By Atiqa Chowdhury
This piece was an exploration of different relationships; friendship, familial, romantic, and self. I hope to make other women want to take a reflective look inside themselves and the way they interact with others. Honesty is the best way to take your place within your own history.
She sat cross-legged across from Priya on the gym floor’s bright, yellow planks. They hid behind columns, their eyes darting boldly around the room, staring at the mass of teenage bodies that filled it. V thought she could see each specific sweat droplet form on her classmates’ pale skin and make its wretched descent towards the very floor they sat on. The room’s stagnant musk hung heavy around Priya as she spoke to V about her weekend, eyes never fully meeting V’s intense gaze. V lent Priya her ear, as she always did, becoming more aware of the amount of bodies and lack of space in the gym.
Priya described staying at her dad’s apartment last weekend to V, whose eyes were now glued to a spot on the floor near Priya. She talked about the Polaroids she took with her friends at the park and her new love for flared jeans. What she didn’t mention is everything else: How his usual pile of crusty dishes filled the sink, and mounds of dirty clothes littered the floor. How his presence was no longer a presence. How he wasn’t a person who needed food, water, and air. How he didn’t laugh at her jokes or greet her at the door. To Priya, her father was now like a painting: a still life with smooth brush strokes of cool grays and muted blues. His lonely silhouette, painted with rough brushstrokes of charcoal black, left the imprints of swirls on the canvas.
V stared at Priya, taking in her stories. But, even as V held her ear in cupped palms, she couldn’t help but feel her bones aching, shoulders sagging, eyes glossing over, and mouth filling with yawn after yawn. Priya was the last to notice V’s exhaustion. V had already prepared herself for the usual tap on the shoulder, soft empathetic eyes, whispering voice. Maybe they’d pull her aside and talk to her individually this time. It is always the same: Are you all right?
And she answered the same answer every time: Yes of course, eyebrows always scrunching, voice becoming a little higher, as if it was such an out-of-bounds suggestion, for V to not be all right. V forced herself to come back here, next to Priya, so she could soak up as much of her as possible. V had been doing this for as long as she’d known Priya, saving Priya in little jam jars: one for the morning, one for the night, one for lunch, and one for the rides on the bus. V always had just enough of Priya left to last throughout her weekend.
V smiled, listening to all of Priya’s sentences under the harsh lighting of the gym, letting the swishing of air from Priya’s gesticulating arms kiss her face. All the while, V thought about how she would describe this moment to her mother. Yes, she thought, this is exactly what I’ll say. A smile played on V’s lips as she sat there examining Priya, her fingers are long and thin, they belong on a piano, she’ll say to her mother. Pieces of hair fall out of V’s low ponytail, tickling the apples of her cheek, sticking to her thick lashes.
Priya paused her conversation midway through with a wave of her hand. She reached over with those long, thin fingers, and tucked that piece of hair behind V’s ear. A soft sigh escaped Priya’s lips and the vapor of her breath hung in the three feet that separated them, Priya’s finger still tucked behind V’s ear.
The sweat-soaked wood planks were the only thing keeping V from falling into an abyss of warmth. Priya’s hand was a lifeline, keeping her from melting into a puddle.
Hours later, as V tells her mother about the Suspended Moment, she twirls her mother’s coiled hair in her fingers. She glosses over the moment, instead talking about the other parts of her day. She sits cross-legged across from her mother on the carpet of the living room floor. She knows. V says to her mother, we intersect, we feel we live, we exist. I see us often. I think us often I feel us often and there’s no life that I can miss. That night, Priya dreams about V: She talks and talks and talks, V listens and listens and listens until V and Priya are like honey and sugar melting into one another making one sweet drop.
Atiqa Chowdhury is a passionate writer who loves telling stories through her poetry and flash fiction. Most of her room is filled with books ranging from historical fiction novels and fantasy to short stories and prose collections. She is currently a student in her last year of high school, preparing for her first year in college.
A War Between The Mind & Heartby Shamu Ward