Since the start of her consciousness, Afra believed that someone would come along to save her.
One day. One magical day he found find her. He would fall in love with her the way that men fell in love with women on screen as Afra watched, cross-legged, her eyes wide, her fingertips red from being dipped repeatedly into a bag of hot cheetos.
Back then, she had desperately wanted her story to begin, and it had to be a love story. She wasn’t going to compromise on that. Every other story around her was so desolate.
That’s how far back this dysfunction went. To the beginning of my existence, she thought, as she wheeled the cap back onto her flask. …
The wind outside was just a tad too chilly.
Afra stood in front of her car, feeling awkward in her uncomfortable shalwar kameez among an empty audience. The garb was a fabric her mother had told her was called “chicken.”
Even the name was unromantic.
After a long, unnecessary battle with the cloth, she had thrown aside the long, obtrusive scarf that accompanied the outfit. Now, she stood outside, looking like the good Pakistani girl she definitely was not. After a quick look around, she reached into the back of her car and pulled out her purse. …
there is peace in this dialogue
no more making homes on fault lines
where the inevitable fissures
split our paths
no more a perennial visitor
I have found better words
there is solid ground here
where I dance without the fear
of this world opening its mouth
to swallow me whole.
We are in a period of waking up to the reality that when two people cheat, it’s often the woman who gets socially flagellated. As much distance as we’d like to put between ourselves and the world of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, we’re still way too close for comfort.
If a married man cheats with a woman and they get found out, it is often this female outsider to the marriage who has to tug around the title of “homewrecker”. Many times, the married man is even absolved because cheating is just what men do, or so we’re told.
The ones of us who have managed to remove our heads from the sand are now contemplating how something as brazenly sexist could be so normalized. …
Fear makes us stupid. Stupid, and cruel. I didn’t know what I was doing to him.
How can I say that?
I was aware.
I didn’t want to feel it. When you’re so accustomed to parts of who you are being erased, somehow it’s easier to expect that other people will have a simple time doing the same thing.
What would it have taken to finally see myself as cruel? Cruelty takes power, and I never thought I had much of that. I see it now. These are just the stories I tell myself.
No, maybe ‘stories’ is the wrong word. …
Afra kicked off her boots, letting particles of sand fall onto the hardwood floor. The foyer light flickered weakly. It was definitely on the verge of giving out. Just like her patience.
Her mother sat in her customary chair at the dining table. She looked up as Afra walked through the door. “You’re back,” she smiled.
The concavity of her mother’s lips infuriated Afra. She strode over and sat down next to the woman. A cup of half-finished chai rested on a floral table mat.
“There’s more for you in the kettle,” her mother said sweetly.
Afra lowered her head. She massaged her temples before starting the arduous process of explaining something so simple to her mother. …
On the last day of January 2020, my partner and I packed up the remainder of our belongings into our blue Passat and left behind a quiet suburb of Austin, Texas. As the car raced forward, I felt consumed with relief. I had wanted to want this life so much, but when I tried it on, the fabric pinched my skin.
We made our way through Texarkana and Memphis, driving for hours during daylight and letting hotel beds carry the weight of our exhausted bodies at night. We ate subpar diner food in bed. We watched bad television. …
youth is the blink of an eye
when it is over
leaving behind the ache
of a memory
a life still brimming
with her uncertainties
the tempting twinge
temerity toppling over
time telling you to
traipse no more
eyes and words
the shifting tides
the roaring moments
when you feel that you must be
just like an endless ocean
when it is over
that it is fiction.
I had this opinion that once I met my life partner, I wouldn’t let that relationship take precedence over my existing best friendships. I wanted to be a woman’s woman, so I believed I could find a way to balance it all. It didn’t seem very feminist to let go of the important women in my life and ride off into the proverbial sunset with some guy.
What I hadn’t prepared for yet was how much life changes when the person you’re in a relationship with isn’t just some guy.
As you can imagine, my relationships didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, for a variety of reasons. I learned some things that caused me to reevaluate my earlier beliefs. …
what does this pain taste like?
a melancholy I have learned to romanticize
less poetic, too.
a pressure in my sinuses
deluge inside, outside only observing eyes
you love me quiet
with an ordinary blade
pressed against my fingers
do what you want means I’ll never do anything right
the first liquid that escapes from underneath
forms bubbles- almost like the kind we make with soap
among happier people
you love me when I mop up our bad blood all by myself.
before all of these mediocre men who still hang around
at the fringes of my memory with their laughable promises
their ridiculous odes
their narrow little boxes for my unwieldy angles
there was you and how you love
my savior, earth, my sky, god with hands
more delicate than mine.