Revenge Porn

Aurvi Sharma

Sharma

Photo credit: Rachita Dalal

—someone had emptied a bottle of red wine at the exit of the bus station, the stain like the line of hairs between my navel and cunt. The station smelled dense—your mouth at the end of a night of partying, Sweetheart, when you wanted to have sex and I turned to you, eyes wide and desperate, said, “Kiss me first,” but we couldn’t because alcohol had dried our mouths. “Told you so,” you told me.

Across the wine stain, a Rajasthani man in khaki pants and a tucked-out shirt played ravanhatha that sounded like weeping. I scrambled for money. Musicians barely appeared on the roads anymore and when they did I wanted to tell them, “Don’t leave, please.”

• •

(Today my lips are fissured, purple wine in their cracks.)

• •

—Sweetheart, that afternoon I lay on my back in a black bra and nothing else when you kneeled at my knees and pulled my legs apart, said, “Hmmm,” to my blue-black cunt that opened like a carnivorous flower. I laughed then, turned to my side, my clit erect, when you said, “Why is it so dark? Why isn’t it pink?”

• •

(Ten years ago, when a popular skin-whitening cream in India started receiving criticism for propagating problematic ideas of female beauty (light skin = husband), the cream’s new TV ads started showing how the cream leads to women’s professional success. Fairness cream = light skin = beauty = confidence = job interview badassery.

In twenty-first century India I am pale-skinned, walking into a glass cabin toward four suited men who nod at me approvingly from behind a long desk.)

• •

—the club was called MOJO and played desi hip-hop that reverberated at my gullet, my world a cube of bass and rum and disco lights. I shaved the hairs on my knuckles and toes. I shaved the hairs at the small of my back. I shaved the hairs between my navel and cunt. I shaved the hairs inside my labia. I laid a T-shirt over my long hair and ran a clothes iron over it to turn my hair into satin.

I plucked the three hairs between my breasts, Sweetheart, and wore an off-white plunge top with a tiny gold skirt over a thong that dug into my butt crack.

• •

(300 BCE, a garden glazed with moonlight. I’m a tree nymph with a button nose, my hair dark like the wings of the Bhramara bees, three-layered pearls dangling between my bare breasts, my skin glossy like a plastic Barbie’s.)

• •

—at the club you smiled at the women who stared at your chiseled, fair face—nose sharp, jaw square—and told me how hot their breasts were. “I love you, Sweetheart, but your boobs are really small.”

• •

(Lips like a red bimba fruit, eyes like a frightened gazelle’s, in the third century my waist is so tiny it disappears between my bosom and hips. I walk slowly, bent slightly forward, unable to carry the weight of my heavy, heavy breasts.)

• •

—when we had sex in the club’s loo, you took off my skirt and top and thong but not my bra. “Helps me imagine bigger boobs,” you said.

On the dance floor, you held me by the waist. My hair was silk, my lips crystals, my hips flat. My bare, tight midriff was pierced at the navel and encircled with a silver chain.

• •

(In first-century India, my buttocks can hold mountains, and the desires of the whole world. My plait is as thick as my arm, it snakes down my sinews, a river, breaching, in monsoon.)

• •

—your friends whispered, “What a bomb-pataka you’ve netted, asshole.” “She smokes? Bet she sucks your dick too.”

“Sweetheart,” you said to me, handing me a rum and coke, “don’t smile so wide. Make it just a little smaller and then you will be truly pretty.”

• •

(In 200 BCE, while the fair dames of Pompeii are setting their hair in tight curls, my dark face is luminous like the setting sun. My eyes are so heavy-lidded that I always seem intoxicated—in a dream—with a gentle smile, the little teeth I show like groves of jasmine.)

• •

—smoking outside the club, there was an electricity cut, and the mall vaporized into darkness. Fireflies started glimmering around me, blinking their mating signals behind my cigarette smoke, halos of light moving around my body. When the lights came back on, the flies of fire turned into bugs with six jointed legs and hair-like antennae.

• •

(I frolic with peacocks and talk to parrots in the seventeenth century. My face is pearly with a gossamer white anchal over my pale breasts, shadows of pink nipples under silver flowers of zardozi. My skirt is bleached Banarasi silk. My skin is translucent, fuzz-free.)

• •

—walking west to my beauty parlor earlier that evening, the sun was a gold coin beaming into my eyes until I had to close them. The Bangladeshi auntie who threaded my eye brows sang along in a thin voice and a round accent with the Bollywood party songs on the radio and when the chorus came, the aestheticians and the hairdressers—blow-drying female hair, buffing female nails, touching up female highlights, waxing female thighs—threw their heads back and sang together. The eyebrow auntie plowed across my forehead with the thread, and blood drops bloomed on my brow bone. Tears down my face. “Shhhh, shhhh,” she said, rubbing an ice cube over my brows. While inspecting my brows in the mirror, I caught her eye and both of us smiled. Despite not knowing each other’s languages, we exchanged a perfect look of understanding.

• •

(In the fifth century I hold a sheet of gold so polished it reflects my image back at me. Every day it torments me.)

• •

—nibbling your ear the next day in the park—just the way you liked it—bubbles hovered around us, tiny and huge. They shimmered like rainbows, and the symmetry of the park’s ancient domes was grotesque inside them.

Lightning had glimmered all afternoon. Thunder booming like an afterthought, no rain. When you put three fingers inside me, I made sounds that boomeranged off the trees. My insides were empty, and emptiness is good for echoes.

You had always fucked me from behind, but I preferred to turn away from you anyway, faking quick orgasms, relieved from the burden of performing. The sky, orange and gray, hung over us like a full belly.

• •

(Always a mirror, metaphor, ideal. When am I me?)

• •

—the cops shooed us away. I sucked you off while you drove, pebbles shooting like gun pellets under the tires, and when you came your semen was salty-bitter, your fair face red, glass-eyed. Pools of cum on the car’s floor. We cleaned you up with a newspaper. You dropped me at a red light and took my car to meet your friends. You said you didn’t want them to see me and think I was the kind of girl who blows men. I waited for you on the empty sidewalk, Sweetheart, hands smelling of cum and sweat.

• •

(In the seventh century, hands folded, I bow to gurus, prophets, monarchs, consorts, lovers, and husbands. I hang around in the backdrop, behind kings, gods, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I lean against trees and walls and girlfriends, eyes cast down, smiling, serene, filling men’s lives with the pleasing context of my beauty.)

• •

—places I waited for you: bus stations, apartments, temples, barber shops, parks, stadiums, highways. Places I sucked your cock in: cars, elevators, friends’ parents’ bedrooms, hotel lobbies, buses, balconies, rooftops, ruins.

• •

(In the fifteenth century I have a thick neck, a dense body. Hair rife on my face, my eyes are hazel, my mouth is wide. Then I’m mentioned only in absence, my body an ideal of who not to marry, what not to fuck, how not to be. A presence in negative, like a photo reel.)

• •

—I picked you up at the bus station at 4:00 am, Sweetheart, the city dreaming behind orange orbs of streetlights. By dawn we had finished the sixteen beers in the trunk. High on alcohol, foreplay, and pride, you relayed your friends’ bomb-pataka compliments to me and I said, “How the hell does that make you happy?” Your penis was withdrawn, Sweetheart, an almond, retracted into the scrotum, shivering like a tiny pendulum. You started racing the car through red lights and hit a man on a motorbike. The man fell, I screamed, cars honked, and you kept racing.

• •

(In the fourth century, my thighs are like the trunks of plantain trees. The bells on my ankles ring gently as I walk, a gaja gamini—the one with the gait of an elephant—never fast, never slowly.)

• •

—the ashoka trees were tall like T. rexes, Sweetheart. Smithereens of sun-gold in the foliage. You speeded behind the gardens and lurched the car to a side and vomited out of the window and said, “Why the fuck are you screaming?” Also, “Stop crying with your stupid, tiny eyes.”

• •

(In the fourteenth century, my face is soft like the moon, my eyes are large like a fawn’s, my nose is delicate like a flower. My voice? It is sweet like a cuckoo’s song.)

• •

—you puked beer and time and chicken lollipops. You puked kebabs and dill and dreams.

• •

(In 100 BCE, with a doughy belly and a drooping pudendum, I’m the mother goddess, my hair tied in buns above my ears, tall as a chital’s antlers. My eyes are like an owl’s.)

• •

—the scooter man didn’t press charges. We paid him for damages and at dusk settled by the river in the shadow of skyscrapers, drinking from plastic cups, a beer bottle filled with vodka at my feet. The cheese wept in the heat, my hair a halo of humidity, the beer-vodka warm like the soupy night. A fish floated belly-up at the edge and you shouted, “Is it dead? Must be dead, right? Should I poke it with a stick? Poor fish.” City lights whirlpooled, solar systems in the river.

• •

(In tenth-century central India, amidst forests of trees whose leaves are rolled to smoke beedis, my brows are like bows, my breasts like melons, my waist like a swan’s neck. In this sleekness, I reflect the ideal state of being—detached or silenced—take your pick.)

• •

—the year we started fucking, the theater society of my all-women’s college organized a performance of the Vagina Monologues, but some prudish professors objected to our saying “vagina.” Foolish girls, we replaced the word “vagina” with “heart” and called the play “Voices.”

• •

(In the sixteenth century I’m the worst woman because my vagina is rough like the tongue of a cow. My laugh is harsh and my mind is set on gluttony.)

• •

—when I used to touch myself thinking of you, my vagina turned purple and damp and smelled of garlic.

• •

(My feet are like lotus blossoms.)

• •

—my head wouldn’t stop spinning. I said, “I need to go,” and walked away from you poking the fish. I stumbled past the bridge. I passed yellow wigs on white mannequins, shiny strands on perfect skin. I walked by a laser clinic promising bare legs and bald vulvas. I kneeled on the dusty sidewalk and vomited lifetimes of disdain.

• •

(My neck is like a seashell.)

• •

—home alone and drunk, I watched a live cam of a corpse flower about to bloom in the New York Botanical Gardens. Two camera crews turned up and positioned their mics in front of the flower, its huge pistil breaking out from the circle of petals. “It smells like garlic,” they said, “and rotting fish.”

• •

(In the grid cities of Harappa five thousand years ago, I’m a dancing girl. I have small, pointy breasts and my neck is circled with Mesopotamian jade. I rest my hand on my waist, bend my knee. My coiled hair gathered to a side, I’m unsmiling. Maybe the bowl in my left hand holds the last dregs of wine. My face is raised, my forehead crease-free.)

• •

—I showered at midnight and washed three weeks of laundry. I laid it to dry in the bedroom, clothes draped over the bed and office chair, clothes dangling like scarecrows on hangers. I slept, floating on detergent perfume, feeling content, if not happy. Or the other way around.

• •

(A hot day in the third century. I dye silk with the red pigment of Kusum flowers and wrap the cloth around my behind. I daub the two moons of my breasts with a golden paste of musk, sandalwood, saffron.)

• •

After brushing my teeth in the morning, I tapped out hydrogen peroxide and ammonia into a glass bowl and whipped them into a cream. My eyes burned and my nose tingled as I smoothed the paste on my face. I silenced my phone, and your unsaid words stacked up into missed calls. I took quick, shallow breaths with my mouth, the bleach fumes hot on my palate. I scraped the bleach off with a butter knife and emerged golden.

 

Works Consulted

Ajanta Paintings: 86 Panels of Jatakas and Other Themes (edited by Rajesh K. Singh)

Ananga Ranga by Kalyanamalla (translated by Richard Burton)

Sanskrit Poetry from Vidyakara’s Treasury (translated by Daniel H. H. Ingalls)

Meghadutam by Kalidas (from Kalidas, The Loom of Time, translated by Chandra Rajan)

Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 by Romila Thapar

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter