Kushal Singh of Mumbai, MH was an average eleven-year-old schoolboy. He was neither very popular nor highly disliked. He got good grades and never misbehaved.
The only thing strange about him was his name. A lot of times people think it’s “Kaushal,” but no, it’s “Kushal.’” His parents named him after his great-great-grandfather, Kushal Singh, a linguistics scholar who had developed a new system of sign language that failed to ever really catch on with the masses. “Kushal” was a unique name, but Kushal didn’t feel unique. He merely felt odd. And lonely.
Kushal often felt a cold, hollow shame inside himself that he was truly alone and unloved in this world. He suspected that if anyone was ever nice to him or showed any affection, it was due to a sense of social obligation and not the fact that they really had any warm feelings at all about him.
Everyone was nice to him, but deep inside he suspected it was superficial. What if they were just pretending? If they really didn’t like him, fine. That wouldn’t be as bad as the phony way they were acting toward him. If they were only being nice to him for the sake of propriety, he would rather they be mean to him. Maybe they didn’t even respect him enough to be honest with him, and that would really hurt.
How could he be sure what they really thought? There was only one way, actually: He’d need to be able to read their minds.
A few months back he saw some show on cable TV where the guy said that if you just visualized your wish over and over again, one day that wish would come true. All you had to do was visualize. If it started to seem like it was taking a while, just keep visualizing. One day your wish will come true. The only thing that would stop it from coming true is if you don’t believe it will.
So every night after all his schoolwork was done, Kushal closed his laptop and started sitting quietly in his room, his eyes tightly closed as he visualized himself with the ability to read everyone’s minds. He knew that one day soon he’d be able to tell which kids at school really liked him and which ones were only being nice. He’d be able to know if the girl in his math class he’d been crushing on felt the same way about him.
He didn’t even ponder any of the practical benefits of being able to read people’s minds. With this new superpower, he could win every poker game because he’d know what cards the other kids were holding. He’d be able to know that when a stranger knocked on the front door claiming that his cell-phone battery had died and he just need to use the phone, Kushal the Mind-Reader would know whether that was true or if this was a dangerous criminal seeking to rob and kill his family.
These new mental powers could make Kushal Singh rich and famous, but he didn’t care about any of that. He just wanted to know for sure what other people were thinking about him.
“KUSHAL!” came his mom’s bellowing voice from the downstairs kitchen one morning, abruptly jolting him from a deep sleep. “It’s time for breakfast!”
Then the strangest thing happened. He could hear his mom thinking, “I can’t wait until I can go back to sleep.” This had never happened before. Was today the day he could finally read minds?
Kushal bolted out of bed, brushed his teeth, threw on some clothes, and bounded down to the kitchen, where the rest of his family were already halfway through their bowls of Fruity Pebbles.
His dad, Rahul Singh, was an insurance salesman who had to leave for the airport this morning for a cross-country business trip in Delhi. Dad went to Delhi about four times a year. And as he was munching on his cereal, dad was thinking about fucking this blonde schoolteacher in Delhi he’d met at a motel bar four years ago. His dad had sex with this woman every time he went to Delhi. Rough, wild, drunken sex. And his dad was thinking about how enthusiastic this woman’s embrace was compared to Kushal’s mom, who’d grown cold over the years of childbirth and diaper-changing and living in close proximity to Rahul’s morning breath and night-time flatulence and gradual emotional distance.
His mom, Tia Singh, was thinking about how nice it would be to abandon Kushal and his sister and dad and just run off to some island somewhere to get drunk on a hammock for the rest of her life. She was thinking about how she should have married the high-school jock with whom she’d had a brief but torrid sexual affair in the summer between junior and senior years, right before she met Kushal’s dad and decided to go with the “stable” guy rather than with the player. She would always regret choosing sensibility over passion.
His sister, Tina Singh, had already graduated from high school. She didn’t have to be at the restaurant for her waitress job until late in the afternoon, and she couldn’t wait to finish breakfast and head up to her bedroom again to search for the phrase “big thick cock” on Google Images. All morning long she planned to use one of her vibrators—the biggest one—on herself as she salivated on one JPG after another of anonymous veiny monster dongs.
This is awful, Kushal thought to himself. I had no idea my family were such a bunch of perverted degenerates. He regretted wanting to read their minds. He’d rather retreat to his former fantasy world where they were all wholesome and well-adjusted and happy with one another.
But as bad as all of that was, Kushal suddenly realized what the worst part was: They weren’t thinking about him at all.
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