6.16 / December 2011

The Golden Deer

listen to this story

I am always lusting after golden deer. It is my fate, my demon. Technically, the Golden Deer that Ravana used to lure Sita away was a demon, but that’s not what I’m saying. Or maybe it is. My best friend isn’t drinking anymore and she’s always talking about her newfound willpower. The drinking was the problem, she says, snorting a line of oxycodone.

What about the deer? I ask silently. What am I supposed to do about my deer problem? But I don’t know how to bring it up.

Marriage is like being exiled in the forest. When you’re exiled in the forest, all you want is a golden deer head on the mantle-even if before, you never ate veal. It’s like everyone grew a pair of antlers and dusted a fine layer of gold sparkles across their skin. Even at the post office, you find yourself wondering what it would taste like to have the rotund postmistress’ paper cut fingers in your mouth.

My husband is always drawing pointless lines in the dirt. If you draw a line, I mutter, it just attracts things. Drawing a line in the dirt is like a porch light in an Ohio summer. A line in the dirt is like the time an ex-boyfriend asked me not to sleep with this one particular woman with breasts shaped like the island of Ceylon. A line in the dirt turns the whole world hazy with want, it can be worse than the golden deer. Some nights, I draw a line around the bed and masturbate at the thought of it.

Maybe I have a line problem instead.

Oh, my best friend says. Can I do yours then?

You can lust so many things: an Irish boy with a bruised eye, Jujubes, your best friend’s fourteen-year-old cousin, ascetically-dressed men begging for alms, a line, some space to think about your demons-all of it, prancing around your head on little deer legs. All you want when your husband and his brother sit around the hut all day playing Xbox is for them to leave. I want a separate hut like this story I saw in the paper about a married couple who live across the street from each other. Isn’t that a great idea? My husband frowns. If you are married to a god and he frowns, the planets become misaligned. If you are married to a god, then a prenuptial agreement makes a whole lot of sense. I go around the hut singing Kanye under my breath. If you ain’t no punk, holla: We want prenupt! WE WANT PRENUPT!

A line in the dirt and even if you’re disguised as a mendicant, I can’t resist. Perhaps there will be a special Dr. Phil show about lines in the dirt and the women who love them. Perhaps Dr. Phil can talk to my husband about his god complex. Perhaps Dr. Phil can tell me how to stop falling for deer and mendicants who are really demons. Dr. Phil will teach me, and women everywhere, what to say. Strong women things like: A small rabbit cannot desire of possessing a lioness. A crow can never match the might of a vulture. A river can never dream of becoming an ocean.

Do you mind if I change the channel, my best friend says. Cheaters is on. In this episode, the surveillance cameras help Janyce locate her boyfriend enjoying a little lunchtime romance.

My husband doesn’t believe in golden deer. He sighs patronizingly when he catches me chatting with one on the internet. It’s all an illusion, he says, then goes to do more archery practice in the back yard with his brother. You’re such an amazing shot, his brother praises him. Sometimes I roll my eyes so hard I think I’ll go blind.

Demon is a harsh word, isn’t it? Monster? Raksha? Compulsive behavior? Why must we judge ourselves and those around us?

You want to see right to the thick of someone, my best friend says, it’s when they’re sleeping, fucking or dying. Cheaters makes her philosophical. But it’s true, in the bathroom stall where he had me pushed up against the wall, the sanitary napkin disposal box wedged into my back, I saw that the golden deer was all smeared stage make-up and lamé polka-dots over pock-marked skin and an underbite. The mendicant is one hundred times worse. We climb up to the roof of his building to get high and talk about Hindu philosophy, and all he wants to do is put it in my ass with no lube except his dry-mouth spit. We struggle for what seems like hours. I show up at my best friend’s house with tar on my knees and bloody bite marks on my back. She doesn’t notice.

I know what’ll happen next. My husband will hunt the mendicant down, with his brother and their other monkey-ass friends. There’ll be a lot of dick measuring and racism. Eventually, the mendicant will decide it’s not worth it, or my husband will pay him off to keep his rep, or they’ll clap each other on the back, wipe their bloody lips and go get a beer. “Bitches, man,” the mendicant will lisp.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting at the bar, looking around for someone to light my cigarette, fingering the curved line of my wedding ring in my pocket.

Neelanjana Banerjee’s fiction, poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Asian Pacific American Journal, Desilit Magazine, The Literary Review, Nimrod, A Room of One’s Own, The Rumpus, World Literature Todayand the anthologies Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana (Zubaan Books, 2011) andDesilicious (Arsenal Press, 2004). She is a co-editor of the award-winning Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2010). She received her MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University in 2007 and was awarded a writing residency at Hedgebrook in 2008. She digresses atneelanjanabanerjee.com.
6.16 / December 2011