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by Nida Sheriff
(Bangalore, India)

Pokey is a snoop. I could be kind and instead tell you that she is curious, inquisitive, has a thirst for knowledge, but whether or not the impression you form of Pokey is favourable I simply do not care. Pokey is a snoop and a mousey, nosey little busybody.

Pokey has snooped all her life, so she is really good at it. She's done it everyday, in a sense. Some days (when everyone is out at work or at a wedding that she has made up an excuse not to attend and stay at home with the intention of using the time alone to snoop) require the Deluxe Full Price Professional Snooping Package. The Deluxe Full Price Professional Snooping Package way of doing things is luxurious and decadent – this is painstaking and methodical snooping. This method requires gloves. Pokey wears the cheap white cotton gloves that came free inside the Magic For Kids box she got as a birthday present. She pulls on the gloves one at a time with the knowing seriousness of an ER doctor about to perform emergency surgery. She admires the backs of her fingers through the gloves as though offering tribute to her tools of the trade, those life-saving surgical instruments that she has attached to her hands. For what Pokey does is kind of like surgery, really.

Her target today is her sister's bedside table. It has a drawer and a storage space and must no doubt hold some high quality secret finds. First – the drawer. Pokey gently grasps the knob and pulls forward. Inside, there is a floral-patterned notebook, a wad of small envelopes like the ones used as gift cards, two small boxes, a cloth pouch, a mass of crumpled wrapping paper, and a black ball-point pen. She stares at the drawer for a moment to take a mental picture. She'll need this later.

Pokey picks up the diary first and opens it up to the page she last left off on. To her absolute delight there are fresh new entries divulging fresh new information. Pokey reads each word carefully, individually, careful not to skip over any words to make sure she absorbs every last drop. Her breathing grows steady, her heart rate slows, she blinks periodically to refresh her eyes. She handles the book with featherlight fingers, barely even touching it. A tear, smudge, or dent would alert the owner to foul play. She feels that familiar twinge in the pit of her stomach, that kind of makes her want to pee a little. But it soon passes and she crosses her legs just in case. The information is here, it would be a shame not to read it. When Pokey has finished reading all the fresh entries, she reads them again just in case she has missed something. Then she has finished with the diary and puts it back exactly as she found it. When sister comes home that evening she would have no idea that Pokey knows every detail of her most secret thoughts and desires, but Pokey would look at her anew and understand her a bit better. This is why Pokey snoops - to make sense of adult mystery. Pokey turns her attentions to the boxes, cloth pouch, and letters now. No doubt they contain the artefacts mentioned in the diary entries. Yes, one box contains a cheap silver ring set with a faux gemstone, and the other a (cheap) silver heart-shaped locket. Pokey opens up the locket, just to be thorough. It contains a tiny folded piece of notebook paper with the words “I luv you” in blue ink. A quick exploration of the cloth
pouch reveals a (cheap) silver necklace, adorned with a letter 'S' pendant. The little letters excite Pokey a bit more than the trashy inventory of teen love. As she expected, they are written in unfamiliar handwriting – black ink, ugly scratchy letters. Most definitely written by a boy. One of those hairy, tall trolls of boys at school for whom the onset of puberty meant flabby arms and stomachs and legs. Sometimes these apes wore their trousers so low, almost halfway down their butts, that she would catch glimpse of their horrid, hairy buttocks. They were oblivious, of course, and continued narrating whatever horrors they thought would earn them respect among other intellectual deficients. The fat ones where especially prone. Pokey read the letters but this time with her nose scrunched up, aghast. The letters were crude and almost insultingly stupid. Pokey gently slides them back into their envelopes, places them in exactly the same order and place as they were found, and unceremoniously slams the drawer shut. Pokey is not getting sloppy at this, but she has only gotten so good at snooping that she's confident the victims would never have a clue. Pokey is also an excellent liar.

Pokey proceeds to mother and father's room as part of the routine inspection. She already knows what she will find: cigarettes in mother's scarf drawer, receipts and business cards in father's coat pockets. Pokey already knows there are secrets, but her inspections are the only way to find out if the secrets have augmented, or have had another layer added to them, or if they're not even secrets any more. In the comfort and slackness of domestic abode, secrecy dies. Mother and father probably already know about each other's cigarettes and receipts. Or perhaps they don't. Pokey could never know. Nobody tells her anything.

Pokey checks the usual places. Opening a drawer (that contains the personal possessions of someone else) offers a thrill that can only be described as unknowingly entering the supermarket raffle draw and winning a free dish soap combo pack. When Pokey discovers something new, it's like winning the lottery. Today the diary jackpot means a net gain, even though mother and father remain stagnant in their offerings. It's been like this for weeks now. Pokey is disappointed, and a little sad at the thought. She doesn't really know what she wanted to find, just that she wanted to find something. She hates not knowing what they're doing, thinking, feeling. Sometimes, Pokey will sneak in an allusion to one of her discoveries to see them react, how they react - with unease (father), a snap (sister), or dismissal (mother). Pokey loves knowing. If she couldn't snoop, she wouldn't stand it. Pokey needs to understand people.

A key turns in the lock – the front door. The evening of fun is over. Pokey silently (barefooted) scurries into the living room, softly padded footsteps, elbows tucked in for aerodynamic advantage, to set upon the sofa even before the front door has opened. The television was left on. A film that Pokey has seen before is on. Pokey greets mother, father and sister. They ask about the film, Pokey tells them. Pokey is an excellent liar. Pokey smiles to herself when sister locks herself in her room, as if to say “I know what you're doing. You can't keep anything from me.” She purposely asks to use mother's mobile phone to watch the squirming and attempt to delete evidence. She asks father one too many questions about where he's been today, just a little curiouser than usual. Pokey loves knowing. Even though it disappoints her, and makes her a little sad.

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