Voices

Heavy moans, achy joints

The illustration is divided into eight panels. In all the eight panels is a woman who has a large tattoo on her arm and back and is posing sideways to display it. The only thing which isn't constant in the panels is the background which changes from pink dots to orange, rose red and a mix of all these colours.

A story about desire, sex and Lupus.

‘If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?’

Our bodies held on to each other while Twelve-to-Six whispered, ‘Of course.’

That day we didn’t go to our usual spot in Prospect Park to make out. We would walk deep into the greenery because I was always afraid that my father or some Bengali uncle or aunty would spot me without a bra and catch a glimpse of my luscious 36 double Ds.

I had already gotten caught far too many times, no, not topless, but while locking lips in front of a porch that wasn’t mine or his. Some Bengali lived there and word spread quickly.

How was I supposed to know that me kissing some dude was news worth spreading? Why didn’t anyone warn me about being Brown and barred from kissing in public?

After struggling to get up the Bay Parkway station stairs with knees so weak and feet feeling heavy – not from sex because I was saving that – we hugged as if it was my last day. I was feverish and fatigued so instead of a steamy French kiss, my lips softly caressed his right cheek. I had never done such a thing before, but I guess I cared about him. I wanted him close.

It turned out that I did have an incurable disease. Its name: Lupus. Something about it being autoimmune, which I still don’t completely understand, and an undesirable amount of protein now liberated from my body to coexist in urine, explaining kidney failure, sudden weight gain, achy joints, swollen everything.

It made sense now as to why I hadn’t been able to bend my knees… to do the deeds… to worship. It was my first time. We were in Prospect Park on a hilltop surrounded by unforgiving summer bugs. Knees bent and in excruciating pain.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I envied the white women I had watched in porn. They knew how to manoeuvre the penis so comfortably. Was it learned or inherent? Some of them even wore high heels!

I had ditched my volunteer hours at Methodist Hospital to perform like the ladies with voluminous blonde hair, perfectly shaven, and so flexible. No matter how much I shaved, hair specks were very much visible along with a hue darker than the Brown on my skin. Focused but fearful, I pushed him to direct me but I guess his lack of response and happy moans meant I was doing okay.

This is a sketch of a woman lying naked on a bed, with her one hand on the shoulder and the other on the navel.

Image credit: Eleazar Fuentes via Flickr CC by 2.0

The ICU became my permanent home for the next three months.

Lupus was serious. Incurable but treatable with high doses of anti-inflammatory medicines like Prednisone which turned my slim and curvy figure to an abstract shape befitting the dully printed white hospital gown held together with threads. I wasn’t used to so much immodesty. Completely naked inside the robe, I assured Twelve-to-Six that he could get a feel when he visited me.

He didn’t come until the day of my second kidney biopsy, which was at least a month and a half into my stay at Maimonides. Our midnight conversations – mostly him helping me explore parts that were now swollen and distorted due to the Lupus consumption (even my vagina was ugly) – also faded and didn’t last until six in the morning anymore. He wasn’t living up to the codename I had given him.

Because the nights were calmer during my stay, all I could think about was masturbating. Was it wrong for me to want to touch myself while bedridden from disease? I shared these sentiments with my best friend over the phone who asked, ‘Are you serious, Shahana?!’ As if I could no longer be sexual or desire to be sexual because, after all, intimacy and disability could not belong together.

Twelve-to-Six called one night asking for ‘space.’ I didn’t put up a fight.

Two years later, I was living in an apartment close to campus.

Twelve-to-Six reappeared and wanted to visit. I wore my best wig. It wasn’t coloured like the natural jet-black he last saw me with, but rather a brunette, long in the back, layered in the front. With it, I was a woman, feminine, confident, able. Chemotherapy had left me bald.

He looked at me diligently. Did he know I was wearing a wig? Did I look different to him? Did he notice the longer, straight strands covering my breasts?

He wanted to hug. I did too. This hug escalated from the living room to my bedroom where I silently became pious and prayed for the wig to not go lopsided lest he finds out I was hiding a bald head.

‘God,’ I thought, ‘I know Lupus might’ve been a test of faith which I’m doing miserably in, but I’ve not touched a man in so long, please let this wig stay put.’

Don’t touch my hair. No hair pulling please, though that’s what turned me on the most. It didn’t matter that he didn’t want to kiss me on the lips or that our clothes stayed on.

I lay on my back with him on top of me. Our bodies caressed gently. I missed his smell, though he reeked of the chicken wings he had eaten prior to the hug. His hands made way from my cheeks to my breasts, kameez on. I moaned, longing for more, to get a peek of his thighs and the boner I felt on my body.

He motioned it was time for him to leave. Wig in place, I directed him to the door.

I pulled off the wig and sat on the couch.

‘If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?’

‘Of course.’

Featured image credit: IVESONE.COM via Flickr CC by 2.0

The text was first published on Love Inshallah.

About the author

Shahana Hanif

Shahana Hanif is a New York based non-fiction writer. Write to her at [email protected]

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