when I suddenly realised that the man sitting across me was my former guitar teacher. I was shocked that it had taken me that long to recognize him. Even more shocked at what I felt – nothing at all. In my memories he was a big-built man. But in person, after all these years he just looked so tired, so small, so weak, so obscure and so old. I can’t change what happened and it would a lie to say that I’ve forgiven. This is a wound that cut me so deep, it bled me right out of the right to be angry and seek revenge. Seeing him again was like someone smoothing over the scars of the wound.
I didn’t have the courage to put this up online immediately. I had to ask a few friends about it. Two of them told me that it was deeply moving and should be shared. One cautioned me that I should remember to ignore any weird-ass reactions. Finally two others, told me about their own personal accounts of horror. And in the end, that’s really what gave me the courage to share this.
Happy birthday to my vagina. And welcome to the world of the living again.
you shall be addicted
you shall not want to go out and meet people
you shall only want to sit and read sandman
my god if i could afford them, i would dance the dance of joy!
So if my words sound a little odd, don’t think them so. I am just talking in my sleep.
Orpheus, son of Morpheus loved like few others
What a week!
Every morning waking up with a bad headache
A foul taste in her mouth and the most unpleasant feeling of all…
That the world was just the way she had left it the previous night
Improved not a whit, insurmountable problems waiting to plague her again
Evening was a haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol
Replacing the daze of screaming and insomnia
Tonight, bodies entangled
An ode to the twisted tango of her emotions all week
Yet, underneath the stupor…
Dad, how could you? Forgive me, ma, just couldn’t take it anymore so I ran away. Leave me alone!
She thought she might’ve been able to call them moans of passion
They were after all…moans…of passion
It was just great sex, wasn’t it?
She shrugged, unhappy realization
It never is.
A night of great passion is always followed by a hangover. It felt exactly the same as every other morning this week.