16 comments

Contemporary Fiction

This was all my fault.

To be born as a disappointment, to have lived a dishonest life, and then to have died as a discontent being. Yes, this was all my fault.

You see, when I was born, I was dressed in pink, and placed in a blue crib in a blue-walled room. I cried in suffocation. It was my fault.

As soon as I started waddling in my diaper and started joining the dots of what people said to me, about me, and after me, I sensed I wasn’t welcomed into this world with a happy heart. I was held half-heartedly by those who would have loved to dress their newborn in blue. I let their resentment poke my heart and slit my tongue into two: like a viper’s. And it was my fault.

When I was old enough to climb up a guava tree, straddle across its smooth branch to pluck out the unripe guava nestled among the delicate white flowers, chip away its bitter skin with my teeth to find the closely packed ball of seeds, and marvelled at the slightly sour taste of it, I got thrashed on my legs afterwards. I was told it was improper to climb trees wearing skirts. I whimpered and agreed. It was my fault.

At school, there wasn’t a subject I didn’t like, and there wasn’t a person who believed that. There were a few smirks and snide comments when I aced any test or debate. To be fair, there were a few pats on the back and claps too. Just enough to keep me going. When it came to being popular though, it didn’t matter how sharp my mind was, it only mattered how round my body was. I refused to take it. It was my fault.

College was a bubble. It didn’t matter if I got pinched or groped on the bus ride while getting there, once I got in, it was a whole different world. Everyone looked like they had just escaped from the leashes and believed they were the budding architects of an upcoming utopia. I too got carried away a bit. It was my fault.

Years as a young worker taught me one thing; the workplace was the antithesis of utopia. But I kept at it, partly as I wanted to pay my bills and partly as I wanted to prove myself to those who put blue cribs in blue rooms before time. I wasn’t shrewd enough to know I was a derivative of a function that can’t be proved. It was my fault.

You don’t want to be a single career woman for long. Believe me, it’s a crime worse than wanting to annihilate civilization. A young woman who wants to be respected ought to marry and multiply. Period. I didn’t completely believe it, but still succumbed to it. It was my fault.

A woman can’t have it all. If she has, then she is not a woman at all. I scoffed at it. But somewhere along the time, as I hobbled between changing diapers, typing presentations, hiding milk stains under the jacket, and warming the bottles- I agreed with it. It was my fault.

There was joy in growing up with kids; there was pain when they come home with scraped knees. And there was a period of perfect harmony at home just before when the hormones hit them. Soon, there were minefields, asteroids, and everything in between, that tested the last bit of my pre-menopausal patience, already running thin. See, how well I phrased it- just the way I was fed. Somewhere, I had lost my fangs. It was my fault.

There came a moment when those weird, wonderful bundles of energy who were once part of me but had moved lightyears away from me in every which way but for the physical resemblance, waved goodbye and moved to the dorms or a distant town. It was the worst pain I had endured in a long time, but I felt liberated as well. I was finally free to dig out old slights and hurts that had come my way that I had safely swept under the carpet of raising the kids. And examine them. Instead, I chose to create something that healed me. It was my fault.

I had failed to see I couldn’t be my own mistress yet. Healing was not an option. The exhibits from my unremarkable life were pointed at by the people in my life to show my worth. And they kept advising me on how to improve myself even as my hair went grey. I smiled and promised them I would try. It was my fault.

I could feel my body losing the bounce, muscles turning mushy and the bones turning brittle as I bid farewell to many around me. I was ready to follow them when my time came. But I still listened to a nagging voice inside me. Had I lived my life? I knew it was too late to be having such thoughts. It was my fault.

My mind started playing tricks as well. Maybe it was my age or maybe it was just me. A woman who didn’t have the temperament to feel content with her lot and kept aspiring to better herself usually ended up losing her mind- I had gathered it from the annoyed people who struggled to help me get on with my daily life. I had difficulty making up my mind about whether I agreed with them or not. It was my fault.

I was glad that the moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived. I wasn’t sure I could have held myself together for much longer. In the split second, before I left this body, just after the montage of my life had finished playing in front of me, the answer to my question flashed before me, clear as a crystal.

Every choice I had made landed me exactly at the same place where I had started from. A pink-clothed baby in a blue crib. And it was all my fault.

September 30, 2022 06:12

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16 comments

Michał Przywara
20:41 Sep 30, 2022

This is a wonderfully complex story. It is of course ridiculous to be blamed for being born a certain way, and being born a woman when the expectation/desire was for a son is an absurd thing to criticize someone over. We can say it's a social thing, that she was born into a man's world, as the finale stresses again, "A pink-clothed baby in a blue crib". So this makes the repeated "It was my fault" obscene. But. But… each step of the way, she *did* make choices. Each step of the way, she did guide her own actions. Yes, they might have b...

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Suma Jayachandar
10:16 Oct 01, 2022

Thank you so much for your insightful comment, Michal. Insidious nature of sexism- yes, that could be the byline for this story. Thankful as always for reading and analysing.

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Graham Kinross
05:47 Feb 15, 2023

Your description of going from university to work is too accurate. The reincarnation as a cycle within the same life seems harsh, unless the character can learn from their previous life and change the cycle.

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Suma Jayachandar
09:52 Feb 15, 2023

Thanks a ton for your generous comment. Yes, the cyclical nature of situations can truly make one go in rounds if not aware. And can lead to tragic outcomes too.

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Graham Kinross
09:59 Feb 15, 2023

Very true.

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Delbert Griffith
11:33 Oct 06, 2022

An amazingly deep story, replete with symbolism, foreshadowing, and pithy observations. One of the best stories I've read on this site. The flow of the story was smooth and the descriptive parts were just right. Great job, Suma!

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Suma Jayachandar
17:36 Oct 06, 2022

This comment made my day. Thank you so much for reading and taking time to leave such an overwhelmingly generous comment. Truly feel humbled and grateful.

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Delbert Griffith
11:33 Oct 06, 2022

An amazingly deep story, replete with symbolism, foreshadowing, and pithy observations. One of the best stories I've read on this site. The flow of the story was smooth and the descriptive parts were just right. Great job, Suma!

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01:08 Oct 06, 2022

The title is intriguing. A pink bird standing on one leg in blue water. Was that you? It is a short step for a child's perception to move from being a disappointment to taking the blame for everything that went wrong. It takes heroic efforts to exorcise that demon. It is sad that your narrator never got past "it was all my fault." Many women don't. Your narrator explored forbidden fruit, tried to better herself, and experienced some good moments. I wish she could have given herself credit for that. I am curious about her relations...

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Suma Jayachandar
17:34 Oct 06, 2022

Thank you so much for taking time to read and leave a comment. I truly appreciate it!

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Eliza Troy
00:27 Oct 06, 2022

Suma - I enjoyed read this. Its a unique way to position an important story. I felt unresolved walking away but maybe that’s the point?

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Suma Jayachandar
17:33 Oct 06, 2022

Thank you so much for reading. I am glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, you got the ending just right!

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Aeris Walker
01:38 Oct 04, 2022

Women are such uniquely special and wonderful creatures--your story paints a picture of what we might become if we are not valued, are not cherished, and are not given the freedom to breathe and grow and spread wings. So many beautifully written lines: "I was held half-heartedly by those who would have loved to dress their newborn in blue."--such a creative and powerful way to communicate "they wanted a boy." "Years as a young worker taught me one thing; the workplace was the antithesis of utopia." --well placed semicolon in this great l...

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Suma Jayachandar
08:05 Oct 04, 2022

Thank you so much for reading,Aeris. This was written in the very last moment (read lazy effort) but I ended up posting it anyway. Appreciate your valuable comment, as always.

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Rebecca Miles
05:18 Oct 01, 2022

It was a great call to position this one across the whole span of the woman's life. Along with the refrain, the certainty of the structure gave this the trapped feeling I think you were going from. Whether she chose for herself, or chose for others; whether all seemed good or bad, it was all stamped by the gender card. This would be a great story to use as a discussion point on gender today. I teach a unit on graphic design and gender diversity. The students are sometimes quite a fluid bunch, which gives me hope, but like your story, I'm sa...

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Suma Jayachandar
10:22 Oct 01, 2022

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I wouldn't know about the first world, but in other parts of the world the gender roles are still binary to a large extent. It is seemingly a little better in urban centres among the educated youth (of course it's not guaranteed). But still a long way to go.

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