Salonee Verma

To Be Clear: A Femme Fatale (Gender-Neutral!) Guides You Through A Noir Film in Bollywood (First Of Its Kind! Tickets Open Now!)

I should have been named Mohini & draped in face nets, poisoning husband after husband with my half-husband body & stringing the pearls from beneath their eyelids into bracelets to adorn wife/widow/wringing/wrists.

Mechanica sings from their lips, sometimes, right before technicolor bleeds out of their suits into the linoleum, pooling around stilettos like milk. They would tell me they had been fooling around with those androids & I would say I already knew, because where else would they be sneaking around on the days where I slithered around looking like a gumshoe & flirting with the mechanic who made the statues they make out with every now & then instead of me?

To be clear, I’m not lying when I wear those pressed suits one of the husbands leaves behind instead of slinky dresses with slits on my thighs.

The mechanic calls her sister on Saturdays and says, He was beautiful, like one of those dandies on the radio. They don’t make them like that anymore, do they?

The mechanic calls her friend on Sundays and says, How do you explain you’re falling in love with someone who can’t decide what they want to look like? Dance with me in drag next weekend. I want to scandalize this one’s husband.

We go into the city on those days, when the husband of the month can’t be concerned with where his wife’s heading or if she’s even a wife at all. Chrome-plated skylines wave back at us when we walk along the river, musty with pollution. I love you, the mechanic doesn’t say. I love you, I don’t reply.

The bastards say they marry me because I’m gorgeous, urban decay dripping down my skin like sex appeal at a Bollywood screen test. I wear red on our wedding days because it’s tradition, even though I think our ancestors would be horrified at a half-husband playing dress-up in a sari.

To be clear, I’m only lying sometimes when I wear a sari at my weddings. The pleats snatch my waist until I look like a complete woman, trussed up in gold & emeralds & so much wealth that I feel sick.

Husband #4 looks at my thigh once before clinking his glass & saying, By God, gentlemen, we’ve done it. We’ve finally caught one.

I smile & knock our fingers together & slit his throat in a back alley on our honeymoon.

His mechanic kisses my cheek after she throws his body into the lake before we go back to the hotel & spend the rest of the money he left for me. She tells me I’d look good with my wires hanging out & I tell her, It’s not like I’ll ever marry you anyways. The husbands like it.

To be clear, I’m not lying when I say this. I don’t marry mechanics, because I love them too much to taint them. They see metal when they touch me & I don’t correct them. Not for any specific reason, really, but sometimes it’s easier to be seen as fluid metal streaming down like liquid mercury instead of a fluid human.

Why is it so difficult for the birthplace of masala musicals to understand that there is no such thing as purity in people? Holika burns herself in a bonfire again & again & again & people accept it every time. Mohini makes a name for themself as a blowtorch again & again & again & people cannot stand the fact that they can’t be written off with one look.

To be clear, they don’t care so much that she’s a killer, but more that she isn’t a woman.

Husband #5 wants to take me south after the shaadi. It's the diesel age, baby, he tells me, laying a slithering hand on my shoulder. If Bangalore can't fix you, who can?

I smile & nod & wonder whose backyard his body will be found in tomorrow.

No one's, it turns out. Our plane gets overrun by air pirates, looking like pin-ups in those magazines Husband #2 used to smuggle from America. They remind me of Husband #1’s mechanic, all pretty curls & button-downs.

To be clear, I’m not a loving acolyte. I only remember her because she taught me to hide bodies when no one else would help me. There is no dearth of people willing to kill you when you are like me, but there is also no dearth of people who will love you. (Coincidentally, there is no dearth of people who want to trap you & put your fingers under a microscope as if that explains why you are metal & blood & flesh & woman & man & killer & lover & dream, either.)

I stab him in the commotion. Wedding reds are useful in this, as they are in most things: nobody can see the blood staining my knees. He dies quickly without much of a fuss. At least he was good for this.

Then, I yell for help. My husband's been killed.

One of the air pirates blows her hair out of the way & towers over me when she stands. I don’t marry women, but the way she looks at me makes me want to shrive myself to her. Makes me want to wait at her feet for her to absolve me of my sins, like that fisherman standing at the feet of Ram and waiting for penance. There is enough time for that. Right now, she says, Wasn’t us.

No, I agree. Will you take me back to Patna? I’d been wanting to go to that ice cream social.

Words cannot describe those like me, because we don’t fit. Shiva takes his Mohini back violently, because even though she was a god, she didn’t run. The air pirates take me back home, where I meet another mechanic and with her, another husband.

To be clear, I am both bride & groom, created to drape pearls of flesh around metal metal metal metal again & again & again.

"Mrs. Hira's Daycare" by Dedeepya Guthikonda

Salonee Verma is an Indian-American emerging writer from Virginia. Her work is published or is forthcoming in Backslash Lit, Pollux Journal, [sub]liminal, Southchild Lit and more. They have been recognized in the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards. Find him online at