This Is Us and This Is Us Outside by Kuzhali Manickavel

The Pepsi Girl will puke all over the table in fourteen minutes. We will watch her and wonder who she is and why she is puking at our table. The Gay Man will start covering the puke with paper napkins. He will not scream 'Oh my goodness!' or flutter his hands. We will be stunned by this when we think about it later. We will decide that he probably isn't gay.

The Girl With Razor Blades will find everything incredible and funny, especially the puking Pepsi Girl, the napkins and The Gay Man. She will say, 'Look at the fucking pouf, no? Look what he's doing, no? Look at this vomit case, no?' A few days later, when we are talking about the new Rupee symbol and wondering how to draw it, The Girl With Razor Blades will suddenly show us her breasts. She will stand there with her shirt open and we will not know what to do. It will be The Paracetamol Girl who finally says 'What the fuck?' The Girl With Razor Blades will say her Malayali grandmother never wore a blouse at all. 'Boobs are not a big deal. Don't be so hung up on boobs,' she will say and The Paracetamol Girl will say 'I don't give a fuck about your Malayali grandmother.' Later, we will discover that The Paracetamol Girl used meth on her last trip to the US. We will ask her what it tasted like and if it hurt. She will say she hates the States, she keeps thinking about college and she misses college so much. She will never say she misses us. One month later, she will go to America and never come back and we will never see her again.

I will see The Gay Man once more but I won't tell anyone about it. He will say 'What happened to your friend?' and I won't know what he's talking about. 'The one that vomited that night,' he will say and I will think how after a certain age, one should stop saying 'puke' and start saying 'vomit'. I will say 'She's not my friend,' and he will say 'Oh.' I will imagine The Pepsi Girl's unconscious body being passed around a backroom where she is gang-raped by auto drivers, sons of politicians and hotel staff. 'I'm sure she's fine,' I will say to The Gay Man. I will not tell him that he is the first gay person I have ever met and that I will never forget him.

We will learn about The Pepsi Girl's alcohol poisoning much later. The Paracetamol Girl will already be gone and we will miss her fiercely when we hear the words 'alcohol poisoning'. We will all feel responsible. I will ask if the alcohol poisoning means she was gang-raped and everyone will tell me to shut up because the word 'rape' will make everyone uncomfortable. The Girl With Razor Blades will call someone to find out what happened but this someone will not remember The Girl With Razor Blades or The Pepsi Girl and they will not know what we're talking about.

At first, we will decide that she did not die. We will tell ourselves that she probably went to work the next day with a hangover and went to the gym in the evening. We will decide that her nickname is Capacity. This will not explain why we called her The Pepsi Girl but we will not discuss that.

Then we will decide that she did die. It was probably her first time drinking. She was probably 22 with a younger brother in 12th standard. Her parents will be more bewildered than sad at her death. They will say 'But she studied so well,' and they will not understand how a girl who studies so well can become a woman who dies of alcohol poisoning. We will feel sorry for them and we will also think they are stupid. We will be glad they are not our parents.

But we're not thinking of any of that right now. Right now, I'm looking at The Gay Man and wondering if kissing him would be like kissing a girl. The Paracetamol Girl is eating all the food on the table and saying 'Everything tastes like shit. I can't believe we're spending money here so we can sit and eat shit'. 'I know,' says The Girl with Razor Blades. 'And white women are such fucking whores.' She says this loudly, so that the white woman at the next table turns and looks at us.

We will only notice The Pepsi Girl fourteen minutes later, when she pukes all over the table.




Kuzhali Manickavel's collection Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings is available from Blaft Publications and can be found at Powell's Books, Small Press Distribution and Her work can also be found in Best American Fantasy 3, Subtropics, AGNI Online, anderbo, DIAGRAM and elsewhere. She lives in a small temple town on the coast of South India and blogs at