By Anusha Bhat
Illustrations by Maitri Dore
It was in 2011 (and I was 15), that I first changed my Facebook profile picture to a photoshopped image of Kristen Stewart and me. It wasn’t masterful editing, but at least Bella was holding me instead of Edward. I wanted to go for a riskier picture, of us kissing, but I couldn’t photograph my face from that angle. Also, I didn’t want to piss off my uncle who religiously liked all my posts.
Back then, Robert Pattinson’s smile and disheveled hair were topics of international interest. My friends and I would discuss Twilight at lunch break, and only the few who had read all four books had control over the discourse on Pattinson’s smile.
I remember wondering why we didn’t discuss Kristen Stewart with the same zeal. I could think of only one reason. She didn’t sparkle like Edward. That had to be it.
In biology class, we were learning about the stages of cell division. I knew everything already, thanks to my extensive research on mitosis, after watching Bella argue with Edward about whether the cell in front of them was in anaphase and metaphase. I could have topped the class, but we also had parts of the knee for the test. And unfortunately, Bella didn’t seem to care as much about the femur.
When I read New Moon, I couldn’t contain my anger. That bastard. “Forget about him, forget about him, forget about him,” I chanted, knowing fully well that she wouldn’t. In English class, we had to write about “Pain” for an essay. And boy, did I understand pain. So, I wrote. I wrote of my pain. I wrote of her pain. I wrote of the pain in the behind that was Edward. I got a “C” and was gently told that I didn’t seem to have understood the topic.
I loved Jessica (Bella’s friend from school, for the uninitiated). I thought she was empathetic and kind, unlike Edward. She was pretty too! A small, gay part of me longed to see them kiss, but a friend told me that only a boy and a girl could kiss. “Because it would be messier when two lipsticks are involved?” I wanted to ask.
This was also around the time I stumbled into the rabbit-hole of fan-fiction. I found plenty of stories about Jessica and Bella and their grand kiss. I didn’t care that they were poorly written. A lot of things were poorly written, including my fate. I hated that I didn’t have a friend who agreed with me about Jessica and Bella. Only HannahP1, the writer of some of the steamiest Jessica-Bella stories, seemed to understand me.
And as though it wasn’t enough, Kristen Stewart was dating Robert Pattinson. But this pain, I could share with my friends. All of us hated the relationship. “Why is he dating her?” they’d lament. “Why is he dating her. Really.” I’d sigh.
I got my hands on the leaked version of Midnight Sun as soon as I heard about it. I wanted to see Bella through Edward’s eyes. I wanted him to tell me how beautiful she looked in her blue gown, and how it felt when he wrapped his arms around her for the dance.
There was only one other person who made me feel that way. Shah Rukh Khan. When he danced on the train in Chaiyya Chaiyya, my eyes stayed glued to him. When he said “palat,” I did (after a perfectly timed walk-away). I could gush about Shah Rukh Khan’s dimples and boyish hair with my girlfriends, and they’d get what I was talking about.
But for the 15-year-old girl in Bhubaneswar (yes, me), with little knowledge of queerness, there was only one other person who felt the same way about Bella. It was Edward. So I flowed through Midnight Sun, like my life depended on it.
I wondered whether Bella would like set dosa or masala dosa. Or, more importantly, whether she would like masala dosa with sambar or mutton curry. I desperately hoped it wouldn’t be sambar. I wondered how Bella wanted her coffee. It doesn’t matter, I told myself. I’d get her to like filter coffee. How else would she wash down the mutton curry?
So, a few weeks ago, when a dear friend tweeted about her recent guilty splurge on Midnight Sun, I did what any Twilight fan would.
I downloaded a pirated copy of it.
I didn’t feel as guilty as I otherwise would since Stephanie Meyer had appropriated the Quileute tribe. She was problematic and I was broke, so it was a fair deal. It’s still poorly written, but still better than Godfather (sorry, dudebros).
I breathed through the book in a day. It was hard to explain to my friends why everything I spoke about, over the next two days was about Midnight Sun. It’s hard being a Twilight fan. It’s harder being a Twilight fan who doesn’t swoon over Edward. Twilight haters don’t understand you, Twilight lovers don’t understand you. The wretched life of bisexuals.
I wish I could find HannahP1 and discuss Bella-Jessica smut with her again.
This time, however, it wasn’t mitosis I was obsessed with but Victoria, the antagonist. I’ve grown to love my bad girls. Especially the ones who challenge the heroes, are bitchy, and make you dislike them. With passion.
I wasn’t entirely sure what it was that made me pine for Bella. It wasn’t long before it dawned on me that it was all Kristen Stewart.
Watching Midnight Sun isn’t the same with Kristen Stewart having outgrown it. She’s kissing women now, and my older, gayer heart is finally almost content. The rest of the contentment will happen when I master Photoshop and kiss her. My uncle can turn away if he, too, is worried about the mess that two lipsticks will make.
Anusha Bhat is a student of Development Studies in Bengaluru. When she’s not reading, writing, or snacking, she enjoys sitting under the trees and watching leaves fall.