I curl up on my bed and gaze at my tiny little room. There are a few posters of Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Addams, Christina Aguilera and Ann Bannon hanging half-heartedly on those dingy walls mimicking the half-heartedness of mine or maybe I am mimicking them. Looking at those posters, I’m confused even more and I choose to look on some other aspects of my room; my little kingdom which was recently invaded by my father and then ‘ornated’ by my mother so that it became more ‘appealing’ and more ‘appropriate’. I silently witnessed how my mother moved about the trophies in my shelf pushing all those that I had won in sports to the back while bringing the artistic ones to the very front; how my clothes-rack was shuffled so as to showcase a riot of sarees and salwars, which I wore only when it was of the utmost need, instead of my dear denims: I witnessed silently not because I did not have the strength to rebel but cause I was just tired and fed-up. I see a small spider on its cobweb in one corner and meekly rejoice that they’d miss it. I look there and then here but however I try, my eyes have been reverting back to one thing only – the wedding ring on my table.
My study-table is (or was) the only place where I could exercise complete freedom and was the only thing I defended thoroughly through the blitzkrieg of my family and somehow, it survived. For people like me or according to the notion prevailing against the people like me, my table is, well, fairly organised. On one end, it has my course books which I touched only to parrot a day before the exams and on the other end, the space is reserved for my favourite novels – my solace; and as for the space in between, I keep it empty. It has been empty ever since my childhood; for in those days when I was unaware of my so-called ‘disease’, I hoped that one day my works would fill up the space: a hope that I still cherish and at times, is the sole reason why I do not take the penknife out of my drawer and slit my veins.
The course books have changed every term, of course, and though there were quite a considerable number, I don’t remember the name of even a single one of it. The story on the other end though, is entirely different: the line-up on this end has also changed numerous times over the years but I remember the name of every single one to be ever inducted in my own little hall of fame. During its early years, it had the whole Harry Potter series and a few Jules Verne; at one time, it even featured Macbeth and Hamlet, while during my teen years it was Nicholas Sparks and Cecelia Ahern all the way; though I regretted Sparks later on. As of today, it featured Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Bannon’s ‘ I am a Woman in Love with a Woman’, Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and Rowling’s ‘The Half-Blood Prince’ amidst other remarkable works dear to my heart and yet somehow, the most remarkable thing presently sitting on my altar of freedom was a ring that I had worn yesterday in front of a few dozen and more straight people who had come to witness a straight and simple ring ceremony, my ring ceremony, symbolising the closing chapters of my freedom. It’s not that I’m against the institution of marriage or anything or that I dislike the groom, he seems a respectable man; but therein lays the only problem: he is a man.
I remember the first time I was vocal about it a few months ago. My otherwise jovial father dismissed it off as a joke at first but when I insisted, he first of all, fell into shock; then came his fits of fury and a man who looked, walked and talked exactly like my amiable father beat me: whether he beat exactly like my father or not I didn’t know. My mother who is erstwhile known to have a temper, however, did the rescue job usually done by my father when she would have hurled vocal stones at me. She stood in between the two people she loved the most and in a protective stance, dragged the bleeding and sobbing me away from my father and into my room where she nursed, consoled, talked and tried to reason with me. After my eyes had dried up a bit just like my wounds of the flesh, she lay me down and put a blanket on me urging me to sleep as she switched off the light and said, “It’s all a matter of choice, darling, a matter of choice ultimately.”
On the morning the day after, I found that my father’s doppelganger had completely replaced him and I haven’t talked to him ever since. On the same morning, he also spoke to me for the last time and referring to my sexuality as a ‘disease’, vowed to cure it by hook or by crook; the ultimate consequence of such a vow: the ring. The wedding was not of my choice yet its symbolism enthroned itself on the table; a place where even the dust which befalls on it kneels to my dictatorship. I am frustrated and angered at the mere sight of it; I jump down from my bed and head towards my table, pick up the ring to throw it into the wastebin but stop midway. I thrash it back on the table and then silently weep for the next few minutes. I take out the penknife out of my drawer and with a shiver bring it close to my wrist but drop it. I am not brave enough; I sob with my head pinned down to my own altar. I hated my father, the world, but I hated myself – whatever I was – even more.
As I am sobbing, my phone beeps and breaks the eerie silence as I check it out of mere habit. “Didn’t wsh me, busy brde! -_- 2 pm. 2morow. My plce. Birthday Bash. Miss nd u’re dead! -_-”, read a text from Nisha, my friend since childhood and probably the only person who honestly didn’t think that I was a freak. On any other day, the message would have cheered me up like frenzy but even though I knew I would be allowed to go to Nisha’s by the man who calls himself my father no matter whatever happened in between, I couldn’t feel happy; hell, I couldn’t feel anything yet feel every damned thing at this moment. Suddenly, I start as a ray of hope shines on me; the railway station is close to Nisha’s home, only if somehow I could…
I draw up an elaborate plan within minutes and sure that Nisha would support me, I suddenly beam with joy. I ransack my room and check all my bank accounts online for every single nickel and dime and count all the money I had, reckon it could last me a few weeks till I found something in the likelihood of a job in the city; I pack all my certificates and a pair of clothes in my large vanity bag which I planned to sneak to Nisha’s party and elope thereafter but then as quickly as my spirits escalated, they disappear at the frailty of such an idea. It’s already hard enough for a woman to live in this man’s world so how is I – a woman who loves a woman – to live in a man’s world and that too in a world far away from, in spite of everything, my home? I want to kill myself even more for coming up with such an ambitious fairy-tale scheme. I look towards my table and I see the blade of the penknife glint in the faint glow of the dimmed bulb but as I walk towards it, my eyes fall on the faces of the posters of people who were alike me, watching all of my commotion with eager and earnest eyes while hanging half-heartedly on the walls; I pause. I walk up to them and look hard at the smiling faces of those who don’t even know I existed. I straighten them and press them hard against the wall so that they didn’t remain half-hearted anymore. I am not anymore.
I turn back and gaze at my tiny little room again and I saw only three things – ‘the ring’, ‘the vanity bag and the empty space’ and ‘the penknife.’ My mother was right after all as she ever has been. It is a matter of choice ultimately though it has no relevance to my sexuality. I was, am, and will ever be a lesbian: I’ve just got to decide how.
“It’s all a matter of choice, darling, a matter of choice, ultimately.”
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Arunabh Debendranath Konwar