Infectious
BY Savin Edirisinghe

It took only few weeks of revealing to change us. But deep down we knew if we are to survive this irony of a life we have to embrace it and move on and that’s what we did.

I come from a typical Sri Lankan family. We are not rich, we are not poor, we are just very very adaptive. I always saw both of my parents as a singular entity, but recently I’m scoping them as two individuals who have different tastes in music, different tastes in food and unique ways of doing their mundane tasks, the only commonality they both have is me. I always saw them as 15-year-olds, because that’s how long I have known them, but recently we have being spending a lot of time together due to the pandemic and suddenly I clocked that both Amma and Appachchi roamed this earth for more than 15 years and that means they have got a past that I know nothing about. My Appachchi was my role model. He is the second most masculine and powerful man I know, the most masculine and powerful man I know is not even a man, it’s my Amma.

Appachchi has been taking calls a lot recently and he seems to always try to not look at Amma. Amma being the rigorous woman she is has noticed these slight changes and called out Appachchi on them, Appachchi’s response was simply denying all this and moving on with his daily activities but this time it’s different he has nowhere to escape due to the lockdown. Amma wasn’t very attractive. She always used to complain about her skin and body structure, she was not very fashionable, and she always seems to be wearing some dress with dust and stains on it and smelling of some kind of a curry. This was all because she was the one who was toiling to keep the house together, without her me and Appachchi wouldn’t have lived much longer we would have died either from starvation or from being covered by our own filth. But during the last week all this changed. Amma used to dress much nicer and smelled nicer too. She used to make exotic meals and asking me for recipes from the internet and she was constantly rubbing shoulders with Appachchi. She was in constant need of him although she didn’t truly need him, she’s perfectly capable of scrapping coconut to make one of her usual curries but now she wanted Appachchi by her side for these kinds of chores. She was begging for attention.

The changes started happening.

I could here a sound like a mouse biting away a wire, but in actuality it was Appachchi on the phone talking with someone. These talks became more and more often, and I was not the only one who had noticed that. Despite Amma’s best efforts to gain the attention of Appachchi, the attention has been shifted towards these mysterious calls.

I didn’t want to believe it at first and neither did Amma, I think. But one evening she caught him in the act, I was in my room, but I heard everything. Appachchi was having an affair. Denial from Appachchi and absolute conviction by Amma. I couldn’t do anything, I contemplated facing my friends and was in horror of things changing, I hated change. It was never the same again. Amma barely talked with any of us for the rest of the week. I was thinking, ‘What did I do?’ This behavior of Amma made me guilty too, I was the thin loose rope holding these two disconnected human beings together. Maybe that was why I was named Rahula – Rāhu jāto, bandhanam jātam — “A rāhu is born, a fetter has arisen.” I was the fetter.

One morning, I was thinking what if my parents divorced, what then, it’s a good thing that the schools are closed because of the pandemic. What happened to them, what happened to love.

Appachchi was now like a prisoner on his own house he didn’t come out of his room that often he was keeping to himself until Amma brought me Appachchi’s phone and wanted me to read out the numbers that Appachchi has called, I knew exactly what she wanted, I followed her instruction, and we acquired the contact number of the woman that Appachchi was having an affair with. Amma dialed the number; the phone was ringing. The call was picked up and I heard a voice, but it was not what Amma, or I was expecting, it was a male voice. Amma was startled and for moment both Amma and me felt a relief. Maybe Appachchi was not having an affair, maybe it’s all in Amma’s head. Amma said This is Sarith’s Wife, who’ this? and from the other side I very faintly heard a male voice.

‘Finally, he has told you the truth right?’. ‘What truth?’ asked Amma. What was said next changed our lives forever. Appachchi was indeed having an affair, Amma assumed it was with a woman, but it was far more complex. Appachchi was in love with a man. This was all foreign to me and for Amma as well. The man said that the affair was going on for quite a while and that Appachchi was hiding his sexuality for many years and that he had urged him to tell it to Amma and do the right thing, but he was too ashamed. Suddenly it made sense, Appachchi was almost recoiled by Amma for the last few years, it was not because of Amma’s unpleasantness it was far more psychological and deeper.
Amma hung up the phone and was seated thinking for the next few hours. I went near her and told her I knew everything and that I was eavesdropping, I thought, at least she doesn’t have to worry about explaining all this to me.

Appachchi came out of the Washroom. I was expecting a big fight but instead Amma ran towards him and hugged him tight and said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”. She then told Appachchi everything that she now knew. Appachchi started weeping. ‘Are you disgusted at me, I’m sorry but It’s who I ‘am.’ Amma broke into tears, ‘No darling, I love you and I loved you for who you are’, there was more hugs and crying. ‘Does Rahula know?’ Appachchi asked Amma. I stepped out of the shadow and said, ‘Yes I know’. I have never seen my Appachchi that vulnerable and helpless. ‘I’m still your Appachchi, don’t be ashamed of me please, I won’t be able to bear it’, his voice was shaking. ‘You are my Appachchi’ I said and started weeping as well. The truth was out and it’s not what we all expected to be or expected to happen. Amma didn’t know what to do, so she did what she always does, she tossed herself to work, she swept the house and started preparing dinner. We were seated, silently eating our food.

But then,

The first step towards moving on was taken. The silence was broken. Appachchi stood up holding my and Amma’s hand and started talking. “I love both of you, I really do. You are part of me. But we were rushed” Appahchi said looking at Amma. “We were bound to each other before we even knew what we were.” Then he looked at me “Rahula- my son, I’m sorry if you ever felt ignored, you were the light in the dark, but I… we asked too much from you. You were given the burden of carrying a dying relationship. But I love you, I love you both and for the first time in a long time I love who I ‘am as well and I was in love again. I feel less trapped, I’ll never be free, especially in this society, I will be judged and humiliated. I’ll never be able enjoy my full freedom as my true self, but that’s okay, it’ll be more bearable with both of you by my side, and I hope you will be my side.”
It was difficult for us, but we loved him too, Amma and I. Amma and Appachchi made some settlements for a new way forward. Homosexuality being a taboo subject in the country along with divorce so, living out our true lives was not an option. Amma changed, she became more tender with Appachchi. Amma, Appachchi and me we were all still living in the same house. Amma also invited Appachchi’s boyfriend over after the lockdown was lifted, little by little he became a part of our family. I don’t know why but I was expecting him to be different, but he was just like a regular man. As soon as I saw him and my Appachchi together talking and smiling, I thought he was a much better a match to Appachchi than Amma. He got all the jokes that Appachchi made that Amma didn’t get, and he was very polite and easy going. Amma and Appachchi had to learn to love each other again in a different way. From there own we were very close and understanding about each other after all I thought love is love and just like any other thing in the world it changes from time to time all we have to do is figure out the change and adapt.

I thought how I felt trapped in the house due to the pandemic it was stressful and uncomfortable but then I suddenly remembered how frustrating Appachchi must have felt being trapped in his own desire and hiding his true self from the society. The pandemic will eventually go away some day but love, now love will never fade and if love infects a person there’s no harm and I thought what if love can spread instead of the pandemic, then the world would be a much better place.

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