The Black Sheep
by Gaurav Monga
I remember him sitting on a rock. We spent our shortened childhood among the poplar trees—features of an anonymous landscape so natural to a fabricated environment like the short story.
Our love for each other had not so much to do with any particular interest or affinity we shared but with the fact that we had the same nose, lips, cheeks, buttocks, although people, friends, would often say that he looked better than me.
I was the black sheep and I made sounds like one when I laughed. It has become increasingly difficult to refer to him when he is not around, which is why I have begun to draw pictures of him.
The person who has the same nose as me grew like a beanstalk in the same room I grew up in. I tucked him in the warm quilts of winter while he was asleep.
He has been away for many, many years, which is why I carry this image with me everywhere I go, because when I start speaking about him, no one, except for childhood friends and cousins who visited us in our room and played with our toys, knows whom I am talking about.
He sent me a telegram only yesterday saying that he was coming back home but that itself might take many, many years.
In the meantime there is a lot to do here, while waiting for him in the neighborhood. I must spread rumors about myself, showing photographs to even the old. I showed them his image. Then a photograph of me.
How is it that people who speak the exact same language don’t know each other already? We talk to each other as if we don’t know each other from a long, long time ago, speaking in the same language.
The man with the stick nose who grew up in the same room looks like me. Do you think we look alike because we grew up in the same room? A room is composed of matching furniture.
When he returns, he will carry on his face all the rooms he has been shacked up in. He will speak in a language I don’t understand.
He arrived yesterday afternoon at the doorstep of our house while I was looking for something. I was upset—I have spent much of my life looking for things and being upset—and could not give the attention I always wanted to give to this moment. What a stupid way of arriving. Should I have forgotten all about what I was looking for or should I have forgotten that he had arrived.
I continued looking but, distracted, forgot what it was.
I hopped around the porch while this tall, thin giant, whose nose had been pulled out even further, stood towering over my head in silence.
The moment was almost over, could have already been over, had we not suspended it so stupidly.
It was already morning and the image of our little blue house was now comprised of two noses sticking out of the windows on either side. Our mother had given birth to us on this bed. We still kept the same sheet, which both of us were born into, in one of the closets.
The umbilical cords were withering in my father’s drawers—as children we used to blow hot air into them—along with pens, visiting cards, pipes, pipe cleaners and dust. He spent the whole day inspecting the house, its articles, and didn’t pay attention to me. He stuck his nose into everything. He was probably wondering why nothing had happened here.
Had it not changed at all?
Why did he not inspect me instead?
Did he not want to ask me how things were going with my new girlfriend?
Long noses are symbols of arrogance, everyone knows that. My grandfather had a squashed nose and was an extremely modest chap.
This man who grew up like a beanstalk in the same room as me began raising his voice and puffing hot air out of his nose and finally spoke, but his speech was soon disturbed by a burst of hiccups.
Before leaving, he loitered about on the front doorstep uselessly while I was busy looking for something.
Gaurav Monga studies East European cultures and Jewish studies at the University of Basel and teaches at the International School Basel. For the last five years he taught creative writing at schools and universities across South Asia. This current work is a part of a collection entitled Raju and Kishore. Some of his other work can be read at Birkensnake, Zero Ducats, Juked and Philistine Press. He has forthcoming work in the Fabulist and Hardly Doughnuts. He is the founder of a fledgling publishing house called Pan’s Library that specializes in books that explore the diverse relations between text and image and can be reached at email@example.com.
Featured Image: Two Children in Blue, attributed to Mary B. Tucker, American, 19th century, about 1840, Watercolor and graphite