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By Aekta Khubchandani
I realized that I was wearing a bra when he moved his hand over the part of it that helps to hook and hold my breasts.
The number of hands that will reach out to touch us outnumbers the number of organs that our bodies have. Or maybe it's just me. But this isn't my story. It's theirs. I am a tool or a device of play just like the others of my kind. I must say that I haven’t been happier that I’m not the protagonist. Or, at least not yet.
Whoever designed the human body and the functioning of its organs must be a born genius. It is tortuously terrific how hands can move to touch and feel another being, sometimes without the other person being aware of it in that moment. It is like the spin of a magic wand for one person and it is the horrendous slap of reality for the other. The other person is always a girl, a woman, an old lady. It is always a female who lays down flat on the bed.
I was walking up the cemented stairs that would lead me out of this place. I have small feet and I take small steps. But, I was taking these small steps at a fast pace. The length of my body complements the breadth of my shoulders. My face is a cut paste version of zero interest. The men around me seemed to secretly announce for women not to smile. My face feels like plastic, carved and stitched lips that never curve upwards. But, I know that what all men see is ‘flesh.’ I wear covered clothes, mostly full-sleeved tees and plain jeans irrespective of what the weather feels like to my body. My feet slide into slippers, they help me move around at a quick pace. My hair falls below my shoulders and reaches the most prominent curve of my upper body. I keep it that way to hide my breasts although they’re always fully covered anyway. I want to attract the least amount of attention. And, I fail. I am aware of how I fail myself as a woman.
I wonder that if the word, ‘attract’ wouldn’t exist, would the shameless feeling of men being attracted to me, go away?
I reach the paved path and my feet move fast. At more than a one handed distance, he walks as I do. Our feet coordinate, they pace together. My right foot and his right foot. My left foot and his left foot. Together we’re marching. Together, at a distance. The beauty of the neck is the flexibility of movement, the range it covers. But the eyes are what play the haunting spell. The corner of an eye can see what it has to, when it has to. And I feel scanned. I feel like my body has had an MRI from that man’s eye. All flesh weighed and scaled, bones hidden, mass amplified. I feel flushed. I feel my heart racing, my pulse beating hard. My chest aches. It feels as though my chest is being consumed by itself. And I know overtaking him is not an option. It will just give more flesh to the eyes, more vision to the brain, wet thoughts and unsatisfied hunger.
There’s a right turn. And, another flight of stairs. There’s more dry cement and less people walking on it. I slow down. I want to disappear. I wish I could be invisible so I wouldn’t have to disappear at all. I wait. I count my steps. I cannot not count his steps. His arms swing to cover the diameter of the circumference that could have had me. But, I’m out of his coverage range. He uses his fingers to reach the end of his pocket. I fail to see what exactly is he doing but it gives me an idea of him scratching his crotch at the endless pit of his pocket. The thought disgusts me. He was reaching out for his cell phone. But that still doesn’t help me. I still feel like my organs are out there on display.
The worst thing about a railway station is the crowd. But, as it works out it is also the best thing for me, today. A crowd is all what I needed. And I would never say that, if it wasn’t for this context.
The platform below is flooded with people. I think it is a Bandra fast that has halted. I pace up. Small steps at great speed. I change direction, I confuse other people around. I’m making the typical annoying sound that everyone makes when they stop just before banging into someone. I feel like a part of the crowd. I camouflage. I physically camouflage with the crowd.
A subtle organ massage and a grab at your ass is the essence of such a crowd. I don’t see that man ahead of me. But, I’m not sure of the hands that hugged my ass either. I fail to decide whether to wear my backpack to my front to cover the assets of my upper body or to wear it to the back to cover my visible ass. I turn back and see no man. Here’s the element of surprise at Bandra station. My flesh feels tainted with uncoloured bruises. I feel the fingers, the whole hand, the pair of hands and the shameless intensity of action. I feel it all over my body.
An elbow reaches out to my rib cage. I feel like the man must have missed his damn target. But, it’s a woman and she barely knows of the harm that she has caused. I ache. I ache silently on this noisy platform. I miss home. I miss my studio apartment, the four black walled room and its sinking silence. I miss being felt at home.
Legs are what hold us. They gravitate us to the ground. Our upper bodies would fall apart without our legs. Maybe that is the reason why we have our bushes between two tall legs. The tall pillared legs hold and protect it. There is an in built system and functioning to how magnificently our bodies work without us knowing. But, I am aware of the structure of my body and its existence. I know what is where and how to protect them. My fault is that others know how to destroy it better.
Being a little girl and not knowing things is scary. It is dangerous as they’ll do what they feel like to us and they’ll tell us it’s right. Being a grown up is being aware of your full grown organs. And being aware is also trying to protect them and knowing how miserably we’ll fail.
The number of hands that will reach out to touch us outnumbers the number of organs that our bodies have. Or maybe it's just me. But this isn't my story. It's theirs. I am a tool or a device of play just like the others of my kind. I believed that I’m not the protagonist of their stories. But now, I’ve realized that I’ll always play a side role in all their stories, despite of never wanting to.
It was another day. It was another day at Bandra station. Mondays are no different from Thursdays or Fridays. I come home to my black walled room and I see Aarav sitting on the bed, waiting for me. Looking at him does not make me feel happy but I smile. I smile with my eyes more than my lips. He gets up and hugs me. I usually love how he smells but today he stinks. His smell just reminds me of the creed, he belongs to. He pecks me and I peck him too.
His hands do more than just hug me. My ass feels grabbed, again. He kisses me with such intensity and I kiss him back with my least. There’s tongue and tongue. I cannot do tongue, today. We’re in my bed and his fingers fidget around and then take a chance to do their magic. My eyes are shut and the noise I make is a cry for help. It sounds like a relief or an orgasm to him and he doesn’t stop. I hold his hand tightly and try to push it out of my pants. His hand is wet and firm and he has his eyes glued to my face.
“I feel cold.”
My heart is shivering. The rib cage isn’t enough to contain it. My body caves in his. I dig my face in his chest and tell him again, “I feel cold, Aarav.”
“It’s okay,” he says.
He holds my cold, fleshed body and hugs it. I bury my face in his chest. And, he almost makes me feel warm until he unhooks my bra with his one hand.