My father said he chose Suraiya for me because she was blind. He said she would understand my fears and worries. Maybe that’s why I, too, understand her so well.
She was twelve years older than me and even as I was her master she always called me her little brother.
In just fifteen years my father had transformed his father’s fruit shop into a wholesale franchise that served most of south India. My grandfather chose a good bride for him. They held a festival when she got pregnant. I was meant to be the completion of their happiness. Two days they were the happiest pepole on the planet. It took them two days to notice my flaw and two years to travel the world’s hospitals to find there was no cure.
I was two when they hired Suraiya. I was six when Suraiya told me that her parents repaired and sold second hand sandals and that they could not afford a dowry big enough to find her a husband.
I was eight when she shook me awake in the dead of the night.
The first time I arrived at the club I could think of nothing but my brother.
Bare walls covered with dirty blue tiles, foldable wooden chairs, a net on top of what used to be a pool. Five men inside.
Not a place you find in the newspapers; a place to which your friend brings you along. A place where you know that whoever is running the show must have a lot of friends and certainly the right friends – because if they don’t the place would long be shut down.
When you have crossed the parking lot the first thing the two large men ask for is your name. They don’t ask for you ID, but they ask for your name and if your name is not on the list then you won’t get in. The list says whether you’ve been there before; the list says whether someone trusted you enough to bring you along the first time. The list also has the name of the friend that brought you along and if you mess up then that friend will have a problem. Continue reading →
Trigger warning: This short story contains episodes of graphic sexual violence.
Gray tiles, some already chipped, all with greenish stains. Large sinks, rarely cleaned. Showerheads, large and too high to be reached.
Push the button. Wait for the water to get warm. Jump inside and quickly wash. Make sure that no one else sees too much. At that age it’s scary to be seen. What if the others have more hair or bigger things down there? Just don’t be seen.
Scary age. You grow into it and you when you think back you can’t see when you got into it. Maybe it was that first PE lesson after the summer; the one with the new teacher that said that we are soon men and will start to smell and all have to shower.
I was always one of the first. We all rushed in there, quick in, quick out. Not be seen. Continue reading →
There are things you don’t hear about Tibet until you arrive. Things like that for Buddhists the people eat a lot of meat and that when you look at the world of Tibet today then you will not recognize the idyllic land of the West’s delusion, but rather thriving Chinese cities and starving half-Chinese and half-Tibetan villages.
The other thing you don’t hear about are the Yarlung. Of course that’s only a nickname for them, among them many things that no one knows about them is how they call themselves.
Not just for generations, for whole dynasties they have been feared. For all of Tibetan history there are notes about their attacks – how they appear and disappear without a trace. How they never leave the smallest of objects, not even a hair, but that they always come to take the most precious thing.
It’s not that I’m ugly. People don’t turn around and gag when they see me. The problem is that they don’t smile either. And if there’s one thing every woman learns far too young it’s that everything is about looks. Only it isn’t.
I tried clubbing, house parties, online dating – hell, even book clubs. We exchanged glances, introductions, nice words – but no matter what I tried, it never went further than that. Men always seemed to run away from me. I thought it was my looks – make up, push up, perfect pants and a shirt or dress with a cleavage so deep that I thought my nipples might jump out – and yet, nothing.
I was online, searching for operations to fix all the flaws in my face and body. There was an ad on top of one of these websites, blinking fast in red and orange with large black text:
I can’t understand it. I never will. Why? And why me?
And why my sister?
He shook my hand with a sweaty group of sausages. He smiled and said his name and even in that short moment of meeting him, with two steps of distance between our bodies and his thick and soft fingers in my hand, I noticed the smell.
From that day on it was always there. I walked past his nodding face behind the reception desk, unsure whether to breathe in deeply or to hold my breath. It was not something that made me jump out of my shoes, but it made my nose itch and my feet sweat. The smell was musky but light, intruding and penetrating but relaxing and, even as that is hard to admit, arousing. Continue reading →