“Untitled” by Kuzhali Manickavel


Photography by Vicki Wolkins. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attributions 2.0 Generic License.

First we pretend it is America. I pretend that we are having a barbecue in the backyard, that we have green grass, that our neighbours are white, wholesome and bringing the beer. Kennedy pretends that he knows about lawnmowers but ruins everything when he says mort-gages, like it is two words.

“Why is there a ‘t’ then?” he asks and seems suspicious when I tell him I don’t know, but that’s how they say it on TV.

Our America brims. It is filled with frosty mountains, obesity and blonde, beautiful women who blow kisses at us and call us sand jockeys.

“We’re INDIANS,” I shout at them. “Fucking racist bitches.”

“Show us your tits,” says Kennedy.

The blonde, beautiful women tell us to go fuck ourselves. The frosty mountains melt into something dark and menacing that swallows our feet.

Then we pretend it is England. Kennedy has been to England and says the light is exactly the same, so we surround ourselves with rolling green hills and Scottish people. We try to focus on strawberries or fish and chips but after a while it is like we are waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. The light begins to fail and we start thinking of the wrong things: General Dyer, the word blackguard, section 377.

“What was England like?” I ask.

“Can’t remember,” says Kennedy. “Must have been ok.”

The rolling green hills dissolve into something grainy that sticks to our lips and eyelids. The Scottish people leave without saying goodbye.

Sometimes we don’t pretend. We sit with our backs against the wall, looking at our two pillows, one mattress, at the water bottle, the dirty clothes. We trace the cracks in the floor and try to remember where we are, but we keep thinking of barbecues or Scottish people instead. We think of mort-gages. We think of blonde, beautiful women who tell us to go fuck ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t pretend and the room bends under our feet. We watch it shake itself out while the frosty mountains lunge at the ceiling, like they are ready for anything.

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections Things We Found During the Autopsy and Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings, and echapbook Eating Sugar, Telling Lies are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai.

This story first appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital, Volume 11, Issue 1.