Posts Tagged ‘short story’

Shruti was born and raised in New York. She had never traveled outside of the states, let alone the tri-state area. She was feminine and pretty. Shruti was quite popular in school although she was only close friends with a few people. She usually just spent all her time at home with her family, or at school accomplishing things, or with Lily. Lily was one of her best friends.

Lily never really had any other friends. She was the shy quiet type. She wasn’t the type to pass notes while the teacher was talking, instead she’d sit in the front of the classroom raising her hand at frequent intervals. At school she mostly kept to herself, except when she was with Shruti and her friends.

She met Lily one day on the walk home from elementary school. Lily was standing on the sidewalk looking around frantically. There was an old drunk man that was awfully close to her. He wore a winter coat, in 70 degree weather and his dirty brown hair looked as if he hadn’t brushed it in months. Shruti sensed something was not right and ran over to Lily. “Hey is everything ok?”
“Get out of here little girl. This is none of your business,” the drunken man yelled at Shruti.

She looked at Lily and nodded. She didn’t know if Lily understood what she had meant but she had to do something.
“Hey you little bitch; me and miss fancy pants are just fine. Aren’t we baby? You can run along now,” he yelled angrily. His breath reeked of the disgusting smell of alcohol and his big hands were black and filthy with dirt. He reached out to grab Lily and Shruti shoved him with all her might so that he would topple over. He strode back and his left foot landed on an empty can of coke. He tried to balance himself but it was too late. Lily just stood there terrified as he hit the ground with a thud. Shruti grabbed Lily’s hand and the two of them ran down the block and around the corner like they never had before.
“I’m Lily, thank you so much for helping me out there. That guy was such a creep.”
“Don’t even mention it,” Shruti said. “I’m sure you would’ve done the same thing for me. Are you okay though? Did he hurt you?”
“No. Thank god you came when you did.” Lily said shivering.
For two girls who were from completely different worlds, they clicked like they had known each other forever. After that they were inseparable. Where ever one of them was, the other was sure to be on her way. They soon went off to middle school together and that’s where everything changed.

Shruti remembered the day when everyone got picked up from middle school and Lily waited outside for her to get out, so they could be safe together. At first, there were only a few kids who left because they were called to the main office. Then more kids were called away, they took their bags and their sweaters. Shruti realized they were all leaving. She waited for her mom to come too, but she didn’t. There were only four other kids, left in her class who hadn’t been picked up. It was only twelve in the afternoon when Shruti’s teacher told them to gather their things. She wondered what was so special about today that her principal decided to let everyone out early. She went outside and there Lily was waiting for her. “I’m so excited! They should make everyday a half-day like this one,” Shruti exclaimed as they walked toward the bus stop. Lily didn’t respond, instead she grabbed on to Shruti’s hand tightly as they crossed the street.

“Hey what’s wrong?” Shruti asked.

“I’m really glad you’re here. I would be scared to go without you.” Lily said.
“Umm, yea me too. I don’t even know what happened. Do you?” Shruti asked.
“My ELA teacher said the world trade center was attacked. There might be terrorists around,” she said grabbing onto Shruti’s hand.
“Really? Oh man no wonder everyone was getting picked up from school? I hope we get home safe!” Shruti exclaimed. She was so scared to be outside. She had no idea what she would do in case they were in any sort of immediate danger. There was a small minivan that pulled up to the bus stop they were standing at. The driver opened the door and everyone that was waiting for the bus, got in. Shruti and Lily looked at each other in confusion. Weren’t all these people waiting for the bus just like they were? Why did they get into a stranger’s mini-van? A man gestured for them to come inside as well. Lily edged forward.
“Lily, can we not go with them? I just want to wait for the bus. I don’t think it’s safe for us to get a ride from a fake taxi driver.” Shruti said.
“You’re right Shruti. Terrorists’ could be anywhere.”
Chills ran down Shruti’s spine. How would they know if they saw a terrorist? I don’t even know what that is exactly, Shruti thought. The bus never came that day and the two of them ended up walking hand in hand, the mile and a half to get home. This was all before that faithful day at the handball courts.

Shruti was in her senior year in middle school. In those days, she used to come in early to play suicide with Lily before classes started. The whole game of suicide was like handball. The objective was to catch the ball on a fly. Whoever catches a ball on a fly gets to peg the person who originally threw it. It was their routine game before school. They always used to team up together and go up against everyone else. If Shruti threw the handball and someone was going to catch it, Lily would run and try to catch it instead so that Shruti wouldn’t get pegged with the ball. If Lily caught it, she would never peg Shruti, if one of the guys caught it, they wouldn’t hesitate. One day, when they were both preoccupied with the game, their friend Ivan came up to Lily and whispered something in her ear. Lily looked back at Shruti and quickly turned away when Shruti looked back at her.
Ivan was the other best friend, the newer addition to their group. Shruti met Ivan in the 7th grade. They were in the same class. They didn’t click immediately. Actually, Shruti very much hated his guts when they first met. Ivan used to tease her and make fun of the comments she made in class. And of course, Shruti retaliated with harsh comments and curses of her own. The teasing eventually let up and the two of them decided they were more productive when making fun of others, together. He knew Lily through Shruti. The three of them would talk on the phone for hours and hours in those days.
The ball flew in the air and like always Lily ran to catch the ball before anyone else could. She thrust her arm into the air on top of her head and fell back.
“Oh my god. Lily, are you okay?” Shruti screamed.
In her hand she squeezed the tiny little blue handball. Tobe and Jonathon, two of the guys that were relatively close to her rushed up and asked if she was okay. Jonathon lent her a hand and lifted her back to her feet. Lily turned and looked at Shruti and in one swift motion pegged the ball as hard as she could. Ivan ran forward and caught the ball and threw it towards the wall starting a new game. Shruti stood still in amazement. Why did Lily peg her? Did she do something wrong or did Lily suddenly decide she wanted to play fair? After the game they walked back to school together. “Hey what’s up? Did I do something wrong?” Shruti asked.
“No, of course not. Why would you think that?” Lily said smiling. “Hey guys wait up”, she called and hurried forward to walk with Jonathon. “I’ll catch up with you later Shruti.”
After school that day, Lily didn’t come out with her class. Shruti waited but Lily never showed up. “Let’s just go. Lily probably got picked up or something,” Ivan said to Shruti.
“Hmmm I don’t know. Let’s just wait a couple of more minutes.” Shruti felt even more confused than she had in the morning. She couldn’t figure out why Lily would’ve tried to peg her so hard. Had Lily been mad at her for some reason? Lily never showed up that day so Shruti and Ivan made the walk to the train station alone.
“You know we are graduating soon and you and I are going to different high schools but you have to promise me you won’t ever forget about me or what we have.”
“Ha ha, Ivan. Why are you getting all sentimental on me? You know we’re always gonna be friends,” Shruti said putting her arm around his.
Ivan’s face lit up with all different hues of red. “Good,” he smiled. “You have no idea how much that’s means to me. How much you mean to me,” he said taking her arm away from his and grabbing onto her hand. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” Ivan said as he squeezed her hand. “Ok, I have to tell you something; promise u won’t see me any different and be weird about it?”

“What is it Ivan?”

“Promise you won’t get mad and stop talking to me.”

“Ok I promise.”

“I think, I don’t know, but I think I’m in love with you.”

Shruti stopped walking and looked at him. She meant to say something but she couldn’t find the words. Her hand felt hot and sweaty as she let go of Ivan’s hand.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do so I told Lily today, when we were playing suicide. Please don’t get weird around me now. Your friendship means everything to me,” he said.

“Ivan, I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything. Just leave it. Shruti, this doesn’t have to change anything. Just pretend I didn’t tell you, ok? I just needed you to know and now you know, and we can both just forget about it ok?” Ivan spurted out. “Come on let’s just pretend this didn’t happen. Please,” he said desperately.

“Ivan, I think I’m gonna walk home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Ivan nodded quickly and sped up towards the train station. Shruti watched him go. She waited for him to turn around but he didn’t, so she slowly turned to leave.

Shruti wanted to tell Ivan all the things she had in her heart, but she couldn’t bring herself to. Graduation was weeks away and she would probably never see him again. He would change when he went to high school, he would see another pretty girl and everything between them will be broken. She couldn’t risk their friendship, it meant too much to her. She knew she’d always love Ivan and if it was really meant to be, it would happen one day. It just wasn’t the right time now. It would be too risky and the consequences were something she wouldn’t be able to bear. She didn’t know then, that things would never be the same.

Summer vacation was finally coming to an end. It was the longest summer she’d ever experienced. Shruti walked down the empty street alone, straying further and further from her home with each step. The sun had already started its journey down and ripples of pink and purple filled the sky. There was no one to be seen on their porches and all the kids seemed to have already gone to sleep. The quiet was consuming. Ever since Lily decided she didn’t want to be friends anymore with her, everything was different. That day changed everything. Shruti and Ivan weren’t best friends anymore and Shruti and Lily weren’t even friends anymore. How could one little secret have torn them all apart that way? She thought their friendships were stronger than that. Lily was like the sister she never had, and all of a sudden they were strangers. She always had the feeling Lily liked Ivan as more than just a friend, but she didn’t know. There could be no other explanation for it. What else could Lily have been upset about?

“Criinnggggg!” Shruti slammed her hand on the snooze button and tried unsuccessfully to doze off back to sleep. Today was the first day of high school; she was bound to run into Lily again. What would she say she wondered? The whole summer had passed and Lily hadn’t said a word to her. She took her time getting dressed, changing at least three times. What if she just didn’t go? Then she could delay seeing Lily again. She didn’t know what to expect and that scared her. It was first day of high school and instead of worrying about fitting in or not making any friends; all she could think of was what her ex-best friend would say. Shruti sat down to have breakfast, but found she was too nervous to eat. I should just get it over with, she thought to herself. She took one last look in the mirror and left her house before she could change her mind.

Shruti walked into her choir class that day and sat down next to two girls she didn’t know. Lily walked in and sat down on the other side of the room. She didn’t look at Shruti or anyone else. Shruti waited for Lily to look her way but it seemed Lily’s head was fixated towards their choir instructor Mr. Peters. After what felt like an hour of his lecturing he called up groups with girls to come and audition. They had to sing do re me fa so la ti do so Mr. Peters could assign them to a voice group. He called up Shruti, Lily and three other girls together. Shruti’s heart beat louder than she could think. Would Lily just keep ignoring her? When it was Shruti’s turn to sing she felt her checks turning red, she had never auditioned before in her life.
“Don’t worry, I’ll hum with you.” Lily said, smiling. It was the first words she had said to Shruti since middle school had ended. Although it wasn’t an explanation, Shruti’s heart felt light and she sung at the top of her lungs, “do re me fa so la ti doo.”

– Shammy 4/5/11

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I wish I lived in a safe neighborhood where I could walk around in the middle of the night and nothing would happen to me. A neighborhood filled with quiet little coffee shops instead of busy fast food joints. Then I could go to a nice little coffee shop and write my papers in peace. They would have rich coffee made with exotic imported coffee beans and cozy red chairs, the kind someone would want in their own living room. Every table would have its own set of three candles in the very center, the walls would have lanterns hanging from them and tiny chandeliers would glow dimly from the ceiling.  Their tables would all have squeaky clean glass tops that look as though they are not even there. The ceiling would be a mural as would the walls. Pretty Brazilian women in their native clothing would walk around in the yellow walls. The ceiling would be blue like the sky when it has just become morning, and the flock of birds would soar into the clouds. The whole place would be a work of art. I would get lost there, and then find myself through my writing.

Instead I live in a crappy neighborhood in the middle of nowhere, Queens. The only train that comes here is the J and it doesn’t even run half the time. The other times I have to wait for the shuttle bus to get places. Of course the bus is always late, unless I’m not at all in a hurry; then the bus comes early. Come to think of it, the bus isn’t even that bad. I wouldn’t mind taking a bus to work every morning at 5o’clock, as long as I didn’t always have to watch my back. Shit goes down in my neighborhood. There was a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted just up the block from my house, in broad daylight too. A man came and held a knife at her throat. She fought him off with a pen and miraculously got away before he could do any real harm to her. It was all over the news. My dad made a point to make us stay at home more. “See what happens when girls hang out too much outside?” he said. His philosophy is that girls are like little virtuous china dolls. They are too fragile to step outside, unless it’s for work or school. If they go outside they might break. They might be tainted by men or ideas and no longer be acceptable for marriage. He’d love it if I was home-schooled and completely cut off from the world. Then I’d grow up to be the perfect daughter that would learn only what he wanted me to learn. I hate my life in this neighborhood, this house, this room.

My room is in the basement. It’s pretty big with a medium sized closet. I have three tiny little windows: one in my closet, one that opens to the front of the house and a slightly bigger one that opens to the hallway. Sunlight only comes in from one of them. I can’t write in my room, I can barely sit still to do anything. My mind wanders and there are too many distractions.

I swear there are ghosts in the basement. One night my brother saw one of them. He was dreaming and in his dream he called my sister to come and help him. She came into the room and held his hand. That was all in the dream, but my brother actually felt someone holding his hand so he opened his eyes and he saw her, the spirit that haunts the basement. She was wearing a long black dress and she was so tall that he couldn’t even see her face. She held his hand and pulled him out of his bed. He was on the floor crying out for my mom to come and save him. My mom was sleeping but I heard him crying, so I went and saw him on the floor. He looked sick, like he was dying. I woke my mom up and she calmed him down and put him back to sleep. We all lived in the basement then.

My brother and I don’t talk. Actually he hates me. He always has, since the day I was born. Once he threw the stem of a plastic flower into my eye. I was five. I went to the eye doctor every two weeks for a year and a half because of that. And when I was just a teeny, tiny, baby, he burned me with a hot iron to see what I would do. He wanted to see my pain. It gave him pleasure, sadistic piece of shit. Another time he shot me in the leg with his bb-gun because I was annoying him. I was nine, he was fifteen. It’s been years since I’ve spoken to him. Not because of the stuff he did to me as a kid but the stuff that he would still do. When I was nineteen, I was watching television in my parent’s room and he called the cops on me. He told them I was being a nuisance because he could hear the TV in his room, which was right next to my parent’s room. He was 24 then. Now if my friends ask me how many siblings I have I tell them one. I have a little sister, that’s it.

I want to kill myself. That’s what I think about when I’m in my room. That’s all I think about. The different ways to die, all the reasons I have to die. All my unhappiness shouts out to me when I’m in my room. I don’t belong here. I won’t succeed. What’s the point of it all? What do I have now? I have nothing. When I’m with a crowd of people that supposedly love me, I feel lonelier than if I was with myself. My boyfriend, Jackson says I need to live for myself, no one else should matter. He says I need to get out and do things, so I did. I got involved in school. I tried to mend things with my family. I even tried to make new friends. I have so many friends now, and my parents talk to me on a regular basis but I still feel the same. I tried my hardest to be good at school, to be how I used to be, but it’s just too hard. No matter what I do I’m still behind. I manage to fail tests that I spend days studying for. I never had to study before in my life. I always just knew it. I used to be smart, now I wonder how I even got accepted into college. I think it’s because I have to come back to this room every night. I can’t think in that stupid room.

I bought a new rug and curtains in hopes of brightening up the place. Jackson bought me a couch and I saved up to buy a long storage ottoman that I could use as a table. It was supposed to make my room cozy. Dark red, brown and green colors fill my room. My painting of an old Spanish road filled with horse drawn carriages and pleasant trees is supposed to bring everything together. It does; it makes sense of the colors in my room, gives it unity. Jackson says it looks perfect. Like a showroom they would have on display at IKEA, brilliant, beautiful and fake. I hated it. So I thought maybe if I painted something inspirational it would help, like a woman embracing her freedom. I painted her face, bold and defiant. I painted her lips, her arching neck, her breasts, her pregnant stomach, her fat thighs and well toned calves. She stood against the red background alone, free of all barriers. She hung on the wall close to the door. Jackson loved the painting; he said it reminded him of me.  I would’ve kept her but she didn’t let me sleep. The curves of her black body haunted me at night. They jumped out in my dreams trying to seduce me, so I threw her out.

Sometimes I get extremely motivated. I feel like I can conquer the world if I wanted. But give it an hour in this room and I feel like dying all over again. It doesn’t matter how many degrees I have or how good my grades are. It doesn’t matter that all my hair is falling out or that my eyes are swollen from lack of sleep. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a brother, or that my boyfriend still loves me with all his heart even after seeing me this way. I want to change. I want to be okay for him. He’s done everything in his power for me. But I don’t think I can. I tried to stop thinking about death, but it creeps up on me.

I tried a lot of things but nothing really worked. I tied a pair of black stretchy pants and stretched it out as far as it would go and wrapped it around my neck. I tried to hang there but it started to hurt and my stupid impulses kicked in. Another time I dunked my head in the bathtub and swore I wouldn’t lift my head no matter what. Of course I lifted my head. So I thought pills might be the way to go. But an overdose didn’t go to well with my stomach. I ended up throwing it all up and sleeping for sixteen hours. Everything was the same when I woke up, no one even noticed.

Jackson tells me all this craziness is only in my head. He says it’s not healthy to think the things I think. He thinks I should seek medical help. I agree with him, I should, but I won’t. What would I say? Why am I feeling this way? I can’t answer that. I feel like a selfish, arrogant, high maintenance chick. How come nothing is good enough for me? I have everything I’ve ever wanted, especially now. But I’m running it all down to hell. I’m losing and I know it. How would I explain that I have everything, but still I’m not happy?

Jackson used to take me out a lot. He said it’s good for me to get out of my room. He took me to romantic little restaurants with expensive wines, boat rides around the city, Broadway plays and independent films theaters. We would spend whole weekends together at his place cooking and watching re-runs of Law and Order. Now all I ever want to do is go to a bar and drink. I hate the taste of alcohol in my mouth, but the after effects are great. I feel funny all over when I drink, funny and bold. I can do whatever I want when I’m tipsy. I don’t care as much what people have to say about me so I dance and talk freely. I’ve never been drunk before. My birthday was the closest I got. We went to this hookah bar on Coney Island Avenue named Vianky’s, where they had a DJ spinning all night. The place was dark and packed. Jackson led me to the VIP section covered with red see through curtains in the middle. I could walk straight but I was scared to use the restroom alone. What if I couldn’t hold my weight and I touched the toilet seat? I couldn’t risk that so I asked Jackson to come with me. “Jackson, don’t look over there okay. Just make sure I don’t slip and fall.”  I rolled down my tights and my underwear and hovered over the toilet seat carefully so that my thighs didn’t touch the seat and I peed. Turns out I didn’t really need Jackson’s help but it’s a good thing to always be on the safe side. I hate public bathrooms and germs. I’m a complete “germaphobe.” I would’ve probably been traumatized for the rest of my life if I had touched anything in that disgusting bathroom that day.

After we left, Jackson led me to the passenger side of his car. “Baby, I don’t wanna go home. Let’s go somewhere, let’s do something,” I begged.

Jackson laughed and put his arm around my waist. “Its 4o’clock in the morning. Where do you wanna go?” He asked.

“Let’s go this way. I never went this way before,” I pointed down the street.

“There’s nothing that way baby.” He said.

Then I pointed in the opposite direction, “Okay then, let’s go that way. I never went that way either.”

“What exactly do you want to do that way?” he asked. He was amused at my drunkenness. I knew I was talking like a dumb, blonde, long island chick but I didn’t care.

“I just wanna walk somewhere pretty,” I told him.

He kissed my forehead and opened the door. “Okay. Get in.” Few minutes later he parked on the corner of Eleventh Avenue and Prospect Park Southwest. We got out of the car and started towards the park. “You want to go to our place, or you want to walk around?” he asked.

“Let’s go to our place,” I said smiling.

“Okay then hold on a second.” He went back to the car and brought our blanket from the trunk. “All set. Let’s go.”

We walked to our place under the tree. No one is allowed in the park after dark, but our tree hid us well. Whenever a cop car would pass by I’d tense up but no matter how many times it passed us it never stopped. That day I didn’t care if the cops caught us. I was just happy. We put the blanket down on the grass and sat down. He wrapped his arms around me from behind and I felt like melting away into the earth. That moment of happiness was all I needed out of life. The rest didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to die right then. At least then I would’ve died happy. “I don’t want to go back home Jackson. I don’t ever want to go back home,” I said. There were tears in my eyes and my whole body shook.

“Baby?” He lifted his leg and spun me around so that my back rested on his leg. “Dhina? What happened? Why are you crying?” he asked, pulling my hair away from my face.

I couldn’t help it. I just cried like a little baby. I couldn’t get those filthy images out of my head.

“Dhina? Hey, what happened?” He took a tissue out of his back pocket and wiped my tears.

“You remember that week that I didn’t pick up your call?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“And I told you I wasn’t feeling well?”

“Yeah, I remember. What about it?”

“Jackson, something happened that night. Something I can never tell anyone.”

“What are you talking about Dhina? What happened? You can tell me anything baby. I won’t be upset. I promise.”

Images flashed in my head. I could feel his weight on me. He threw his black dress pants on my couch and pulled the shirt off his back. His big black hands squeezed my breasts. I could feel his penis ripping me open. I wanted to scream. My red nightstand rocked violently back and forth and my head spun. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t find my voice. I clenched my fists and tears rolled down my cheeks. I just closed my eyes. I told myself to go to sleep. I told myself I wouldn’t open them no matter what. I told myself if I willed it, my eyes would never open again. And then everything went black.

My whole body shivered. I looked up at Jackson. He was so good to me. “I can’t Jackson. I just can’t. You won’t see me the same.”

“Dhina, I love you. I’m always gonna love you. Nothing is gonna change that, you hear me?”

“I hate myself Jackson. I hate myself. I wish I was dead. You don’t understand. You never will. I just can’t go back home ok?”

His brow had creased and he looked positively five years older than he was. He worried for me, but he understood. I could feel it, his love, his understanding. Jackson reached down and kissed my forehead. “Dhina, it’s ok. Tell me when you are ready. I love you.”

– Shammy 11/2/10

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Daah Sanskar16 

     “Khali! Ey khali!”[1] She called out, hoping for an empty rickshaw. Her voice was soft and smooth, her accent very proper. I could barely make out the few people on the street, now that the current was out. I cycled in the blinding darkness past a beggar, and pulled up next to her.

“Uttara Model Town, section one, road four, house twenty-two,” she said. Any other rickshawala would have told her no, it’s too far, but I didn’t say anything, I just peddled. That was the first day I saw her. She wore a beautiful, expensive, embroidered, salwar kameez2, with a thin white orna3 wrapped around her head. Little strands of curly black hair shown around her face. When I turned the corner, I glanced back for a second and caught her looking into the night, her lips red and her complexion fair. After a long thirty minutes, we finally arrived at her three-story brick house. She hopped off and quickly punched in the security code to her building. I slipped the twenty taka4 she gave me into my pocket, and turned away. Only rich people live in houses like that, houses that have electricity all the time.

I peddled till the blisters on my feet oozed, till my calves ached, till even my gamsa5 dripped of sweat. Amah6 told me to buy some flour so Sarayu7 can make roti in the morning, but all the stores have closed now. Sarayu is only nine, she does all the house work and still has time to run around and get lost in the neighborhood. I stepped inside quietly knowing I would have to work on an empty stomach tomorrow.

“Tui aisos?”9 Amah asked half sleeping, before I got the chance to reply, she started snoring softly. I opened the small, Dano tin-can, and put in the hundred-seventy taka I earned that day. I wondered which would come first, Amah’s death or a doctor’s appointment.  I looked to see if there was anything to eat, but there was only rice water, as usual. I covered it, and put it to the side. Sarayu and Janya10 could eat that in the morning. I made my bed on the floor next to them, and closed my eyes.

I cleaned up, and headed out, before the sun had risen the next morning. I stopped in front of the local tea shop for a moment and stared at the glass, into the eyes of a stranger looking back at me. My shirt was torn on the side and my face the color of tar from the sun. Those two beady eyes, white against my black skin, stared back at me. I turned away. Kids of all ages were jumping around full of excitement: holding each other hand in hand, or arm around neck, some had book bags on their backs, others just carried a few books. I missed the days I went to school. I had only one friend, he was a Muslim. The other kids would tease us and push us off our stools, me because I was a Hindu and him because he associated with me.

“Dekhna, Hindu haramjadre,” 11 a local store holder shouted as I cycled past the tea shop. Those were the first words I heard that morning. How much longer is it going to be like this? Since Abah died three years ago it’s been like this. I was eleven. Janya had just been born, and Sarayu was barely six. Amah used to work as a cleaning lady, at the Mirza residence, but after she got sick, they wouldn’t have her anymore. I knew if I didn’t make the money, Sarayu would have to be married off to Mr. Thakur. Some days I thought it was the only way to get out, but Amah says she would rather die than give her the life she hated.

It was a sunny day; the rain hadn’t come back yet. I was about to turn the corner to wait on the main road for costumers, when I saw Sarayu running like a mad-man towards me. She didn’t take the time to hear the curses coming out of people’s mouths, nor did she stop when her only anklet broke off and disappeared into the mud. “Bhaya! Bhaya!”12 She screamed out, “Amah.” I scooped her onto the rickshaw and cycled as fast as I could to the slums where we lived. Janya was crying, and Amah lay on the floor, covered in blood. She was trying to mutter something, but barely a whisper came out. I franticly checked the room to see if anything was missing and spotted the Dano tin can across the room. I walked over slowly, wishing, praying that there was still something in there. My whole life savings, everything I’ve worked day and night for was in that can. In one moment, the bleak life that was set for me changed forever.

Amah lay there dying. “Stay with her,” I shouted, and took my rickshaw to Mr. Thakur’s house. He was a man in his mid thirties, who already had two wives. “Oh come, brother, come. What brings you to these parts?” He asked smugly. “You can have her, but you must give me her dowry now.” He laughed, “Of course that’s not how it works, bring her to me first; you will have your money.” She is only nine years old, I thought, still pure and innocent. “No, you can have her, but I need that money now,” I said firmly. He laughed again and looked at me closely. I stared straight into the nothingness. He went inside, and within a few minutes came out with a box. “That’s all I can give you for now,” he said. Without uttering another word, I swiftly returned home.

Amah lay there still, this time with her eyes closed. She was barely breathing now. “Janya, keydo naa baba, keydo naa,”13 I whispered to her as I picked her up. “Asho.”14 I placed her on my rickshaw and pedaled slowly through the slums, past the beggars on the side of the road, past the market, past the cricket park, past the great buildings, past the children who ran around in shoes, to arrive again at house twenty-two, on road four, section one of Uttara Model Town. I kissed Janya and placed her in front of the heavy white gates. “Eykane thako, ami ashe.”15 She stood there, with the box in her hands, looking out at me with curious tiny eyes.  I turned away and cycled back through the streets, to the muddy road of the slums, stopping only to pick up dry wood along the road.

I finally reached the small tin room all four of us occupied and went inside, Sarayu was gone. She must’ve have run off again. She is like the wind; she doesn’t belong anywhere, to anyone. Most girls are that way here, bread to be married off to another. I would rather die alive then live in this selfish world where people are not appreciated for being people, instead they are judged by their last names, religion, and sex.  “Amah, amah…” I whispered. She lay on the floor, cold and still. I wrapped my fingers around hers and waited for the flames to engulf us both.

– Shammy 12/13/09


1 Kali: empty 2.A common way of calling a rickshaw, similar to calling a cab.

2 A traditional South Asian three-piece woman’s outfit, consisting of pajama like pants, long tunic and a scarf called an orna or dupatta.

3 A scarf worn with salwar kameez.

4 Currency in Bangladesh; 70 taka is equal to 1 USD.

Thin cotton towel that is commonly used in Bangladesh because it dries relatively fast.

Mother.

Hindu girl’s name meaning the wind.

You came? Dialect commonly used by uneducated, lower class Bangladeshis.

10 Hindu girl’s name meaning life.

11 Look at that Hindu bastard.

12 Brother.

13 Don’t cry sweetie, don’t cry.

14 Come.

15 Stay here, I’m coming.

16 The Hindu word for cremation.

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I was in the first grade.

My older brother would grab me by the neck and walk me like a dog on a leash to school every morning, that particular day he didn’t. I got out of our tiny bathroom and stepped into the kitchen to find he’d already left. I wasn’t late, he was just impatient. My mom told me I didn’t have to go to school that day, or if I wanted to I’d have to wait for her and my baby sister to get ready. She didn’t want to leave her alone with my uncle, not after what he had done to me. My mom hadn’t even brushed her teeth yet and Monisha, my baby sister, was still sleeping. “Ami ajkay eka eka jabo₁,” I told my mom. She was hesitant at first, but in the end she caved, and let me go to school alone. I was super ready that day, more ready than I’ve ever been. She told me not to walk through the park, “go straight to 4th avenue first then walk to school from there,” she said.

So I walked to school by myself for the first time that day. I locked the front door of my tiny house in Sunset Park and walked to the left, past the little quarter machines where I would buy little rubber balls for my collection, past the deli and grocery on the corner where my friend Iftu claims he once bought me an orange bag of chips, past the pizzeria where they had the biggest cookies I’ve ever seen for only 1 dollar, and I crossed the street. I walked under the Brooklyn Expressway over-bridge on 3rd avenue and then crossed the street again when I got to the corner of 34th and 3rd. The basketball courts were empty. I felt like I was the only person awake at this early hour. I walked from one corner to the next, diagonally to cut the distance. I remember thinking, if I blinked all the events of the world would change and no one would know because no one knows the future, and so I blinked, again and again and every time I would be in a different world.

I walked up to 4th avenue and started towards 30th street where my school was located. There was a cop car. I noticed it as soon as I got to the avenue. The car moved slowly. I knew they were following me, or least I thought they were. Half a block from P.S. 172 they turned on their sirens; I pretended I didn’t hear it and kept walking. One of the cops opened the car door and called me over. I was so scared, I thought they were going to take me to jail for walking to school alone. At that moment I was so angry with my brother for leaving me that morning, if he hadn’t been so impatient I wouldn’t have to feel this way right now, I wouldn’t be a criminal. I didn’t walk over to the car because I never trusted cops, till this day I don’t. They asked me where I was going, how old I was, and why I was walking alone. It’s not like they didn’t know where I was headed; my school was only a couple of feet away. Stupid cops, I thought, they just wanted to make an issue about it because I’m a little kid and I’m easy to pick on. My whole body was trembling when I told them I was only 6, they asked me to step inside the car. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to be in the same car as two male cops, I didn’t trust men, and my parents always told me not to get into a car with anyone. I just stood there like a deer in headlights. There was a woman walking ahead of me who was taking her child to school, he was probably in kindergarten. She was Hispanic, her hair was dark brown and her skin fair. I remember I thought she was beautiful, like an angel. She offered to walk me to school since she was going there anyway, and I was walking alone. I didn’t wait for the cops to agree I just ran up to her and thanked her. She had saved me from going to jail. I was so relieved; I felt like I could breathe again.

I walked up the stairs to my class only to be pulled out again by my first grade teacher, Ms. Varote. She took me to the auditorium and sat me down. First she started pacing then with great difficulty she sat down, and turned her face towards me. As soon as I saw it I was terrified again, more so than I was of the cops earlier. Her face was as red as a cherry, she looked liked the Pillsbury doughboy blown up to ten times his size. Her curly blond messy hair looked as if it was dripping wet with sweat. She yelled at me till no end, I thought she might hit me; with one hit I was sure I would be dead looking at the size of her. Her hand was double the size of my head! Her cheeks got redder and redder by the second, and her head shook violently as she blurted out words I didn’t understand. I don’t know if she was yelling at me in Italian or I was just too scared to understand the actual words. Her mouth opened so wide when she yelled, my whole head could probably be the size of her bite. I cried and wiped my tears with the sleeve of my worn-out-navy-blue sweater that used to be my brother’s. After awhile I couldn’t even bare to look at her anymore, I just shut my eyes and cried. I don’t know how much time past, but after she stopped yelling at me, she told me to stay there and wait for her. She came back within a minute, took me back to class, and hated me for the rest of the year.

1. I will go alone today

– Shammy 9/29/09

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