The shapeshifter and I play carrom in the afternoon. I eat toast with pepper while the shapeshifter sinks coins like it’s no big deal and gives me tips on how to be a better me.
“You have to stop being depressed first," says the shapeshifter.
“I’m not depressed," I say, frowning at the board.
“You are," says the shapeshifter. “That’s why you’re like this."
“No job. Unmarried. Fat also."
I call the shapeshifter an asshole and the shapeshifter turns into Ms Bradley, my music teacher from grade six. She smiles fiercely under a crown of bright blonde hair, her high heels stabbing into the meek floor. She accuses me of being an ugly brown girl who turned all the white students into racists. She also accuses me of tracking up the carpet with my muddy shoes, impregnating her husband, and stealing all her HB pencils.
“Someone once told me that ugly brown girls turn into unicorns," I say. “Isn’t that so stupid? Ugly brown girls don’t turn into anything."
“Sure they do," says the shapeshifter. “They can turn into great conversationalists if trained properly."
“But not unicorns, right?"
“No," says the shapeshifter as Ms Bradley’s blonde hair begins to crystallize around her face. “Ugly brown girls can’t turn into unicorns."
When we get bored with carrom, the shapeshifter turns into seven purple chicks. I feed them stale bread crumbs and explain how coloured chicks are usually very sick but you only learn about this later, when you’ve already paid for them and brought them home.
“Ugly brown girls turn into coloured chicks," says the shapeshifter.
“That’s so stupid," I say. “That’s even stupider than the unicorn thing."
The shapeshifter says that a vegan diet and raising plants could definitely help in combatting my depression. It also suggests that I avoid wearing light colours and make more of an effort to meet new people.
“If I was a shapeshifter," I say, “I would probably turn into something exotic. Like a hobbit. Or a white guy."
“You probably wouldn’t turn into anything."
“You don’t know that," I say. “I might turn into a unicorn. I might turn into a white guy and a unicorn at the same time. And a hobbit. I might turn into a whiteguyhobbitcorn."
The shapeshifter says that now I’m just being disrespectful, so I apologize. I ask the shapeshifter to turn into a white guy but it says it can’t if it’s upset or if someone is watching. It promises to turn into a hobbit for me another time, when it isn’t feeling so tired.
We play Scrabble for a while but stop when the shapeshifter starts to lose. We think about playing carrom again but the expanse of the board and the drifts of white powder make us feel tired and lonely. The shapeshifter says that it sometimes feels homesick, but won’t say where home is. It half-heartedly turns into an old shoe, a small dog, a clutch of dying moths. It asks if I’m getting bored and I say yeah, a little.
“Boredom is a sure sign of depression," says the shapeshifter. “You should read more. And drink lots of water. You should do abdominal exercises."
“You know what I used to think? When I was little?" I say. “I used to think that if I gave myself enough surface burns, the scars would make me turn white."
“And then Ms Bradley would like me."
“Yeah. I also used to think that poo came out of your butt cheeks."
I start feeling hungry and say that I should probably be going soon. The shapeshifter does not ask me to stay and I wonder what it plans to do after I’m gone. At the door, it shifts into a bouquet of purple flowers which I can look at for a while but can’t take home.
“Try the vegan diet and tell me how it goes," says the shapeshifter. “And remember to think positive. Think positive and drink lots of water."
As I walk home, I decide that if I really tried, I could probably turn into a unicorn. The only reason I haven’t yet is because I don’t want to.
This is the final instalment of Kuzhali’s stories for Mint Lounge.