Within The Confines of My Mind.

I

Inhale…
I creep down the stairs
Inhale…Exhale…
There isn’t anyone there

The people are in bed
The house sleeps on
There is no one to stop me
As I leave home

Rich hues so blinding
Sensory nerves in overdrive
I breathe in deeply
Feeling almost alive

Gone are the black rooms
The suffocating darkness
Instead appear the wild paths
The rolling hills endless

Inhale… Exhale…
I walk tentatively on
Inhale… Exhale…
Deep into the illuminating morn

 

 

 

sidd

 

II

He speaks of time
Days yet to come
Stories and moments
That haven’t yet been spun
Of humans, happy
And battles undone

Surpassed sweet harmony
Wretchedness cast aside
The deadened homo sapien
Brought back to life
Voids refilled
Responsibilities recognized

Prevalent: Empathy, Humanity, Consideration
Melodious laughter, smiles untaxed
Is such eccentricity possible?
Sans being asked?!
Mass malady cured?
Altruism atlast?!

The world seems not so bad
In his soft lilting tone
But just as I am about
To ask of more
Down slide his hat and eyebrows
As he melts into the floor

Colours swilling around,
The unrecognizable cascading individual
Whilst the puddle flows away from sight
I blink unperturbed
Gone is the old presence
Departed; not unheard

Instead appear the hedges
Sweet roses so red
Hospitable thorns
I am tempted
But inhaling…Exhaling…
I stroll on ahead

 

 

sidddddddddddddd

III

Shrill cries pierce my reverie
Vine-y fingers encircle my arm
Shoulders shaken, the cacophony-of worry- fills my ears
Mutely, not protesting in alarm
I am dragged back by The Distressed
Back to my life-as they see fit
I try to speak but am silenced
Not allowed out of home since birth
Atleast not without an escort
Eons have transpired in their pointless worry
Visionless by birth, voiceless by the protector
(I realise) I cannot tell anyone of the things I see
For in my condition, who
In this world would dare believe me

-Sidra Zahid.

 

 

Centripetal

 

The day I realized something was wrong with me was when I had a 2 hour breakdown over the fact that someone touched my water bottle because it wasn’t where I had kept it earlier, because the thought of someone touching or drinking from my water bottle alone was enough to send me into a full-blown panic attack.

For people who do not get what I am referring to, I am talking about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) A cocktail of consistent discomfort coupled with a brain that never really seems to quiet down because it is a never ending party up there because the intrusive thoughts just don’t really know how to quit.

The concept of neutrality does not exist when it comes to OCD because your obsessions drive you to do things that you know are not normal, and you cannot help but stick to them because these ‘rituals’ are important. These rituals are adhered to because of your irrational beliefs. In my case, it was someone dying or just the fear of being ‘filthy.’

This means not using the same plates or utensils as everyone else. It means wiping everything before you dare lay a finger on it because it is as though you can physically feel the contaminants travelling up from your fingers towards your body and just thinking and typing about this bit alone has me scratching at my hands.

It always starts out small, you don’t step on cracks, you walk on tip-toes when bare-footed and then it begins to escalate. Wearing gloves when handling dishes, using your shirt to open door knobs and car doors, not wanting to eat in restaurants and ultimately (in my case), not wanting to eat at all because everything just seems so filthy and you cannot trust anything to be truly ‘clean.’

You see obsessive compulsive disorder is more than just wanting to rearrange something so that it looks symmetrical, or wanting to keep your room clean or organized;

Obsessive compulsive disorder is telling yourself that if you do not clean your plate or someone else’s plate before handing it to them, they will die.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling yourself that if you have too much fun, something will go wrong at your house.  

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling yourself that if someone touches you (including your own mother), you are covered in filth and that you need to wash the ‘affected’ area till you can feel your skin burning.

However, that is not what breaks you. What breaks you is watching the people around you distance themselves from you because your ‘rituals’ are getting out of hand and you cannot do anything about it. What breaks you is the embarrassment. You want to cry while explaining to your friend that no, they cannot use your bathroom, or, taking the fork they offer you and then asking them to wash it again while you watch. OCD is watching your mother ask what went wrong and all the while, you have no answers to give. OCD is being called a freak or an abnormal and you want to tell them otherwise but in the end, you know they are not wrong so you just come to accept it.

I am not going to sugarcoat, use any jargon or beautiful metaphors here, this is me using a platform to talk about what went on in my head for the longest time. It took 8 months’ worth of sessions coupled with exposure and eidetic therapy and the only reason I am talking about this today is because I was fortunate enough to be a ‘mild case.’ Fortunate enough to seek therapy and fortunate enough to have the support I needed.

There are still days where I relapse and this struggle will always be there, but I am my mother’s daughter after all, forever stubborn and unyielding. So, come, shake hands with me the next time you see me around the university, and this time, I promise I will return it.

 

-Aasma Adnan.

Crimson Waves

The foamy waves gently caressed her bare feet as she strolled by the sea, her worn-out brown sandals clutched firmly in her grasp. Another brunette skipped in front of her, giggling and twirling, her short silky curls bouncing with the motion.

At first glance, just about everyone could tell the one fact that linked the duo. Everyone in town knew their names as well. After all, identical twins were quite rare in the thinly-populated sleepy town of theirs. It made them feel quite special really. Add to the fact that those two girls were the only twins around in their age-group; just shy of thirteen. The girls even attempted to confuse the townsfolk by wearing the same outfits and parting their hair the same way. Even that very day, they were both wearing similar white frocks which reached just below the knees. They had even worn the same set of sandals. However, Tanya was the only one left holding hers. Haniya had kicked off her sandals somewhere on the beach and was attempting to dance, twirling round and round with her arms widespread, a gleeful smile etched onto her face. On any normal day they both would have been dancing and having fun on the beach. But that very day the older twin was more forlorn. More detached with everything around her. Way more than what was considered normal.

This strange mood did not go unnoticed by her other half.

The younger twin turned around on her heels, both hands clasped behind her back as she looked at her sister with raised eyebrows. Her hair splayed about her because of the wind that was raging in the opposite direction. “What’s the matter Tanya?” Haniya inquired, leaning forward and frowning. “Who spit in your porridge this morning? You’re such a sourpuss today!” she exclaimed, trying to tuck her curls behind her ears.

Tanya rolled her eyes at her sister’s oh-so-fine choice of words.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Haniya. I’m perfectly fine!” she said, raising both hands. “Everything is just… peachy.”

Haniya took three long strides forward and unclapsed her hands from behind her back, taking her sister’s hands in her own. “You can’t fool me, you know,” she said to her mirror image, her frown deepening.

Tanya sighed in resignation and looked into her sister’s eyes. The same sea-green eyes as her own.

She could lie to the whole world but not to that girl.

She took a deep breath and started, “I honestly really cannot figure out what the matter is, but I feel like something is wrong. Something is really wrong.” She took a gulp of salty air, “I feel so down right now for no reason at all. I feel restless. Hollow even. And it’s not only right now. This feeling has been persisting in me for some time. And I have no idea why! What’s wrong with me?”

Haniya’s grip tightened on her sister’s hand before she suddenly let go and walked straight into the water. She stopped when it reached up to her knees, her white dress getting soaked at the seams.

“Since when?” she whispered, facing the crimson horizon.

“Since when what?” a bewildered Tanya inquired, rubbing her hands on her arms. They suddenly felt cold. Perhaps from the loss of warmth her sister’s hands had priorly provided.

“Since when have you been feeling this way?” Hainya asked, standing perfectly still in the water against the rhythmic tides.

For some reason, Tanya couldn’t stomach seeing her sister’s silhouette with the deep crimson sky in the background. So she closed her eyes and thought about it. Since when had she started feeling this strange emptiness? Was it yesterday? Since last week? Last month? When did it all begin? How had she lost all perception of time?

She was suddenly broken out of her reverie by the voice of her best friend calling out her name. No it was not Haniya. It was her next door neighbour, Samira.

Tanya turned her head to see Samira in a purple t-shirt and white shorts running towards her. “Hey, Tanya!… Hey!” she yelled, waving her hand as she ran with the wind, leaving a trail of footprints behind in the sand. She came to a sudden halt just in front of her.

“Samira! Where did you come flying from?” Tanya laughed at her friend who was bent over, panting, her hands on her knees. Quite a few strands of her jet black hair had come loose from her once-neat ponytail.

“I saw you here… alone… so I ran over!” Samira gasped, standing upright, grimacing while holding her side.

“What?” Tanya raised an eyebrow, “First of all, you have horrible stamina. And second, I’m not alone. Haniya’s with me,” she said, motioning to her sister with a slight flick of her head.

There was a static silence.

5 seconds

10 seconds

15 seconds

30 seconds

“Oh Tanya,” Samira’s eyes welled up, “Don’t tell me….? Don’t you remember anything? The fire…did you really forget…” she reached out a trembling hand towards her friend.

“What in the world are you babbling about?” Tanya shouted, swatting away her hand as she stepped back, feeling a wave of anger sweeping over her. How dare she say something like that? How dare she! Haniya was right there! She was right….

She turned around to call her sister over.

And in the midst of the crimson waves, there was no one there.

 

-Maria Ahmad.

Biosciences, 4th Year.

Oscar Acceptance Speech

I would like to thank my parents for giving me genes of mediocrity

Since I now have my whole set of stairs to climb upon

I would also like to thank my teachers who slapped me

For now I have little patch of stories embossed on my skin

And I would like to thank every person who told me I was not special

Because of you guys only, my path has now no red lights

And last and not the least, I would like to thank God,

For throwing me alone in the jungle full of hungry souls

Only for you, Oh Lord, am I now a meshwork of malice and beauty

And I thank you for that.

-Hira Altaf

Can you hear me? Where did I go?

Let us endure.

Let us fall.

Bring back that version of me that penetrates through my entire being.

Bring me back those eyes that lost themselves in the many realms that you had created.

Bring me back the heart that once understood what it meant to feel different no matter how diminutive it was.

Look.

And listen.

Try to find me in the cracks of my skin.

Search for me in the words my quivering lips fail to say.

Maybe I’d be humming in the dim halls, alone and astray.

The lights are fading now.

I’m slowly blending into the inky skies above me.

You’re losing me, and you’re still begging me to stay.

Can’t you understand?

My existence is not necessary for you, and neither are you for me.

Let’s be real, just this once.

I have lost you.

My beloved existence, my beloved self.

I have lost you.

-Gul Butt.

One Day.

One day

I will be

as brilliant as

I can be.

One day

I will rise from this slump

And shed this skin,

My flesh will be tender and pink

but it will be new.

The selfish aura lining my limbs

Will burn up in itself and leave

Only the ashes of empathy

I will rise like a Phoenix

Shining red and gold,

I will be confident, I will be bold

My light so bright, I will illuminate

My entire being will jubilate.

I will be courageous and just

The universe will witness,

One day is all I need

To start the rest of my life, as a brilliant new me.

-Aqsa Baiq.

Anxiety is the friend who stays past dinner and doesn’t want to go home.

sara

 I thought she wasn’t going to stay for long

I met her at a park when I was 10 years old

She said she was lonely, that she needed a friend

So I held her hand.

My mother took us to the beach one day

She told us how the sea had strange powers,

that it reminded you how to breathe just by watching it.

She explained to us, in the way she told stories,

How the waves touched the rocks with gentle caresses

and landed kisses on the white sand.

When my mother turned away, my friend whispered to me

“It’s violent.

It’s violent like a monster.

It has so much rage. Like it’s angry at us.

At you.”

One time, when a teacher called me to her office

to discuss my work, my friend kept telling me

“You must have done something wrong.

You must have gotten a bad grade.

You must have spelled that word wrong.”

And so like that she counted the ways I might have screwed up

on her fingers.

I let out a small laugh

though my palms were starting to clam up and my knees felt weak.

Some years passed

I made other friends

Friends who gave me their phone numbers

But every time I would send them a text and waited for their response

My friend made me check my phone

3 times

Then 7

Then a few times more

All in the span of five minutes

And if there was still no response, we’d argue

“They’re probably busy,” I’d say

“They don’t want to talk to you,” she’d say.

“They must have not checked their phone.”

“Maybe you said something wrong.”

My friend started sticking around a lot more.

One time, when I was waiting to meet a colleague from work at a café,

she insisted that I had left the stove on at home,

even when I reassured her I hadn’t.

She said something about the house erupting in flames

if I didn’t go home right then.

I eventually had to leave

It was the fourth time I had cancelled the meeting.

I didn’t understand why nobody else could see my friend

I wondered if anyone else had a friend like that

Who kept them up at night so they could either rewind past conversations

in their head countless of times

or play out scenarios perfectly so they wouldn’t

have to face reality.

I wondered if they also had someone who

made them change their outfits 5 times before leaving the house

only to constantly remind them to check their bag in case

they had left the keys at home

even if they hadn’t.

Who pushed a hand inside their chest and

grabbed their heart in their fist and made it beat faster and faster

until they felt it would burst from the seams.

Who made them stay home with a tempting offer to be wrapped in a blanket.

and read a book

instead of to face the world

because they just want to make them feel safe.

To protect them.

“This world is too much for you,” they’d say.

“You’re not ready.”

My friend doesn’t want to leave

She has no luggage she can pack up and move out

She says she is the safest person I’ll ever know

And maybe she’s right.

 

-Sarah Jafrani.

bro