I remember how those evenings used to drag on. Grey twists of cigarette smoke flowed out of your mouth and nose, as if you were on fire. We sat like bookends and between us were all the words left unsaid. Those were noisy nights. The television was always on and when you fell asleep, you snored so loudly that I wondered if you were making up for the sudden silence that your dreams imposed on me.
Before we married, we used to play. The intoxication dulled within months of marriage and then the play became routine: kiss, suck, enter, release. You used vaseline on me as though I were a dried out bit of skin and I dug my nails in your back trying to will an orgasm. It never came and soon we only touched accidentally and kissed perfunctorily. At night, you held the pillow the way you used to hold me.
In Thirunelveli this summer we did nothing but visit your relatives and eat. Every meal was the same: white rice, brown kozambu. Your mother’s sarees were all soft, old and cottony but she insisted that I wear stiff Kanjeevaram silks all summer-day long. She thrust them at me, mute, her lips set in a straight line and then turned around to throw mouthfuls of strange words at you.
Nobody talked to me except you but even your sentences were becoming shorter; words turned into grunts and grunts dissolved into gestures. What did your mother say to you when I made myself an omelette? She grabbed the frying pan out of my hands and abandoned it in the backyard, all the while hissing like an angry snake, her bangles clanging, her footsteps thundering as if a storm had erupted.
“How can you be so insensitive?” you asked me.
“You didn’t warn me about eggs,” I replied. “You said your mother’s grandfather was Christian.”
“We are Brahmins,” you said as if you had never eaten flesh. Then you set your mouth just like hers and I worried that soon you’d be saying words to me in that strange language of hers but instead, you stopped speaking to me.
When we returned home, I googled ‘marital problems + silent treatment’ and a psychologist recommended writing a letter. The next morning, after you left for work, I sat down and wrote you this letter. I was about to leave it by the laptop and go to my parents’ house for the evening when you sent me a text message that said:
It’s not abt d eggs or d fact that ur not Brahmin or that u don’t like my mom. No. It’s abt d fact tht whn we make love u fake ur orgasms and it makes me feel… like a loser.
I took my letter with me when I left that afternoon. It seemed pointless somehow. I didn’t know how to tell you that I hadn’t been faking my orgasms but that I’d been trying and failing.
It’s been a week. My parents ask me too many questions that I can’t answer. You call every day but I can’t talk to you either. Instead, I keep writing this letter thinking that maybe one day I’ll send it to you and that it will make everything okay. I don’t know why I think this because it’s not words that you want to hear at all.
At night, whenever I masturbate I pretend that it’s you who made me come.
Anisha Sridhar is a freelance writer who writes all day and sometimes gets paid for it. She mainly writes about the indie-comix scene in India for New Indian Express.