Creative Nonfiction: Nabakalebara: New Body by Aishwarya Mishra

Photo by Sonika Agarwal

Because nothing happened: her flesh was not caressed into wood, her breaths were not used as termites, she did not need a new body at seven.

Because nothing happened: she did not scream into the cauldron of night, making everything hot and sticky, making her feet reach for the floor, its cool stillness her totem in this now unfamiliar world.

Because nothing happened: because she was as solid as ever, because there were no before and after shots of her hollowing out into a Matryoshka doll or of her stomach becoming a false-door to a yawning abyss; her Ma could not quite understand it when she became cavernous, asking for her fourth roti, her second helping of paneer butter masala, devouring food meant for at least three people, tiptoeing into the kitchen to scoop out food after a full meal, becoming all mouth.

Because nothing happened: she smirked at the appearance of a double chin, the disappearance of a clavicle, the appearance of a cleavage, the disappearance of a thigh gap. Because nothing happened, her body became an innocent binary code that meant nothing, became dots and dashes and flashes that said, “Not an SOS.”

Because nothing happened: she had no need for her mother tongue, or her mother’s mother tongue, no need for a language that had different words for You (aap) and You (tum), no need for that kind of slippery intimacy.

Because nothing happened: she chose her words in a second language, words that became begrudging coordinates holding her narrative-as-wallpaper in place, words she learned once from the dictionaries or wordlists, and then learned again from her body in a botched game of Jeopardy!, like trust/trigger (What does the body do when it sees a familiar shadow?), voyager/voyeur (Whose eyes travel to new, strange places to help forget she cannot orgasm?), slut/slug (Who is a fat, gross worm trampled on for fun?), whore/whole (Who belongs to no one but herself?)

Because nothing happened: because there was nobody and no body, she could call it a victimless crime.

Because nothing happened: psychosis was her grandmother drinking too much liquorice tea and peeing until she unleashed a fury alien to her mousey body and marital rape was a nebula which could either be her husband or an Incubus on top of her; her own desire manifest without her consent, and consent of course was a non-term for an Indian woman.

Because nothing happened: it made no sense when one day her Ma saw streaks of premature grey in her hair and furiously mixed henna with palash, thankful it was only this, the slightly grey hair and the slightly yellowed teeth and the slightly crushed little toes, thankful the rest was all her, thankful she was barely singed by her Pa and she screamed out her being like expelling all that non-existent sea from a conch.

Aishwarya Mishra is a writer from Jharkhand, India. Her work has previously been awarded/published in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine and New Millennium Writings.

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