I was at the back, curled up like a fetus, my elbows touching my penis—and Sam, Sam was mostly awake. And he often gawked at the pictures of bikini models and men in speedos (I couldn’t tell which one, when) on his primitive smartphone with joystick and compact buttons.
“Tch! The Wi-Fi sucks”, he would grunt loudly, in fact, I woke up to his grumbles more often I remember I woke up to my alarm.
I was new to this. I was new to everything. Our dormitory smelt of cum, at places, of cum and piss. I would walk in, walk out, no eye contact or exchange of greetings—like a slave.
The very first day, he and they—all of them—occurred odd. I barely managed a “hello”, at the shorter, less intimidating and almost likeable guy in V-neck vests. He winked. Strange! I thought. Fourteen years of my life, and no one had ever winked at me. My dad used to wink at me, but he would do that only when he cajoled mom in getting me one more scoop of ice-cream after dinner or hide an entire packet of jelly beans from my elder sister, just for me, or things like that.
That day I walked up to my rusty cot—it stroked like a swing, whenever I tossed or turned on it—carrying my backpack, a pair of sneakers, the dormitory guidelines and everything that I possessed or was given, like a victim of apartheid. One of them, I think his name was Vir, slapped my back as I walked past him and it was not until this night that I realized, it indeed really was a sexual innuendo masked under brotherhood (as they called it) and not my assumption, when I woke up asphyxiated with his hands on my neck—trying to gag and choke me at the same time.
“Shush”, he said and then bit my ears gently, then slobbered it, his tongue deep in, cleansing the lobes, shoved deep in the canal.
I pushed him away; a scuffle, a failed one. He punched my spine and did not stop until he threw five of those hardy knuckles. I almost ran out of breath at the fourth one; it was right in the middle of my slightly hunched back.
“Hold still”, his voice was an upsetting whisper, and his breath was the after taste of garlic and onion. I gasped, clasped my bedsheet, making a mess of it. He put his broad and rancid black palm on my mouth, suffocating me with my silent hiccups.
Then he did something, I wasn’t sure what or why. But under my blanket, his hands mischievously caressed my body parts that I always thought were filthy—even for me. I once again feebly tried my best to combat this whale of a guy with clammy armpits. He had stout legs that he wrapped around me and pushed his body in to mine, gently, vigorously, choking me. I was helpless like a corpse and had almost turned in to one, by the time he disappeared to his cot.
I pulled my boxer shorts up and ran to the bathroom as soon as he left. I latched the door from inside, and stood in front of the mirror. Then vomited my last meal in the corner.
My hairless chest and burning neck, had long strangle marks, as if drawn by a ligature.The blood clots below my ears and a premature Adam’s apple, were red, almost purple and red, with hints of teeth marks. I howled looking at them. Then someone knocked the door. I wiped my tears, splashed water over my face and bulbous eyes, combed my bedhead hair with fingers and opened the door. Sam walked in.
“What are you doing?”
“This bathroom is meant for just one person”, I opposed.
“I know” he said “… and did you like it?”
“Oh! Look at your neck.” He peeked.
I jerked his hand off and pushed him away. Almost slapped him. I was furious and I could have taken him down, if he too forced himself on me. He had a petite body and his beard had not completely sprouted yet.
“He is quite strong, isn’t he?” Sam asked.
“Vir … who else?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” I sprinted to the door.
He grabbed my hand.
“Listen, I am not like him. I have been where you are. We could be friends.”
For some unknown reason, I believed him when he said that. Maybe, because his voice, even though not very convincing or authoritative, it still had a sense of comfort to it.
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Yes”, he said, “everyone who comes to this school and stays in this hostel at first, is like you; scared, unsure, quiet and fragile, sometimes homesick. Let’s just say that at first we all are shocked, then we are unpleasantly surprised, then we get used to it.”
“I will never get used to it.”
“You will have to”, he said, “You see, you are here for the next three years. You don’t have a lot of choices. What? You think you can go and tell all this to the warden? That would be the worst thing you could do man! Because he too likes boys. Besides, who doesn’t like this, once in a while?”
“And your parents? You think they would believe your petty excuses?” He tried his best to convince me that it was alright, that I needn’t worry , that these years will pass-by in a jiffy, while I stood there staring at the purple bites on my neck, listening to each of his words that hit me like a dagger with jagged edge.
Next day, and the subsequent days after that, that I had not gotten used to yet, went on my diary under the title, “worst days of my life – day1, day2, day3 and so on …” I would wake up to the sound of the corridor bell and the smell of talcum powder on bare chests. Then they would point at me inaptly and laugh, ruffle my greasy combed hair, slap me floppily, squirt thick white tooth paste on my bedsheet and giggle.
I was often caught by the groups, sometimes thrice a day. Then I would be ragged, stripped naked in the hallway in broad day light. I couldn’t make any friends. Instead I did their dirty laundry and made their beds for months. I was always unsure of the faces. They all looked the same; crew cut hair, always wearing khakis, talking crudely and chanting brotherhood slogans. I would often wonder who had already forced himself on me and who was still waiting for his turn that night.
This went on for months and they did not leave, like a bad fortune, like an unsolicited guest, like a painful acne. I on the other hand, was gradually giving up, in fact, I had voluntarily muted myself. Whatever I expressed, started with; Dear Diary…
Sam would try to talk to me once in a while and try showing me the brighter side of everything. But it never worked. I had found a better companion than him in substance abuse; from paper whiteners to glue boxes, from petrol to the smell of fresh paint, from Vicodin to horse tranquilizers, I was sniffing and snorting all the junk that I could spot in the campus. This way, I realized, the days passed rather quickly and I disgusted most of them enough, to maintain a certain distance. So what started as a distraction tool, turned in to a deep addiction and sort of a chastity belt.
My grades were always low. I walked around looking like someone who badly needed a crutch, my eyes were perpetually baggy and I survived, what I think, were four minor painless heart attacks.
Now, that it’s a thing of the past, and now, when I am no longer a low shoulder, glue sniffing teenager. I often replay Sam’s words in my head, “You will get used to it”, he used to say that with utter conviction;
“You’ll soon get used to it. And who doesn’t like all this once in a while?”
I never did, and contrary to what Sam would tell you even now, there were days, when I saw him breakdown in the dingy corners of the dormitory and feel less of a man than he thought was.
Anyway, now that I am no longer suffocating in the cobweb spun by some teenage predator goons, I try to stay clean. I jog, I meet positive people, eat right, bond with my family, and share my feelings. I try hard not to tap much in to the atrocious memories of the past; it’s an unopened black box of curses, it’s a voodoo doll, it’s a demon wanting to be unleashed. And it keeps me sane. I keep my emotions and regrets tamed, until, I flip open my high school scrapbook and turn a few pages, or until I am tagged in one of the group photos from the school years or until someone from my high school wants to add me to their Facebook friend list. Like it’s alright. Like it was all a part of the normal adolescent years. Like it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Like it was all just a part of the brotherhood protocol.