Art by KellyDelRosso
There are some stories that stick with us. All of us have them. Hiding in our old diaries with a lock and key, peeping at us from old family photographs, glinting through memorabilia we’ve collected and stashed away, and jumping at us around unfamiliar street corners. This story I am about to tell that has been floating in my mind is one of those.
A friend from long ago shared his story with me and in spite of the years that have passed by I can still remember exactly what happened almost as if I was there too.
L was thirteen-fourteen years old and was visiting his village down South with his family. His grandparents’ lived in a small town named Udupi close to Mangalore. They often spent their summer vacations in the village, meeting old relatives, re-learning family traditions and histories. On one of these trips, they visited a relatives’ house for dinner. There was a cousin aunt of his whose family lived there and she insisted that his parents spend the night in her house. Her husband was in the Gulf, working. She was childless and spent her days taking care of her old in- laws.
After a hearty dinner of rice and fish curry they all talked late into the night in the loud, grunting notes of Telugu. Past midnight, his parents subtly hinted at retiring for the night and thin rugs were brought in and laid in the room for the guests. In a few minutes L could hear the soft synchronized snores of his parents sleeping. He drifted in and out of consciousness and was almost asleep when he felt a warm hand on his cheek. He opened his eyes to find his cousin aunt lying closer to him than he remembered. He began to move away till she placed her finger on his lip, gesturing him to remain quiet. He stayed still and found a look in her eye that arrested him. She looked radiant in the night, her skin though dark was luminescent under the moonlight that filtered through the window. The white of her eyes shone like fairy lights in the blackness. She stroked his cheek gently and smiled as she took his hand into hers and placed it over her large breasts. She was naked under the flowing cotton nightie she slept in printed with too many tiny flower buds. For a moment he was paralyzed, his breath slicing through him like shards of glass. He was aware of his parents, asleep just a few feet away, and before the panic set in, he found his fingers closing in on her pillowy breast and grabbing on to them. She breathed out loudly and he froze again, his mother stirred in her sleep, the snoring stopped for a few brief seconds and when she snored again, he realized she had turned away from him.
He watched as she undid the buttons on her nightie till he saw her areolas looking like the dried figs that his mother kept for him to eat after school. He saw her ample waist and felt a strange tightness between his legs as his index finger disappeared in the depths of her navel. Her skin exuded a light heady fragrance of coconuts and fish. His hands fumbled on her torso as he was both terrified and delirious with pleasure till she grabbed his hand impatiently and pulled it downwards. He felt the damp hairiness between her legs and stopped not knowing what she was expecting him to do. He wanted to touch her breasts again but she squeezed her thighs, trapping his hands between their supple heat. And then he watched as she moved rhythmically almost as if she was possessed like the woman in the Devi Puja his mother often took him to. She rocked and breathed heavily and rubbed against his limp hand as if only by crushing it will she ever find the relief she needs. Her juices trickled down his hands as she convulsed in release and the fragrance that she left on his fingers kept him awake for many nights to come.
The next morning, when he woke, she acted as if nothing had transpired at all. They never spoke of what transpired that night again. And he wondered if what he remembered was an adolescent dream or the dark reality.