today i thought of the house that i lived in
when i was little. it was almost always cold,
and the high ceilings made it seem empty,
my voice always echoing.
when i closed my bedroom door, windows shook
and hinges creaked. sometimes, late at night,
i dreamt about ghosts watching me sleep,
although my father called it ‘air pressure’,
said it made houses behave like this.
i don’t know and i never learnt. i forgot
everything i heard in each physics lecture i took.
my teachers always used the word ‘potential’
in their year-end reports, and by the time i was twelve
i knew it was just a synonym for disappointment.
my parents only shook their heads and said
‘you were born to do better.’
instead, i played hooky with the college boys,
hid behind greenhouses and smoked cigarettes
even though it was bad for my health,
even though i knew i wasn’t a smoker, knew i hated
the way the tobacco tasted on my teeth.
i wasn’t trying to be destructive but it seemed
to come so easy, like learning a habit.
i did it because i thought he would notice me.
i am older, but i don’t know any better.
my last lover drove himself to despair trying to find
a box shaped like me, something to fit me inside.
he cried when he found out i was strange.
i was nineteen when my grandmother had
both her knees replaced. she walks faster now,
and it doesn’t ache the way it used to.
she can pray properly, sitting on the ground.
i remember the hospital room, nurses too helpful
and lights too bright, scars on her legs and
skin stitched together like cloth.
i couldn’t look at her too long, afraid
to think of being in her place.
i don’t want to be somebody who needs fixing,
although i’m not scared of pain, somehow.
i like the way needles sting my skin,
my hands always staying rock steady.
i’m not scared of the hurt, not afraid of ink
in my veins. i think they thought
it made me brave, but it only makes me unafraid.
bravery is not my book to write.
most days, i am holding myself in,
an explosion on the verge of unhappening.
i am sharp like a razor’s blade,
tight like the strings of a well-loved accordion,
hard like stones in the river.
if i were to happen, they wouldn’t know
how to love me again.
they wouldn’t look at me the same.
if i were to happen, the sadness would swallow
them whole, like ships in the belly of a storm.
if i were to happen, they would be lost.
it isn’t beautiful. it isn’t poetic. it isn’t just.
you would also turn your face away.
Me: Yeah, I graduate in May inshaAllah
What the desi aunties hear: Yes so, I want to get married shortly after May arrives so please do me the kind favor of hooking me up with every brown male under the age of 30 in your family/extended family. I will forever be grateful to you for this selfless and sincere endeavor thank you so much Aunty ji.