Reel Around The Fountain

There is a new boy in school. He arrived yesterday, in a yellow shirt and black pants, saying he hadn’t received his uniform yet. His hair was dark, and there was something sharp about his face. When the time had come to find a seat, Kafka had crossed his fingers, hoping the boy would sit next to him.

The world begins to spin at 4:46 AM, and Kafka does not care. It’s an eerie night — the sky is strangely blue, the warm lights of the street stream into his room, and the silence manages to seep in as well. There’s usually the chirping of the crickets — an unsolicited lullaby — but tonight is blank. Hollow.

There is always a lot to think of in the middle of the night — way too much, Kafka supposes. The days aren’t for thinking, anyway; they’ve always been for doing.

There is a new boy in school. He arrived yesterday, in a yellow shirt and black pants, saying he hadn’t received his uniform yet. His hair was dark, and there was something sharp about his face. When the time had come to find a seat, Kafka had crossed his fingers, hoping the boy would sit next to him—

Mother is thinking of leaving her job again. She considers it every few weeks when her boss tells her off for no reason. Dinner is always burnt on those nights. She bursts into tears at the table when Father asks her what’s wrong, and then, they spin around in the same circles.

“I am not happy there. I hate it,” she says.

“Then, leave. We can manage,” Father says.

“But, the money is too good,” she answers, “And Kafka’s school.”

That is always the point when Kafka decides to tune them out, instead thinking of the new video game that he can play, or the book he can borrow from the library next week.

The new boy ended up sitting next to him. At first, Kafka could not believe his luck. Then, he came to his senses. This shouldn’t be as exciting as it is. He shouldn’t be so eager to sit next to someone, especially another boy. But, the new kids are always so interesting—

The poster of The Cure on the wall catches the light weirdly. Robert Smith’s eyes glint, and Kafka looks away. He had saved up for two weeks to buy that poster. All because he couldn’t stand how bare the blue wall looked at night, when the darkness sucked all the colour out of it.

He’s moved here from far away, the teacher had said, I hope you will all be kind to him. Kafka had tried to look uninterested, inconspicuously staring at the new boy through the corner of his eye. To his horror, the boy had looked back at him, eyes hostile—

Father has promised to take him horse-riding for the first time on his fifteenth birthday. He made the promise five years ago because he had thought it was just a phase. He didn’t think that Kafka would still hold him to this promise when he turned fifteen. He was wrong. It’s been a countdown in Kafka’s head; now, they are so very close to the first time he will ride a horse in his life.

The boy did not say anything. He only stared until Kafka looked away, flushed. But, he couldn’t look away for long. The boy’s eyes were a piercing grey, his jet black hair far too disheveled.

“I’m Kafka,” the words were involuntary, and he wanted to take them back as soon as he said them—

The Smiths have a new album out. He’s wanted to buy a poster of Morrissey for ages, but he’s not queer. He isn’t. He just likes their music, feels it in his bones sometimes, but if he had a poster of the band up in the room, they would all say he’s queer. He’s too tired, too young for that kind of speculation. He likes the lies he puts out, and the nights when he can think about everything that’s true.

“Oliver,” the boy had said, voice clear, “I don’t want to be here.”

Kafka couldn’t help but grin at that: “Neither do I.”

Oliver had looked surprised for a second, as if he hadn’t expected the response he got. Finally, his lips curved upwards into a wary smile.

Smash. First, there is a fire, a crisis, a catastrophe.There are two foreheads touching. There is medicine, soothing and dizzying. Bang. There is a kiss, a shot in the dark. There is a song on the radio for the lazy evenings, another for the sharp taste of beer on the tongue. Crash. There is a cigarette crushed, lying on the floor. There is a closet, hands grasping in the dark. The dreamy tinkling of a windchime, and something like tenderness. Something like love.

At 6:46 AM, Kafka drifts off to sleep.

About the author

Saachi Gupta

Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.