I’ve been crafting headlines in the back of mind since the day you died. Like a little diary I keep by my bedside that I scribble into every night, cramming it with details so that nothing remains an oversight. I make an effort to cross all my Ts and dot all my Is because who knows how much time you’ll have to descend from the seventh sky and flip through my daily lows and highs?
Every day the calendar flips further away from you and every day I strip another layer of the girl you knew, for after you died she suddenly realized she lost a home too. But when you look down at me from way up high, I want you to be able to recognize who you left behind so I take great care in noting each detail – like how I have stopped straightening my hair, or how my lungs breathe out smoke instead of air. I wear your thumbprint around my neck like a participation medal for knowing you, with your earring lodged in my lobes, and a body branded with your name’s tattoo.
I no longer laugh with tear-stained cheeks and gasping intervals, and smoking your Marlboro reds has turned my lips purple. I stopped seeing humor in the nonsensical as I wear an expression so clinical that it makes our own family uncomfortable but I can’t help feeling both suffocated and alone, in a world that has proved to be so inhospitable. Instead ties that were justified before for being simply familial are now held to a much higher standard as – sadly for our parents – I’ve stopped indulging in takaluf.
The entire world shrunk from uncharted territory, to a canvas with a few simple creases – divided by superficial identities but woven together in the larger human tapestry. As if someone hacked away at my roots, I no longer feel bound to a place because most memories feel like claustrophobic leashes. No longer afraid of going astray, I am a nomad traveling with all my broken pieces through this canvas with too many creases, unfazed by societal or cultural policing.
I find myself standing on stages, pasting some of those broken pieces on pretty, poetic pages and then smiling back from a distance. A distance that can be penetrated the same way a sharp ray of light sneaks through the cracks in our blinds because it cannot help kiss our sleeping faces. Despite walking around with my hands full of dismay, he found some space to squeeze through and decided to stay. I always knew I had to ride out the waves, and your death hardened me to ensure I wouldn’t break, but he is another reminder of how much life I have yet to live; that not all of it will be dictated by heartache.
In the pages of this leather-bound journal I must seem like I washed my hands off the superficial and dressed myself in all shades of grey as my whispers crawl up so many decibels, everyone is privy to what I have to say. I have been told by everyone around me that I must be ‘brave’ as if courage is the antidote to sitting by your brother’s grave. The only part that was truly intentional was the promise I made of survival, but I didn’t realize that in the process, so much would inevitably change. That survival would mean outliving you in every form, every day. That it would mean morphing into someone you wouldn’t ever know as me. I often imagine reminiscing about you years down the line – thirty or forty – where I will sit folded in a white cotton sari, tattooed in wrinkles and only a few strands of hair to call mine. After a lifetime of conversing with you through mere signs, I wonder if you’ll ever descend from a status so divine, just to confirm that you still recognize. That despite the turbulent waves I have ridden and must still ride, you will peer at me through the silvery crevices in the clouds and smile – despite all the years I still have to live and all the people I will still be, you will always see me as thine.