Friday, May 11, 2012

Angela Fernandes, 26

When she stares out the window, Angela Fernandes feels deflated. This is not the scenery one expects if one is to write a brilliant novel that will sweep many small literary prizes (the big ones belong only to people with exciting names like Patricia Singh and Faghira La Foofie, Angela is not totally unrealistic). The sky is a flat blue, the trees look like they could use a good washing and it appears the squatting labourers have been pissing floral patterns all across the compound wall. The big brown clump of shanties built for them last August is getting more permanent and populous by the day, yet nothing quite like the landscaped extravaganzas the brochures promised has materialised. Angela is secretly relieved.  

“The idea of landscape gardens in a middle-income building complex like ours reeks of the bald self-consciousness one associates with new money,” she writes - this could be the pondering, poignant start to her short story; she’s quite pleased with ‘bald self-consciousness.’ “Except, we’re not new money. Or old money. Or any money. And it will be twenty years before we properly own even just the bare walls of our flats.

Mother is still walking to most places and buying half-rate from the semi-rotten lots at the fruit market. And father has been forced to resume patronizing correspondence with his vile uncle Garth who has both, third stage lung cancer and a third floor apartment in Bandra minus any heirs. Neither has taken a vacation in their lives; they insist their prayer and healing retreats are enough. But having accompanied them to one in a fit of heavily regretted whimsy, one has come away willing to take one’s chances with the eternal fires of hell. 

We are simply not landscape-garden people; perambulating of any kind is not in our nature. A small, regular garden might be nice. Some trees and potted plants and such.”

Angela sighs. It’s terrible, too World According to Angela Fernandes. Then immediately she’s irritable. Why can’t she be luminescently confident like pointy-boobs Laura, the ‘official’ writer in the family, who has recently taken to describing the schmaltzy trite she produces at her weekend writing class as “very, like, Gee Gee Marquez-y?’. The nerve. 

Maybe some pathos, some tragedy, will punch up the story. Because really, is there anything quite as reassuring as somebody else’s horrible luck? She could get a good car crash going – screeching tyres, car erupting in flames, infant in the backseat, that sort of thing. Or wait, wait - she shuts her eyes tight and taps rapidly at the cold floor with her big toe, as if the motion will shake loose the trapped idea – an abortion clinic. The waiting room. Lots of pale girls with old faces scratching their palms nervously, the smell of disinfectant clawing at their dry nostrils; a reedy receptionist covered in piercings, and desperately feisty pro-choice slogans on the wall like ‘I love you, baby, but I love me more!’ and ‘When all you can see is the foe in foetus…’ Angela chuckles. Something is seriously wrong with me, she considers with some satisfaction. The cat in her lap peels open its eyes long enough to glower its agreement before rearranging itself into a tighter ball, only to go slack a moment later. 

Truth is she has no earthly idea what an abortion clinic looks like. She doesn’t even know anybody who’s been to one. Merril and Shalu both had ‘scares’ last year but both times it turned out to be nothing. The only scare Angela’s had in recent times was running into kindly old Prashant-from-HR, and his giant erection, in the passage between the loos. 

To have ‘scares’ you have to have sex, she thinks bitterly. She’d come so close too. That night after choir practice, Perry Colaco had very nearly had her against the lumpy stone wall of the grotto. She slumps back heavily in her chair jerking the cat awake. It’s had quite enough and leaps off, feather-light with contempt. 

The whole thing feels like a badly remembered dream, the details bleed. One day she’s telling Merril how Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’s star alto's quivering, salivating lady-vocals are revolting, the next she’s wondering what he’s like under those ridiculous Chinese collars. The ‘sms’ months are beyond recognition now. The night itself takes more and more concentration to hold on to. Where had the rest of the choir disappeared to? How is it they had been alone at the grotto? What, what, oh, what, had he whispered as he dipped his fingers between her lips, still sweet from Varsha’s birthday cake, as he kneaded the soft center of her taut abdomen before unbuttoning her jeans. She’d been paralyzed with panic and desire; had she even managed to touch him at all? His oddly tapered earlobes, that block-like chest, his arm at least? Was it her cell phone Varsha had come back for, or her hymnal, when she nearly walked into them? She aches at the thought of his mouth, thin and wide, engulfing hers, chewing at her tongue as if it were a tough piece of chicken.

Angela’s getting quite used to her new church. The ceilings are nice and tall and the priests do more than just scold the congregation. Father and mother have begun to make pithy conversation at the table – how is work, the pigeons are still regularly flying into the exhaust fan, His Holiness is looking so old. Merril phoned to say Perry has shifted to his wife’s parents’ house in Bhusaval and does she think he’ll start his own gospel-rock choir there? Exactly where is Bhusaval anyway… nevermind actually, she doesn’t really care, listen to this, Angela will never guess who… Merril is like that. Everybody should have a friend like Merril.

She leans forward once more, smooths the page, reads it over and then rips it out. Perhaps a classic whodunit.


  1. It's beautiful. And very real.

  2. Your writing never fails to amaze me. I look forward to reading more and more. x

    Love, Miffalicious. []

  3. Totally thought Angela was you.

    But then you said taut abdomen.