By Tanushree Baruah, 2005-07-22
Exercise he called it. “Roll down your panties and lie still. This is important exercise.” And the naïve five year old that I was, I did as he told me. My elder cousin brother. Staying with us for the holidays. There was no pain as he exercised me. Just a feeling, a vile, vulgar emotion of forbidden violation. For all the twenty one days that he spent with us, he trespassed four times. Each time a moment of me laying passively, watching the blades of the fan making circles. One, two, three. Distant bird cries, rustling leaves. His panting until it filled me up. Kept filling and filling and filling. I watched myself burst. Red bubbles of puss. I wanted to get up and run… with leaden legs. Kept remembering how me and my friends liked to catch dragonflies. Their shiny wings showing us the colors of the rainbow. Struggling in our clenched fingers as we plucked their wings out. A morbid fascination as we watched the little insect bodies quiver and then die. That's how I felt under his heaving body. Arms pinned down by heavy webbed and sweaty palms. A dragonfly. Without the gorgeous shimmering wings.
I was incredibly happy as I saw him drive away. Perhaps I could now enjoy the feel of my new cotton frock against my legs. Maybe I could now play hopscotch with the other girls. No fears of unfulfilled exercise. Maybe I could also look my mother in the eye without fearing that she'd see the anger, the shame, the hatred. He was her nephew. Her beloved elder brother's son. The boy she loved. I knew someone had trespassed. And I knew my childhood would not be the same. For it was all plucked out. Someone else had admired the colors and then thrown them away.
I saw him some years after that. I remember how once, at a family function, he hit me. Hard. Due to something I had said. Fist connecting with bone. Bright red drops of blood on my white satin collar. My mother scolded him and put some ice on my nose. She then told me to watch my tongue.
He went away to college and I gave my 12th standard board exams. We were always polite to each other. He always did a great job of showing the world what wonderful friends we are. I was his silly pampered sister. This according to girlfriend no 4. I saw my mother giving him gifts — money, clothes, music. I started ignoring him after I joined college. For I had seen the glittering beauty of dragonflies as they flew together. In large groups. Saw their moonlit flights. He destroyed me. Wretched man. I was guilty too. I used to like seeing dragonflies suffer. All for the temporary beauty of their wings.
It was when the world was closing in on me, I met someone who loved dragonflies. But he did not catch them and tear out their glittering jewel like wings. Instead, we would sit side by side, hearing distant bird cries, rustling leaves and the panting of the world as it rushed past.
Copyright 2005 by Tanushree Baruah
Notes from Xah Lee
This essay is from my dearly beloved Tanushree Baruah. Her blog is at: http://xavierian.blogspot.com/2005/07/dragonfly.html. Mirrored here with permission.