On nights like these, when my mind has nothing to distract itself with except the sounds of the creaking fan, thoughts that I had shackled suddenly break loose.
Flashes of the day ricochet back at me. Amma longingly looking at me as she describes her dreams of seeing me married, giving her grandkids, so she can cuddle and reprimand them, tell them stories and forcefully feed morsels of food as they run away from her. She conjures up the spirits of future grandchildren, in hopes that I will bring them to life. She speaks of the qualities my wife would have, and how she would finally have another woman in the family, she could confide to, another daughter.
And as she paints this picture of traditional domesticity, I stay silent. My heart breaks as I try to process these images. I cannot bear to reveal the truth that would destroy Amma’s dreams in front of her eyes, deny her the reality she aspires for.
I wish I were straight.
See, Indian society dictates that you are forever indebted to your parents and need to live your life on their terms, because they gave birth to you. A message that is drilled into your being.
Every time I try to interrupt her fantasies of my eventual marriage and her becoming a grandmother, Amma is quick to remind me that she had to carry me for ten months to give birth to me (an expression commonly used by Tamil mothers), and therefore the least I can do is bring her dreams to life.
Is my entire life only an attempt to repay the gift of her birthing me? Must I live every moment of my life in gratitude to my parents for my very existence?
How can I break Amma’s heart by telling her that I cannot fulfil her yearnings for a daughter-in-law and grandchildren?
That I want a husband, a man instead.
How can I?
I remain ensconced in this cozy closet, drawers filled with desires, dreams and hopes. I wonder… what if I were never to leave? What if I fulfill my parents dreams instead of mine? What will a loveless, joyless straight marriage look like? To have a sham marriage, to fake it till the very end, to not live my truth, to force myself into the supposedly normal life that Amma – and the world – wants me to lead?
These thoughts make my closet, formerly cozy, turn suffocating. I feel the air turn stale, and life ebbing from my body. How will it feel to die, holding close dreams that would never see the light of day? To forever lurk in this closet, with pictures of naked men, scratched off, torn on the sides, photographs of my future husband, his face blurry, pages upon pages of every sexual thought, repressed emotion, and pent up feeling, all decaying with time and disuse?
I shuffle through the innards of the closet and peer through the crack in its door, only to be confronted by complete darkness. No glimmer of light, or hope, in sight.
Maybe the closet is safer after all.
I retreat into its comforting arms, as I enter a dreamless slumber.
Acknowledgements: The image has been adapted from a photo in the Creative Commons.