Somebody had told everybody I was a lesbian. I should have seen it coming on the day I nudged the girl next to me to ask what ‘fuck’ meant. She turned to me and kept chewing on an over-chewed gum, her face ruptured and taut with knowledge. Somebody threw a chair with a loud clamouring noise whenever somebody tried to talk. They changed those secret glances like fake currency notes. I must dance I thought, as I watched her thin white bare shoulders jiggling in front of me, in front of the boys. I looked at the vague disco lights and I felt hungry. I looked around for a place to sit, I felt hungry. “Where can I get a bite?” My escort looked at me with jiggling shoulders, a ruptured face taut with knowledge. It was 1 am in the night when I looked outside my window. There was bad music playing and I had been asked what would I do if I was asked to give a blowjob? Someone told me I looked like Sharon Stone. I thought of Tagore and Keats when someone accidentally stabbed me with a burning fag. I opened the window. It was immersion day for Lord Ganesha. Naked Uncle peered from the opposite window. He was of course, very naked. I was hungry. “Where can I have a bite?” I asked them. They gave me a steel tumbler of vodka and cold drinks. She was dancing. They all laughed, their faces were taut with knowledge. I saw the naked ladies coming up from the sea. When I walked into the water, it was clear, I could see through to the crabs and the snails. He pushed me over in fun. Someone called out the marks in the vernacular paper. They read out my essay. For weeks afterwards, whenever I said something out of the ordinary, they labelled me as the exotic. They did it with their fat faces, their rimless frames and their thigh length skirts. I came home and banged the door shut because I didn’t know why I didn’t have my periods yet. My father looked away when I came running out to greet him in summer wearing a torn white chemise. My left breast slipped out. “I would tell him to suck my breast” I had said. They had all sneered at me and they went on jiggling their bare white shoulders under the lights and in the river of very bad music. I understood this was a place where people could come home and wash dirty laundry at 1 O’ clock at night, this was not a place to be hungry. She told me it was bad blood that I was flushing out of my system. I looked at her face for signs of a white lie. It was calm and taut with knowledge. I needed someone weird enough not to feel weird. I do not know what he needed. I had slapped him the first time. It was just like a Bollywood film. “Is she alright?” my boss had asked. They had made me dance like a courtesan. They had cut me a cake on my birthday out of pity. They all thought it was sufficiently brave to cuss a drunk and powerful man over the phone, that too after downing a couple of beers. I had walked right past those men to get those two cans, right past the guy at the telephone shop who sent me heartbroken SMSes at night. They all told me I had beautiful eyes. “You looked liberating” he said the night I foolishly danced to the bad music, the night he said, “the trees look like peacocks at night” I could have thrown up, right there on the quality of his ideas. He smelt bad. One night when I was sexting him to bed, I asked him about love. I remember his face. I remember the shack, the sea, the women shaking off the sea water from their bodies. “Isn’t it nice that we can watch these semi-nude ladies together with a beer?” I felt hungry and I said, “Where can I have a bite? He licked his lips and looked at me. His eyes, those eyes, were taut with knowledge.
* * *
Sreemanti Sengupta is an advertising professional based in Kolkata. She writes experimental fiction and poetry and has been widely published in the print and electronic media in places like Mad Swirl, Paragraph Planet, Certain Circuits, Bare Hands Poetry, Onager Editions, Ppigpen and many more. Her published works have been read at the City Lights Book Store in New York and her haikus translated to French by celebrated poet-collagist Bruno Sourdin. Sreemanti has self published ‘First Person’, an experimental novella in collaboration with Brazillian artist/photographer Ana Vivianne Minorelli. The book is now available online. She is also the editor at her self-run ezine ‘The Odd Magazine’ (now in its 14th edition) which features alternative creative art, poetry, photography, interviews and more from across the globe.
* * *