The dingy hostel room was making me restless; I was trying very hard to sleep.
I was missing my parents, especially mom. My pillar of strength in my journey to find my identity.
When I was 15 years old and girls around me were giggling about this boy and that; I never felt attracted to boys. I realized that I was different. And that scared me. I would shiver in fear if anyone got physically close to me, wondering what if they qcome to know? The clown of the class, as I was called, had become the quietest.
Every time I would enter the class, the walls seemed to be closing in, on me. My heart would race and I would shrink myself to try to disappear. I had started feeling worthless and that had overpowered me.
This worthlessness had given way to anger. It kept building inside me and most of the times, was released on my mother. My teachers attributed this to the hormonal changes of puberty. However, only I knew the truth. I wasn’t ready to share it with anyone though. The struggle with myself had landed me into the deep dark hole of depression.
My falling grades got the attention of my mom and best friend. They cornered me and asked me about it. I broke down and told them everything. Mom cried a lot. It was her way of adjusting to the truth.
She took me to a therapist. Dad was kept in the dark at my insistence. “I need to accept myself first.” I had said.
My therapist would tell me, “Why go to ridiculous lengths to deny your identity?”
And mom would say, “Most people are idiots. You don’t need to cower for any of them.”
My therapist’s constant efforts and support from my close friends and mom brought me out of that dark phase after almost a year.
Gradually, I started loving myself. The day I accepted that my sexuality is my identity, the funny and happy go lucky girl was back.
Amidst all this, I finished my degree and found a job. The new environment brought back the fears. But this time, I was prepared. I had people who loved me for who I was. My sexuality was a part of me, I did not care what others thought of it.
The people in my office began to love my jokes and my carefree attitude. I prospered.
But, the fact that my dad did not know anything about it, nagged me to the core. I decided to tell him.
As a result, I was thrown out of the house. Mom was helpless in that matter. Friends accommodated me. But for how long could I stay with them? I found a flat on rent, but was evicted when they came to know I was a lesbian.
And that’s how, I found this working women’s hostel; a temporary abode since the last six months. The house hunting was still on and I did not know how long would it continue.
Sighing, I tried to sleep again. Mom told me every single day that dad would come around. I sincerely hoped he did.
The next morning, I woke up to the continuous ringing of my phone. Groaning, I answered.
“Riya, get ready and come out immediately. We are going for brunch to this new mall downtown!” She sounded so excited, that I couldn’t help but smile.
“I’ll be there in 10.” I said. It was time for weekend fun.
The new mall was a sight to behold. A stage was set up in the courtyard and a crowd had gathered. There was an open mic event. The emcee announced, “Does anyone of you want to say anything? Fear not, speak. No judgments.”
I don’t know what got over me, but I raised my hand and went up on stage.
“Hi…” I said. “I’m nervous.” The audience laughed. I clutched the mic tighter, “Uh… that’s not my name, though. It’s Riya.” They laughed again. I felt empowered with each laugh. After 5 minutes of random talks, I came off the stage to claps and whistles.
That was the turning point of my life.
I decided to do this more often. Every other night, my friends took me to various open mic events around the city. I didn’t do well every time. I bombed the initial few, went blank on stage, but did not give up. Subsequently, I went better prepared. I became known amongst the stand-up comics.
Being humorous relieved me from my internal angst. It became an outlet to vent out my emotions. It filled a hole, deep within me. I felt in control, when on stage.
From open mics, I graduated to comedy clubs. Now, it was time for an even bigger platform.
I was selected for doing a gig in the Spoken Fest. I felt honored. My act was going to be even more special, as I was going to come out in public about my sexuality.
I went on stage and started with a few of my trademark jokes.
“Folks, I have been house hunting lately. I had found a flat in a ‘posh’ colony and was very happy. But thanks to some nosy neighbors; I was dating for a brief period during that time; they saw me kissing my girlfriend just outside the gate. The next thing I know, is I’m being ‘summoned’ for a society meeting. The secretary says, ‘We are all respectable people here. We cannot tolerate ‘all this’ in our colony. You will have to leave.’ While leaving, that nosy aunty rubbed salt on my wounds, ‘Where will you go now?’
I rubbed on hers, ‘Don’t worry, your divorced daughter has invited me to stay with her.’”
The audience clapped and echoes of ‘once more’ filled the ground.
It was a liberating experience.
I was finally in control. Of myself and my sexuality.
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