“So mom, you and aunt were best friends since like forever right?”
I couldn’t understand why I was asking the question. It was after all Aniya’s. But it didn’t matter. Be it Aniya’s or mine, it was all the same. There was no such distinction between Aniya and I. And it wasn’t like we hadn’t heard the story before.
“Yes Ani, we were friends since like forever,” mom answered. Not even looking up from the chopping board, decapitating vegetables into small chunks, which she would then boil in the cauldrons of hell, torturing the mutilated vegetables into a gooey curry which would then serve as our cannibalistic lunch. The others were grossed out by such descriptions, but Aniya and I loved them. Especially when we would be thinking them, stuffing spoonfuls of curry into our mouths, and we’d go, “yummm.”
“Stop thinking so gross,” mom said, catching the smile Aniya and I shared, and catching on to our thoughts.
“Oh come on, let them be,” aunt said, coming to our defence. “It’s good for kids to have an active imagination.”
“Ok first, they’re not kids. They're old enough to be fully grown monsters. And second, they’re old enough to know that the active imagination they have is plain gross. They can think better thoughts, and they know it. Thoughts that don’t gross the rest of us out.”
“Wow, you’re still such a prude,” aunt whispered.
“Shut up,” mom whispered back, grins on both their faces.
It was clear they were trying to keep their exchange from us, but we had sharper ears than they gave us credit for. We were in on the conversation, and we weren’t going to let them know. Actually, Aniya didn’t want to, and she shut me up with one look and the tiniest shake of her head. I wanted to ask why, but just agreed to keep my silence.
“So tell us your story,” Aniya probed.
Mom and aunt exchanged looks, a wordless conversation, and made up their mind. All in a second. All without letting up a tiny clue.
“We were kids when we met, no older than you,” mom started, but before she could finish, aunt cut in.
“Oh come on, they know all that already. How we grew up together, and have been inseparably close since,” she said. The look on her face made mom go quiet too, building the curiosity in us all. Aunt was very good like that, the best of us all at telling a story. And she was in the mood for telling a story.
“Let me tell you about the time when we did something that my dear friend here would never disclose.”
Mom knew immediately what aunt was talking about. Dropping all in her hand, she grabbed aunt, sealing her mouth, and shutting the words.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, louder than she realised.
“Mm mm,” aunt wailed through mom’s hand. As mom let go, she answered, “Come on, the kids are asking about us, let’s tell them the best of our tales.”
“Shut up,” mom ordered, and aunt went quiet, the smile not leaving, as was the twinkle in her eye.
We knew they weren’t going to tell the story, but that exchange was by itself more than we had expected. We knew now that mom and aunt had secrets too that they couldn’t share with us. Not yet. Aunt called mom a prude, and mom didn’t refute. It wasn’t better than hearing the story, especially from aunt, but it was a close second. Imagining the things mom and aunt might have done. With no supervision or judging, we could let our minds run free. Which we did.
It was a truly wonderful topic for discussion at the nest. The two of us, leaning against the trees, looking at our full smiles as we told of our imaginings of the adventures of mom and aunt.
“Do you think they went on a kissing spree? Or maybe something more?”
“Like us in class.”
She looked me with a look of disbelief, and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t have to wonder for long though, luckily.
“Come on Ani, you’re not that naive.” With a serious shake of her head, throwing up the smoke from the cigarette in her lips enveloping her in the fumes as if they were part of her. “Think bigger. Maybe they were in a never ending orgy, with so many partners they lost count.”
“You do realise we are talking about our moms,” I said. It was a little difficult to digest what she was on about. I always was more reserved in comparison.
“Come on Ani, it is perfectly normal for two grown women to engage in orgies. Let your mind open and you can see them, in action. Think the wildest thing, and just ask yourself if either of them could be above it.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” I answered truthfully. I really did have no idea what she was talking about. It was way too much.
“Do you think our dads were in on it too?”
That was just too much. Her face was shining, an indescribable look of insanity on it. It was disturbing.
“Aniya, shut up.”
She finally looked at me, and was broken out of her head. Startled by what she saw.
“I’m sorry Ani, I didn’t realise it disturbed you so much. I didn’t realise you were such a kid.” The last part about being a kid was for my benefit. Instantly lifting me, even bringing a smile.
For the rest of the night, which wasn’t very long, we were in silence. It was like we said too much, and now couldn’t find anything to say. We rode the furls of smoke rising above us, the sight of it dissolving into the night holding our attention in absolute completeness. It was only when we were returning that Aniya spoke again. Bursting us into laughter. The sight of me laughing delighting her greatly.
“You think that’s how they met? Our dads and moms?”
She held us together. With the invisible glass separating us, I longed to be by her more than ever. To hold her hand. To hug her. To feel the warmth of her embrace. To see her smile. To hear her say something amazing that would have us laughing like mad. She held us together, still does.
I know there is so much to her. But only now I realise, there is so much more to her I didn’t know. And that makes me feel guilty as hell. Only now do I see the wafer thin smiles in her eyes. Something more hiding behind the thin veil. Only now do I see the pain she hid away, smiling for me. Only now do I see that there was more sadness in her than I could ever imagine.
All those times she brought us to smile from sorrow and pain and the feelings pushing us below, she did so swallowing her own feelings. As if I was more important. I can see now why the dark side was so important to her. There was just so much in her life she couldn’t live with, so much she was suppressing inside. So much she couldn’t share, she couldn’t let out. It was necessary to find a way to let it out. Give herself the sense of freedom that she just didn’t have in the light. The dark side was when she could let herself be free, and it was only in the madness she could find it. It was in the nest that she found peace in herself. And just how important was I, that she wanted me to be a part of the dark side too?
And how great a friend was I? The clueless boy who was blind to the pain, the suffering of the one he claimed to love the most. So lost in the bliss created for him. So convinced by his naivety that everything was perfect as it should be.
Just how foolish was I? Just how terrible a friend am I?