Day Dada walked out
without saying Yetan, which means
I’ll be back not I’m leaving. Day he left
without a sound or hint, Mama pulled me
close, unlike, when he was around.
I should’ve guessed then but Ken was on TV.
My biggest worry- How would I find Ken when
I looked nothing like Barbie? Mama switched off
the TV; Ken slipped away from the screen
when Barbie wasn’t looking.
Mama pressed her mouth to my right ear,
Ken entered through my left and sat there
knowing Barbie would never even think
of looking in a brown girl’s ear.
Mama said Story time without any excitement.
I worried about thick wax collected in my ear
that she neglected. Seed- title of the story.
‘You were only a seed in my stomach and
then you grew and grew…’
‘Then you vomited,’ I added and giggled.
More at the thought of Ken than the idea
of being her puke. ‘Exactly, see, there was a girl
just like you who swallowed a watermelon seed
by mistake. It didn’t leave her in her kaka. Stayed.
Lots of water. It grew and grew until leaves came out
of her mouth, beautiful no? Don’t you want that too?’
‘Yes mama!’ I said. ‘But sunlight, mama?’
‘Sunlight for plants growing outside raja
not inside, inside, you need total darkness.’
‘My teacher didn’t tell me this.’
‘Your teacher won’t. Only I know this story,
Mai told me, I’m telling you. You, Don’t tell anyone.’
‘Pinky promise mama, cross my heart and hope to die.’
Mama brought a watermelon, its size, like her stomach
when I was in it. The idea of the girl sprouting leaves
from her mouth, tempting yet terrifying. I bit into its
pale flesh-a hybrid. Its many black eyes staring at me,
remembering how Dad gouged them with a fork.
Mama’s like, ‘Swallow, remember?’ I swallowed
a few and threw a few, when she wasn’t looking.
In my kaka, there were three. Mama looked at me
the way Jesus must’ve looked at Peter. As days passed,
she couldn’t afford watermelon. Ken narrated stories
of the doctor who’d make me look exactly like Barbie:
Blue eyes, blonde hair, boobs and all.
Mama knew I’d forgotten, ‘Forget the watermelon, anything
will do. A tablet missed its target, on the floor, behind the
sofa, a disobedient button, a marble…Ken scooped her words
and threw them out of my left ear.
Mama’s hair started falling. We didn’t have Bacon
and eggs anymore. The way they had on TV. ‘Only water
from now on.’ Mama said. When she wasn’t looking
I lifted the clumps and stuffed them into my mouth.
If only her hair was blonde. Its blackness would keep
the darkness intact atleast. A seed might’ve stayed and
would grow eventually from all the water I was drinking.
Mama saw me shrink when I should’ve grown taller.
Finally met the doctor, puzzled, he asked, ‘How did
so much hair land in her stomach? It has been stopping
the waste from getting out.’  The girl who swallowed the seed
and failed to pass it in her kaka is my role model- I wanted
to say. Fear of light and death shut me up. Yet I whispered,
‘Can you make me look like Barbie?’ He laughed for a long
time, ‘My dear, those doctors charge a very high fee
and I treat patients for free.’
In the hospital room, with nothing better to do,
Mama took out the bobpin, ‘What will they say,
doesn’t even clean her daughter’s ears.’ When no one
was looking, she aimed for my left ear. Ken finally
returned to Barbie, to whom he always belonged.

Michelle D'Costa

Michelle's poems have appeared in Antiserious, Cafe Dissensus, The Sunflower Collective, 40 under 40 - anthology of post-globalisation poetry and others. Her poem 'Fish-eye' is forthcoming in The Bombay Literary Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in Coldnoon and The Madras Mag among others. She previously edited fiction at Jaggery Literary Magazine. She now runs 'Kaani' an online magazine for short fiction. Kaani means 'story' in Konkani.