The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

By Mira Jacob; Published In 2014
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Cultural, India, Family
A collection of takeout boxes slumped together like old men in bad weather.

Amina would not know herself until years later, when she understood what it was to long for someone, to ache for their smell and taste on you, to imagine the weight of their hips pinning yours so precisely that you crane up to meet your own invisible desire

And even if Amina didn't yet know what it was to love like that, to burn until your spine has no choice but to try to wind itself around an empty shirt, she understood for sure that the people who said it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all were a bunch of dicks.

An hour later, Amina stood at a pay phone in a mall hallway, where poop and perfume and the grease from the food court formed the kind of atmosphere you might find in Jupiter's red spot

Cooking was a talent of her mother's that Amina often thought of as an evolutionary way for Kamala to survive herself with friendships intact. Like plumage that expanded to rainbow an otherwise unremarkable bird, Kamala's ability to transform raw ingredients into sumptuous meals brought her the kind of love her personality on its own might have repelled.

He’s fine,” Kamala said. “It’s not like that. You’re not listening.” “I am listening! You just told me he’s delusional, and I’m asking—” “I DID NOT SAY HE IS DELUSIONAL. I SAID HE WAS TALKING TO HIS MOTHER.” “Who is dead,” Amina said gently. “Obvious.” “And that’s not delusional?

I mean, if you’re really plunging—you said plunging, right?—into this book, then tethering yourself to every single guidepost along the way isn’t really going to make that happen.” Mr. Tipton’s mirth was palpable. “So you think critical reading is a useless activity? That your classmates are just, what, not experiencing the book?” “I think the best way to experience this book is to let it happen to you and think about what it all means later.” “Later when?” “Later when you’re a high school English teacher.

Kicked out for what?" Amina asked, and Dimple smiled like she'd won the $25,000 question.
"Atheism."
A small murmur went up in the room, followed by a few nervous glances. While everyone knew better than to actually believe in God, the outright denial of one seemed dangerous and possibly gauche

Like many people whose lives had formed around a particularly painful incident, she had grown used to providing ellipses around the event of her brother's death to keep conversations comfortable. At some point the subconscious logic of this had spread to the rest of her life so that she rarely talked about things she had been deeply affected by. It wasn't hard to do.

Mindy Lujan with her feathered hair, bullying blue-lined eyes, and potty mouth that rivaled Akhil's, managing to use fuck as a verb, an adjective, and a noun, often in the same sentence, as in, "Who the fuck does that fucking fuck think she's fucking with?

Nobody likes these things life hands us. But part of becoming a man is understanding how to face them head on instead of running all the time. It's time you learned how to do that.

Of course he had a female following. Was there anything college girls found sexier than being told what to think?

Oh," she said, covering her face with her hand. It was not an oh of disappointment or an oh of surprise but an oh that Amina had never heard before, scraped raw with an emotion Amina would not know herself until years later, when she understood what it was to long for someone, to ache for their smell and taste on you, to imagine the weight of their hips pinning yours so precisely that you crane up to meet your own invisible desire. She watched as Paige crossed Akhil's room, undistracted by all the usual things that stopped people- the Greats, his desk, the leather jacket hanging from his chair- and moved straight for his hamper, which she opened up, pulling out a forgotten T-shirt and crushing it into her face. "Oh,", she said again, muffled. Oh. And even if Amina didn't yet know what it was to love like that, to burn until your spine has no choice but to try to wind itself around an empty shirt, she understood for sure that the people who said it was better to have loved and lost than never to to have loved at all were a bunch of dicks.

Somehow, all the talk about tenure and anthropology had given her visions of a thick-walled, libraried adobe, the kind of place that was covered with kilim rugs and fertility sculptures. The white stucco in front of her looked only slightly more substantial than a roadside weigh station.

The commodification of beauty is an economic trap designed to enslave the modern woman.

There are small blessings, tiny ones that come unbidden and make the hard day one sigh lighter.

Thomas sniffed. “Don’t let’s start with all that.” “I am not starting anything! You yourself started this business!” “Enough, Kam. I am warning you.” “You don’t warn me when I’m warning you!

We are all we have here. Do you understand? That is it. And we can all talk about old times and Campa Cola and wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back, but none of us ever want to go back. To what? To who? Our own families can’t even stand us for longer than a few days! No, we are home already, like it or not,

Weddings are about fantasies—you understand? Your job is to photograph the fantasy, not the reality. Never the reality. If I ever see another picture like that, you’re fired.

What are you girls, if not my very own heart growing up once and for all?

Why do fathers look ungainly in their daughter's bedrooms? Like mythical beasts wandered in from the forest of another world?

Why is it that fathers so often ensure the outcome they are trying to avoid? Is their need to dominate so much stronger than their instinct to protect? Did Thomas know, Amina wondered as she watched him, that he had just done the human equivalent of a lion sinking his teeth into his own cub?