Anita Felicelli’s The Great Sari and Mango Novel introduced warring twin brothers Vivek and Anish during a trip they took in their twenties to Johannesberg to attend their cousin Amala’s wedding to her Nigerian fiance David. Catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. Part 6 is the latest installment in this serial fiction novel and provides Anish’s side of the story.
Next morning Anish woke in his hotel bed with no memory of the night before. His skin was hot and sticky and his eardrums felt flayed from the inside. The sunlight shone too brightly, cascading through the windowpanes like water on fire. Off in the distance was a bluish bank of trees, unfamiliar trees whose names were unknown to him. In spite of the sunshine, the moon hung wan and ghostly in the turquoise sky. The bed was as unsteady as a cresting wave as he shifted from side to side. He wondered if he was about to be launched into an abyss again, the same abyss from which he’d awoken in the psych hospital.
He had spent two weeks in the Even the ones who hadn’t tried to slit their wrists seemed to be more serious cases than he was.hospital, watching television from a ratty beige sectional that smelled like vomit, keeping a safe distance from the other inmates, most of whom seemed far worse off than he was. Even the ones who hadn’t tried to slit their wrists seemed to be more serious cases than he was. They talked in tangents or worse were catatonic. They came to the craft hour and made little memory boxes with photographs clipped from National Geographic and People Magazine, although neither animals nor celebrities had much to do with their fucked-up lives.
Aside from the sectional, the common room stank of ammonia and old people, but the individual rooms were newly decorated with pastel landscapes. From the windows there, he could see a nearby college campus. But when Anish tried to stay in the clean comfort and protection of his own room, his psychiatrist took his isolation as a sign that something was still wrong. “Try to spend a little time with the others,” she said on the third day during their daily check-in. “You might learn something.”
Anish shrugged. “They’re complete fuck-ups, Dr. Felicelli,” he said. “This one Anita Felicelli sat back in her swivel chair wearing an inscrutable expression and pushing her glasses back up her nose.says the word penis maybe fifty times a day. That one talks about her third round of electroshock. She told me I should try it.” He paused for emphasis, but Anita Felicelli sat back in her swivel chair wearing an inscrutable expression and pushing her glasses back up her nose. She was a young Italian woman with dark lustrous hair in a severe French braid, and Anish thought that if he were not a patient, he would have made a pass at her.
“That’s very judgmental. I’ve noticed you can be harsh in your assessments of why other people do things.” She paused. He didn’t know if he was supposed to say anything and was embarrassed momentarily for calling the others “fuck-ups.” They looked worse off, but they were all here together. “Would you say that’s a fair assessment?” she asked.
“I guess I think it’s honest. Maybe not the kind of stuff people are willing to say, because we’re all supposedly the same, only, obviously they’re not.”
“You don’t think you’re the same?” She was writing on her pad and he wondered if he “You don’t think you’re the same?”could get access to the notes to read about himself, to get some sort of explanation for why his real life — the life he was supposed to have had as an able-bodied intelligent man — always seemed to be slipping out of his grasp, the people around him always just a bit askew.
“I mean, some people just do feel more than other people. Not like they shouldn’t be treated equally or something,” Anish stammered.
“Whether they talk about it or not, everyone suffers.”
“You really don’t think some people suffer more than others?” He found this hard to believe. It seemed obvious to him that some people felt more than other people.
“Of course. But you’re approaching it like it’s a feeling contest. It’s not. They’re “You’re approaching it like it’s a feeling contest. It’s not.”not your competitors and they’re also not so different from you. Give them a chance. Socializing and developing a support network can boost your mood. The occupational therapist should have talked to you about whether you feel you have one.”
“A support network?”
Anish sat back in the leather armchair. Dr. Felicelli’s leg was rocking back and forth in a taupe high heel shoe. He thought about his family and how ashamed they used to be about his bad grades and how he had barely bungled through high school and college. How he never developed a talent for any of the things they valued — medicine, engineering, teaching, music. How he worked at an upscale bistro as a server in spite of, or maybe because of, his sociology degree, serving mostly white people who had lots of money and power, most of whom left bad tips and treated him like shit.
He thought about how his dad said he was spoiled You could be sitting in the same room full of people, eating sambar and curd rice day-in, day-out, and still never be known.for not understanding how good he had it in America, compared to his own childhood. How his dad said that of course this was all his fault because he worked in the service industry, living paycheck to paycheck, instead of buckling down and getting a useful degree from a top tier school, a professional job. He thought of how you could be sitting in the same room full of people, eating sambar and curd rice day-in, day-out, and still never be known, and this quiet violence would persist to the end of time. “Not really,” he said.
She nodded sympathetically. “Is there anyone you confide in?”
“Not really,” he said. “I guess kind of my brother, but a lot of the time he just doesn’t get it. He’s just too brainwashed by the system, the achievement culture to understand my experience.”
She nodded again. “Do you compare yourself to him?”
“No,” he said. “I mean, he’s a tool of capitalism. We don’t have much in common.”
“Have you ever kept a journal?”
“Me? No.” he said.
“I’d like you to start keeping one. Write about what happened to you. How you got here. Why you decided to cut your wrists. I won’t look at it, but it can help us figure out what we should be talking about.”
Dutifully he trudged to the common room and tried to talk to the others, What he learned from their anecdotes was that if you were going to kill yourself, you couldn’t half-ass it.but as he had suspected, what he learned from their anecdotes was that if you were going to kill yourself, you couldn’t half-ass it or you would be stuck in a kind of medical purgatory for weeks or even months. They might even zap your brain to get it to work the way they thought it should. In hindsight, he found it remarkable that Dr. Felicelli had released him within two weeks, since he had refused to take the anti-depressants, but perhaps it was because she couldn’t make a definitive diagnosis beyond atypical depression and he had agreed to continue seeing her.
He started chronicling every memory from his childhood, all the mystery and confusion he felt growing up inside a household that felt miles away from Forest Hills, a Brigadoon household — people lost in time, acting out the same scripts used in a fishing village in the 1980s. He had shown her some of the journal entries, hoping to hear her tell him his journal was genius. To his disappointment, she didn’t say that, but she did say a novel about all of it would be interesting.
Anish had already resolved that if he tried to kill himself again — if the book didn’t work out and he was going to be stuck serving white people the rest of his life, he would try a combination of techniques — he would throw spaghetti at the wall. Something would stick. None of this coming back to find that your mother and father were traumatized and your self-righteous prick of a brother thought you were selfish and faking how you felt for attention.
His mother came to the hospital every day, but his father called instead of visiting to lecture him: “Do you know where I was when I was twenty-seven? I was finished with a Ph.D and working and supporting this family. Your brother never acted like this.” But could Anish help it if his emotions were stronger than Vivek’s? Of course Vivek never did this because Vivek didn’t feel as much.
He had resolved after the conversation with his father that if he ever did it again, it would be a permanent solution involving everything — a noose, pills, even a gun. Or maybe not a gun, he thought, changing his mind. That was too American; his parents would never understand that, or forgive him.
In the hotel room in Jo’Burg, Anish rolled out of the stiff bed and crawled on all fours towards the bathroom. Anish rolled out of the stiff bed and crawled on all fours towards the bathroom.The last thing he remembered was Amala saying I do. Mission accomplished. Most of what happened before and after that was a blur, a patchy in-and-out of consciousness. Through the crack in the door, he could see Vivek brushing his teeth. Vivek evidently heard him and turned to Anish with a mouth coated in white froth. “Finally. Now that you’ve succeeded in absolutely humiliating us, maybe we should skip the family breakfast and just try to catch Amala and David on our way back from Kruger.”
“Humiliated? C’mon I was just having fun. What are you talking about?”
“You went on some kind of rant about how racist the relatives are.”
Anish vaguely recalled thinking that his aunt was a hypocrite. “Well, but they are. Okay, some of them are. That’s a technicality.”
Vivek spit into the sink and continued brushing. “So you remember?”
“No, I don’t remember that,” he said, momentarily abashed.
“You drank to blackout?” Vivek palmed some water and swished it around his mouth before spitting it out and wiping his mouth with a bright orange towel embroidered with ducks.
“Yes, Mom, I got wasted.”
“Don’t talk about our mother that way.”
“What way? It’s just a joke.”
“It’s not just a joke. Everything with you is a joke.” Vivek sounded Anish took off his Das Racist shirt and walked into the hot vanilla scented cloud of steam.exasperated. He was already dressed in khaki pants and his hair was wet. Steam from the bathroom trailed behind him as he hurried to the open suitcase on his bed. Anish took off his Das Racist shirt and walked into the hot vanilla scented cloud of steam. The mirror was fogged.
“You don’t make any sense in the morning.” Anish began flossing. “And aren’t Amala and David going to be on their honeymoon by the time we swing through again?”
“No, they’re hanging out with family for a few days.”
“Shouldn’t we stay and visit with them?”
“What you did was so embarrassing, they probably need a little space, too.” Vivek started texting on his cell phone.
“Laying the guilt on pretty thick,” Anish said, closing the bathroom door.
“We’ve got to pick up Aimee and Subashini first,” Vivek said. “It could get dicey.”
“Oh Aimee’s coming? Cool!” Anish said. Hot girl!
“You’re the one who invited her,” Vivek said. Anish hummed as he turned on the shower and stepped into the cool stream of water.