If Denial Was A Spice, It’d Be Flour

Artwork by Priya Dali

I like boys. And I like girls. I like brains, not genitalia.

I shake my head a lot when I make mistakes. If a small, single fault occurs on my end, my brain replays it in my head forever. I shake my head, flinch, and scrunch my eyes a lot to get it out of my head.

I once got into a train without checking if it stopped at my destination. As my station approached, I inched closer to the entrance, waiting for the crowd to spit me out. I got my hands ready to push, my legs to move, my bag to not get caught anywhere. My station got nearer and nearer, but the train never slowed down. That sick feeling began to spread from the bottom of my stomach. The station came and went. The train didn’t stop here. My mistake was made clear to me. My brain replayed my moments of stupidity over and over. I shook my head and flinched and scrunched my eyes.

Growing up, I had an elder brother. A cousin I was very close to. He was the gem of the family. He was smart, and competent, and sporty. Thank god I loved him or I would’ve hated him. I always had to do other things to prove I was not that bad of a kid. I would hold competitions with him to try and find something to beat him at. Who rides the swings the fastest? Who cycles the fastest? Who jumps the highest? He always won. And every time he won, I shook my head and flinched and scrunched my eyes.

I knew I was different. Something was always very odd about me. Something unlike the others I’d come across. I would be enthralled by girls’ pretty hair. This grossed me out. I grew up without a father. For me, being girly was being weak. I didn’t have time to be girly; I had a younger sister to look after and a mother to support. So, I hated that I was enthralled by girls’ pretty hair. Once, in a history class, I couldn’t stop staring at the braids of the girl sitting in front of me. The dark, curly hair was swept across her scalp in a smooth move, twisted beautifully, and little ringlets of hair escaped near her forehead. Everything about that was so beautiful, I couldn’t stop staring. The sun glistened off her hair. It was wonderful. I felt a nudge. The guy sitting next to me was looking at me like I’d seen him look at the kids he bullied. The smile on his face made my entire being uncomfortable. He soon forgot all about it. I didn’t. I shook my head and flinched and scrunched my eyes.

Soon after, I realized it was not just the hair or the braids that were so exciting to me. It was girls. But what did that mean? I still crushed on boys. I was not a lesbian, right? My school reputation would not be able to hold that title. It would crumple. I would too. Every time I saw a pretty girl, a lovely smile, a gentle handshake, I looked the other way. I forced myself to like boys only. I conditioned myself to thinking that girls were my mistake. It worked for a while. I saw a pretty girl, and I shook my head and flinched and scrunched my eyes.

And then one day, I kissed a girl. I do not know how it came to be. I kissed a girl I did not even like. It was just one of those things. College things. I held her hair in my fist, and her lips against mine, my arm around her waist as hers dug into my back. I thought about it a lot once it was over. I did not shake my head. My face didn’t flinch. I did not scrunch my eyes. Something that felt this good couldn’t be a mistake. Couldn’t be my mistake.

Wouldn’t be my mistake.

I’m bisexual. I like boys and I like girls. I’m more than okay with it. If there is anything I do that does not make my head shake or my eyes scrunch, I’m more than okay with it. I’m proud.

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Avid traveler, antisocial party-er, obsessive reader and occasionally funny person; I write to escape my life, and I live to escape my writings.
Mansi Shanbag

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