To What Has Become
By Jaya Rao-Herel
Years pass, cycles break, moments shift, but things remain.
There was something so nostalgic about the smell of pesto to her. Its earthy scent brought her back to the first-grade garden, jam-packed with 7-year-olds, all running around from task to task. Planting, watering, picking, cooking. She was a part of its full cycle: from basil to its blend with oil, pine nuts, and cheese, spread across a doughy baguette. She would run around the garden after eating each piece of pesto-covered bread, trying her best to be sly while breaking the “one piece per person” rule.
As dramatic as it sounds, she thought that first grade garden pesto was very special. The school yard, brimming with the sound of laughter and voices: assigning roles to each person. They were a collective unit, made up of many moving parts: chaotic limbs, a part of one harmonious body.
With age, this chaos gave way to the need for order and responsibility. And with time, the world in which first grade pesto existed shifted in many ways.
The physical world around her warped. Memories fogged.
Girls Write Now On the Other Side of Everything: The 2023 Anthology
Do you know what it’s like to communicate with your family across a salty ocean’s divide? Do you want the sun and moon to enter your home with stories written in embers? Do you seek voices that will punctuate the darkness? Welcome to the other side of everything. It’s the other side of silence, the other side of childhood, the other side of hate, the other side of indifference, it’s the other side of sides, where the binary breaks down. It’s a new paradigm, a destination, a different perspective, a mindset, a state of openness, the space between the endless folds in your forehead, hopes for tomorrow, and reflections on the past. This anthology of diverse voices is an everything bagel of literary genres and love songs, secrets whispered in the dark of night, conversations held with ancestors under the sea.
The bright overhead lights of Key Food towered over her as she rolled the red-handled basket in her palm. People were scattered throughout the store like poppy seeds, passing by each other in avoidance and distant formations. She stopped in front of the produce aisle, sliding her feet to meet with each other as she turned toward the greens. A man leaned in next to her, inspecting the bunches of basil. “Can I grab this real quick?” his voice was muffled as it fought past the cloth. Her eyes smiled, making space for him to pick up the desired bunch. “$13.78” said the cashier behind the glare of plastic. She slipped her dollars and coins through the opening, giving no thought to how the reflections of lights bent before his face.
The crisp wind met her face as the automatic doors sensed her movement and slid open. The tight pull of plastic handles left white lines on her fingers as the weight of each ingredient shifted in the bottom of the bag. Down the block, she could spot the familiar yet distant dark green fencing of the school yard. Her eyes glanced through the diamond-shaped holes, viewing the subjects of her memory. The wind picked up causing a crinkle in the dried-up leaves that hung to wilted stems.
Comfortably resting within the soft sound of the wind, she was startled by a fragmented bang and the release of tension from her fingers. The bottom of the white plastic was torn open, giving way to its treasures. A puddle of oil sat at her feet, inching closer to her shoes as it spread beneath the metal fencing. Pine nuts rolled on the sidewalk, following the wind as it pushed them into the street. The basil sat still, bound by a thick rubber band, and had landed flat in the puddle of oil and scattered pine nuts. They all mixed, but never lost their form. Unable to become.
Reflecting on how much live has changed over the course of my time as a mentee at Girls Write Now and looking forward to possible shifts that will occur in my future as I go to college, I wanted my writing to focus on the changes the inevitably come with life. With this in mind, my mentor Amanda and I began listing small aspects of our lives that have shifted, and anecdotes that symbolize those shifts. I knew that I wanted this piece to be symbolic and easily applicable to a variety of readers’ lives, so I transformed those specific stories into a general theme, which is carried throughout.
Jaya Rao-Herel, from Brooklyn NY, is a senior in high school. She is a writer and musician, blending her love of storytelling and music through songwriting and composition. Her work is driven by her biracial heritage, observations of nature and daily life and her pieces are poetic reflections on the world around her.