Layers

She walked into my room uncalled for.

“I have something to talk to you about.” she announced, her voice wavering.

I shuffled through some more pages before finally looking up at her. She stood midway between the door and myself, with all the stillness of a brewing storm. Her hands clutched at the folds of her clothing and her wide-open eyes implored me for answers to questions she had forgotten to ask.

I swallowed. “What would you like to talk about?”

She parted her lips–and gulped for air. False start.

I leaned back in my chair, giving her time to gather herself while I watched the stolen features of her face: her great-aunt’s eyes, too small; her father’s jaw, too large; her grandmother’s chin, too pointed; her mother’s cheeks, too round. Her entire face could have been an afterthought, thrown together at the last minute.

“You have to see me,” she said earnestly, “You have to see me.”

Getting up, I wrapped my arms around her and caressed her cheek with a thumb.

“I do see you.” I murmured softly, smiling into her anxious face.

She looked at me, a flicker of uncertainty before I felt her hands gently close around my waist. I leaned in to kiss her; she pushed me back, seated me firmly in my chair, and stood in front of me.

She fiddled with the plastic buttons of her woolen cardigan as my eyes swept over her. Clumsily she began to undo them, keeping her eyes determinedly on her own fingers. She took the cardigan off slowly without looking up, and began to smooth down the wrinkles in her shirt. She might have been all alone in the room, she might have been all alone in the world, the way she refused to lift her gaze. I smiled amusedly.

Her eyes darted up towards me, and she pulled off her shirt.

I sat up straighter in my chair now, watching her torso twist and curve as she raised the shirt above her head, the flare of broad shoulders and ribcage tapering to a waist thicker than it could
have been. Her breasts, wider apart than most women’s and small for a chest the size of hers, strained against her brassiere and emphasized the fine hair in her cleavage. I caught a glimpse of her unshaven underarms, and then her head was through; she dropped the shirt on the floor, and paused for a minute, her arms hanging passively by her side as if she had just woken and happened to find herself standing shirtless before me.

If all she wanted me to be was a pair of eyes, she sure wasn’t making it any easier.

Trancelike, her arms reached back and her fingers struggled momentarily to undo the clasp of her bra. With unusual reverence, she slid it off and I leaned forward to feast my eyes on the large, dark aureolas of her pendulous breasts. Her nipples were already hard but it never really took much to make her nipples stand as if in protest, just like it never really took much to draw out her inwardly fiery temperament. I tore away my eyes from her chest and looked at her face, but she refused to meet my gaze once more, already fiddling with the button of her jeans.

The dull toothy sound of her zipper filled my ears and she began to pull her pants down over her wide, wide hips and fleshy thighs. I watched as she balanced on one foot, but her clumsiness nearly got the better of her. She placed a hand on my shoulder to steady herself as she pulled out of a pantleg, like a cat shaking off the unpleasantly confining proof of some owner’s enthusiasm for petwear.

A foot free now, she stamped on her pants till she could lift out the other leg, and then without reason she stamped with both feet as she straightened. Like her pants could sneak back up if she didn’t? I would have laughed, if the crotch of her worn-out boys’ boxers–complete with an opening for a penis she didn’t have–hadn’t been right in front of my face. She stood motionless, her hand still on my shoulder, watching me from above as my eyes fixed on the trail of fine, dark hair running straight down over her belly, disappearing into the white waistband of her underwear.

Her fingers hooked into the waistband, slowly revealing more of herself to me.

My eyes widened as I looked at the unkempt wilderness between her legs. I imagined what it would be like if I were to sink to my knees before her, to kiss and caress those curving thighs and part through the veil of hair, press my lips to her plump mound of Venus and let my fingers tease apart the thick folds of her sex; I imagined what it would be like to slide my mouth along their sides, feel the smoothness of her innermost flesh against each little bump on my tongue and taste the salty-sweet, slightly bland flavor of her emotional tides; I imagined what it would be like to suck on her clitoris and hear the sound of her nearly silent, almost hesitant gasps and soft moans she forgot to keep locked inside. The faint scent of her arousal drew me closer, and the darkly curling tendrils of hair tempted me to reach out, to risk getting entangled in her.

So I did.

She shied away from my fingers as if I would injure her and watched me wordlessly, searching my face without looking for an apology. Her hand slid up slowly, perhaps unconsciously, moving between her breasts and over her chest, till it rested on the back of her neck, like it always did when she was thinking her way to a decision. She kept a steady gaze on me, but I wasn’t sure if that was uncertainty in her eyes or betrayal.

Then she lifted away her hand, tearing off a length of her flesh. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t make a sound; she went on baring herself, right down to the bone, and didn’t stop.

Sinew by sinew, she peeled away her mortal coil till she reached the fiber of her intellect. She twirled it round a finger, and in one fluid unthinking motion, she snapped herself free. It fell to the floor in a single, silent wave, the thread she had clung to, and she stood before me now clad in her moral fabric. Her unceasing fingers tugged at it, making room for her to slide out, and then it too sank to the floor. All she had left on was her emotional make-up; and then off it went too. Layer after layer she shed of her Self, and when she was done, she picked it all up and lay the bloodied vestments of her being at my feet.

And I–I parted my lips, and gulped for air.

Written: 22/1/2015

“I Can’t Comprehend” ≠ “Lacks Comprehension”

PSA in response to the Muslim homophobes on my Facebook dissing non-homophobic Islam

You are free to choose your deen. Okay, so you’re not really free as in if you’re born in a Muslim country/Muslim family you can’t really choose to leave Islam without being killed or subjected to violence. BUT you are free to choose your deen within Islam. Okay, so maybe that’s not quite true either, since most of you can’t really choose to change from one major sect to another (Sunni to Shia, Shia to Sunni for eg) without a violent backlash even if the govt permits it. BUT within whatever major sect you happened to be born in, you are TOTALLY free to choose the school of thought you wish to follow.

This means some of you choose to live in compassion for all humankind, following a school of thought that the behavior most in line with Islam in any situation is the one with the lowest body count. This is generally the group that gave us people like Michael Muhammad Knight.

This also means that another group amongst you chooses to believe it is their Allah-bestowed responsibility to ADD to that body count by slaying non-believers, heretics, and other assorted “wajib-ul-qatal” types. This is generally the group that gave us ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban. (You’re in great company!)

One way or another, each of you shall arrive at the end of the path you’ve chosen for yourself. (Granted, the more murderous type will probably arrive at it a bit earlier than the rest, since people really don’t like it when you try to kill them.) In light of this freedom, and despite your self-obsessed persecution-complexed worldview, most of the world doesn’t give two bits for your two-bit opinion. (More bits may be given for more valuable opinions.) In the isolation of such irrelevance, you are free to decide you disagree with whoever you wish to disagree with regardless of whether they may possess the finest intellect in the world or, you know, something more familiar to you.

This is, in its simplest form, what freedom of thought looks like–you are not compelled to agree with something just because somebody smarter than you and more well-versed in the subject than you (and probably a lot more popular and influential than you) said it. You may choose to look at the words, not the grandness of who uttered them, and decide whether they resonate with YOU. This may be a novel concept for some of you, and that’s fine. You’ll get used to it with a little effort.

HOWEVER, what you can’t do is pretend you have the intellect to diss their intellect. (Since a lot of you seem to derive a sense of validation by association–no, your favorite telemullah or Islamic Facebook Page admin doesn’t have that intellect or scholarly training either. Sorry not sorry.) The works of scholars like Dr. Amina Wadud and Dr. Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle don’t “lack comprehension”, any more than the works of Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson “lack comprehension” just because YOU don’t have two brain cells to rub together.

Originally written as really long, annoyed Facebook post attached to this post by a friend:

Desi momin logic –

‘Oh, someone was raped as a child? Buss, hota hae, bhool jao, muaaf ker doh, sulah ker loh, chup raho, jaaney doh…’

‘Oh, someone raped a woman? She must be asking for it. Boys will be boys, ghalti hojaati hae, khud khyal kiya kero, chup raho abb…’

‘Someone murdered someone? Chalo, Allah muaaf karney waalah hae, blood money ley loh…’

‘Someone has left Islam? HARAAAAAM MAAR DOH KAAT DOH, GHALAAZAT, SOCIETY WILL FALL APART, ASTAGHFIRULLAAAAWWWHHHHHHH!’

‘Someone is gay? HARAAAAAM MAAR DOH KAAT DOH, GHALAAZAT, SOCIETY WILL FALL APART, ASTAGHFIRULLAAAAWWWHHHHHHH!’

Suffer Little Children

I just started reading a novel about an overweight gay middleschooler whose nipples begin talking to him one day. It’s a story about a pubescent/newly adolescent boy coming to terms with himself, which should place it in the same category as other novels about the pubescent set though it’s listed as “speculative fiction” because I guess there’s no such thing as “queer children’s literature” (but perhaps that’s a rant for another day.)

What it got me thinking about was, we’re quick to note that by the time they reach young adulthood a lot of queer people are riddled with “complexes” and whatnot. This is true; there’s nothing quite like being of a marginalized, reviled minority to mess you up. Many young LGBTIQA children suffer bullying and isolation, and the double-bind of learning early on that not only is sex a taboo topic but their particular sexuality is even more so. They learn to cover up their tracks, hide as much as possible about themselves from those closest to them, who may often genuinely love them otherwise. A crash course in fear, self-loathing and duplicity does not a well-adjusted adult make. It also makes them more vulnerable to predators and robs them of the sense of community that should be our inheritance as human beings. In my experience, it often takes years for queer children to find a queer-friendly group and subsequently develop a feeling of social camaraderie and belonging.

But what if instead of waiting to pick up the pieces once these children reach adulthood, we could help them out of their isolation right now? What if we could somehow provide for them a queer-friendly and child-safe space within which they could grow and develop their sense of self without having to shoulder the immense burden of growing up radically and intrinsically different from many of their peers–alone? This goes for other children too of course: children with disabilities, children from ethnic and religious minorities, children with atypical minds or bodies, children from underprivileged backgrounds, and even female children. But whereas I find there ARE other people raising their voice for those children, often receiving public and political support at the least, there is nobody speaking out for these children. Children who cannot even find their own stories sorted onto the shelves of the children’s section in bookstores and libraries, their narratives safely kept out of reach of the little hands that need to hear them the most.

How would we go about this?