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"The Moon" by Mrityunjay Mohan

Updated: Nov 21

It is summer. Ice skips into my mouth. Berries hang on the fingers of plants, grains sprout against the toes of the fields. The sun sweats, hangs like the moon at night, half submerged between the clouds, painted into the sky like oil splashed on a wok. Sunlight limns across the windows, shrinks like skin with age, droops like eyes after years of seeing. Speckles of dust glitter the air. Mangoes fall to the ground, children pick it, bite into it, savour the taste like they are checking the quality of the fruit. Their eyes are closed, a warm blush creeping across their cheeks, a smile littering their faces. I want to ask them if it tastes good, but I don't.

I am four, younger than the children, alone as a sunflower in the midst of a garden of daisies. The sun sinks into my skin like ice cream on tongue. Mama and papa are both home, quarrelling like squirrels over a nut, them over money matters. I do not interrupt because I don't want to be hurt.

The window panes struggle in heat, they hollow out like eyes scooped from the skull, they shudder like they are in fear. I do not ask them why they are struggling, but I put my palm to the glass to comfort them. I want to say something, but I remain quiet.

I am packing my clothes into a blue-and-white penguin backpack. Shirts I chose for myself. Pants I fought to buy. The skirt my sister forced me to get. The underwear I use to cover the parts of my body I don't want to see. In the news, someone talks about the declining value of our currency. They talk about politics. I imagine I am in a far away land without worry. Mama and papa hate transgender people. I know because they say so most days. They don't know I am transgender too. I cannot tell them.

I zip up the backpack. The sun falls apart, the heat etched on to every crevice of my body like lovers names on a tree trunk, with a heart in between. The morning bleeds into sunset, and then melts into the night. The night is a warning, for what I am not certain of. The moon sinks between clouds, creeps towards the window, lingers like a kiss on the lips. In class, everyone had their first kiss. I didn't because I was a boy that no one knew was a boy. The girl I liked kissed my friend.

I take the bag and sneak out the house. Auto rickshaw drivers stare down at me. Almost approach me, but they know better. Four-year-olds don't possess any money. I walk past the temples, past closed shops, and boarded up salons. I leave with only a vague plan. I will find those homes where transgender people live, and ask them to take me in. The night lights up with streetlights that lean towards me like small, floating suns. They walk with me. I fear they will fall on me. I keep my distance.

A man approaches me, dressed in white like a sheet of paper. He gives me two bars of chocolate. I don't take it. He takes my hand, walks me back home despite my protests. How much can a four-year-old fight with a man in his 50’s? I don’t know him, but he knows me. The moon follows me home like a devout follower. I feel important when I am followed by the celestial. It is like I am a part of nature.

I watch the moon with every step until I reach home. The building looms in the dark like a threat. The man walks to the door, mama comes out when he knocks. Mama thanks the man, takes my hand. Mama says no one searched for me. Mama says she doesn’t know the man. I look at the moon as I am led into the house. It still follows me. I am offered the chocolates again. I refuse. I do not want to eat it. What if it contains poison? The moon winks at me. Glimmers like a chain around the neck. I stare back. I blink. The moon doesn't leave. I close my eyes. And let it disappear.

Mrityunjay is a queer, trans, disabled writer of color. Mrityunjay's work has been published or is forthcoming in The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Indianapolis Review, Oyster River Pages, The Masters Review, and elsewhere. He's been awarded scholarships by Sundance, GrubStreet, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, The Common, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere. He was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. He was a semi-finalist for the Copper Canyon Press Publishing Fellowship. He has worked as a guest editor, a reader, and an intern at various literary journals. Currently, he's an editor for ANMLY, and he's a reader for the Harvard Review and The Masters Review.

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