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Scraps

   I was stubbing one of my so-called last cigarettes on the window pane overlooking Waban. It was almost midnight and it seemed peaceful, beaming with an untold regret. The night was gaining upon an indescribable urgency for us to carry on. I exhaled my last puff and closed the window. It should have been one of my regular Thursday nights at Wellesley, suffocating in my pillow, snubbing my very much cold toes at the end of the bed. My roommate, an exchange student from Singapore, would slurp on her boiled ramen and it would drive me mad. I would call my sister and plead for a way out. How do I tell her to stop?! I couldn’t figure for the life of me. “Is it a cultural thing? Because if it is, I am so sorry!” I remember gushing one day when I could not take it anymore. “No, it’s not.” She seemed offended I even thought of that possibility. “I’ll stop eating in the room. However, stop smoking before bedtime, it attracts my allergies in the morning.” I missed my roommate from Fall. We texted a couple of weeks ago when this thing hit South Korea hard. She seemed panicked, for someone who I only witnessed exist in this world with calmness. I should have listened more carefully, maybe it would not have had the strangest impact it had on me that night.

     “Mashallah!”

     I titled my then heavy head up. 

     “Ay, Julia, come on, let us drink tonight. It could be our last.”

     So we drank that night. They did at least, my whole body was contracting a fever. My face would be snubbed in the cheap fan my assigned host mother gave me in my freshman year. With some slowed motion, I brought the wine cans from my mini-fridge and imparted them around the room. The girls took cool, thirsty sips after sips like it could be our last supper of the kind. One girl I didn’t know in particular elbowed me and inquired why I wasn’t drinking. “Ah, not tonight.” I smiled. But what other night was there?

      The whole week seemed rehearsed. How everyone was packing massive boxes, stacked on one another, occupying half of the hallway. The sense that it was becoming more real by the box made me gulp in disgust. I had questions, just like everyone, but any answer I would have been presented with was, at last, unfavorable. We had to go. They told us to. They even bought us tickets. They wanted us gone by Tuesday. So I was gone by Friday at midnight.

***

   I went to visit a friend or whatever he was at Harvard a few days before we were announced. It was my attempt to get out Wellesley before all hell broke loose and I had nowhere to run. Cambridge implied a different atmosphere. It was packed but it seemed like everyone shouldn’t be there. He was sitting by the red line stop, scrolling down on his phone. The sky was so particularly grey it became instantly depressing. I was agonizing in my head why this was happening as if this massive situation was a personal attack on my well-being instead of the entire world population. While I was walking towards the CVS in Harvard Square, I wished so desperately that the whole Earth would swallow me full right there and then. It would spit me out at a later date when things regained their normalcy. Random police alarms were going off in the background, muting my thoughts out. Although I had known him for some time, there was a human estrangement even then. I didn’t want to be connected to another person when our lives were about to be shifted in the opposite direction. Fast forward a few hours later, I was blankly staring at the ceiling of his dorm.

       “Trump just announced a Europe ban,” I blurted out.

       He went off to explain to me this whole thing was blown out of proportion. How I should stay calm, everything will be fine. Everything is fine. I packed my things and left in a hurry.

***

      One week prior to this madness, life seemed simple. Equally simple to any student rambling through college. We were launching our first newsletter for international students and I was fanatically mulling over at the thought of getting passed out that night. Veeksha and I took an Uber to Party City, in an attempt to decorate the Pub for a dance night. It seemed so normal. To push the trolley in that empty store, rave at the sight of decorations, check the price, and put them back on. Searching for an air pump and laughing discordantly with the cashier. Veeksha was recording our every movement like she always does. I love her for that, but I never said it. Some day in the future, she would look upon these quite odd clips and smile that good smile of hers. Recordings of easier, simpler times. 

      Later that day, I put on my favorite lipstick, let my unfavorably messy hair down. In the mirror, my red tattoo was reflecting like somebody slashed the back of my arm. In hindsight, each glimpse I catch of it, I fail to remember why I went on and got it. It is a great opportunity for anyone with a bone to pick to let me know why maybe one of these days I will settle on a narrative. 

      Any thought I have now seems rather insufficient. I do not wish to end telling stories of my last few weeks as they stupidly and inevitably approach April. April for goodness sake. Somehow, a part of me wants a scapegoat for this. A finger to point. You, you are the one who should get punished for how millions of lives were affected. Thousands infected. Hundreds dropping dead at every corner. But that is meagerly pointless. The damage was deeply and greatly done, as we shaped as a transparent audience on sidelines, commenting every new case in an attempt to keep our sanity still. Who knows when this will end and, more importantly, how. These days, anyone is fondling speculations like a greatly curved woman.

***

      I was sinking in my chair, finally facing the aisle. A part of me has always wanted to be the lucky par that gets to use the toilet whenever during flights, which had never happened probably because it costs more money. I was already at the back of an empty plane on the college’s money, which said more than enough. The second I heard the three people hogging next to me mutter Dio, l’aereo è vuoto and gesticulate as though they were attempting ASL of some sorts, I unbuckled in a split second. I do not know why I thought this was internalized xenophobia on my part, but I wasn’t taking any chances. There were two empty seats next to me, which I took without second thoughts.

My mind began wandering to her. Suddenly, I couldn’t help but think if she was beautiful. If that’s why you couldn’t help it. For some reason, the last two months didn’t present an opportunity for me to try to conjure up her face. She represented accessibility, but I do not wish to put down a woman I have never met. Meeting you was enough. I caught myself pulsating with anger yet again. Irrespective of how much my heart ached for that sole touch of yours, my mind was relearning how to abstain and ponder logically. I imagined myself spitting in disgust, violently turning on my Spotify. Tears rolled down my yellowish mask for which I begged Health Services the day before my thoughts gutted me on a plane home. This emptiness screeching in my stomach came alive again. It always did when I thought about you, such as an acknowledgment that something was missing but you couldn’t know what. I read somewhere recently that nothing ever ends poetically. Conversely, my thoughts turned you into poetry rather than blood. Somehow, even if we don’t speak anymore, my fingers will always long to write about you and your memory.

***

  Tough-talking may very well be my strong pursuit on this blog. Convey what I must, in the end, I need to show people that of course, I did it, here’s how you can do it as well. At times, running through my posts, there is a sense of false advertisement I unconsciously subvert to when I write. How could I possibly tell people now there are still moments when past crumbs of my depression seep through me and I surrender? We have already heavily unpacked that subject one year ago, celebrated happy days, and clearly moved on. There is no remote space left for sadness. Nay, I lost myself. I confused myself.

   There is a repeated theme you can find here. My self-portraits on social media depict a remote, physical, and let us be honest, superficial aspect pertaining to myself and myself only. You click out of curiosity on my blog, alas, it does have my pretty name in light blue letters at the top, and you submerge into a tiny world of a wanna-be immigrant writer hiding in New England’s suburbs. She sobs and wails at every new moment in her college life, she details it in such soft and crude realities it seems fascinating. You think, God, this vulnerability is perturbing, such a sincere artist. But then again, I am nothing more than a con artist myself. 

   My wounds are rather unstitched. When the heat of my dorm hits me in the neck and I cede to a night of tossing and turning, I often lick them. The sounds of drunk freshmen wailing on the Tower steps visit my cracked windows and I listen. My soberness impairs my most beautiful thoughts and a crippling envy betrays my serenity. I wish I was drunk as well. How defenseless we are then! With open arms, we cling to the world and smile, smile, smile. Oh, how I wish I was drunk!

***

   It is not easy to forget words that should have never left someone’s lips in the first place. It may have been the first time I gathered evidence instead of blindly believing. I mean religion. 

   The first time I spurred Our Holy Father was months before I could even read, merely by listening to my grandma reciting it east nightly on our way to sleep. I would listen and listen, barely making sense of the words themselves. Now, studying neuroscience, I realized the simple act of brainwashing my grandma succumbed me to without even knowing. In a few days, my little knees would bend forward and recite the words myself, my grandma wiping tears out of her eyes for a period of time I remember to be indefinite.

  I stopped reciting the prayer before bed, most probably, in middle school. You know, when our thoughts take shape and you begin to seriously question this and that. It was unremarkable, to say the least, it was even fashionable to become an atheist and go against your parents’ orthodox views. You would crack two or three eggs for Easter and move on with your liberating lifestyle. Anyway, my 14-year-old self erased the act of believing in God, Jesus, religion or whatever was related to it right there and then. It would be a few more years when I would fairly adopt the word agnostic in my high school vocabulary, proudly wearing it in the form of a pin on my growing breasts. My breasts.

  It was my senior year when I was mindlessly doodling on my notebook. My two deskmates would do something else entirely next to my right, as we had fixated a clear schedule of who gets to take the seat facing the middle row. That particular week, he got lucky. In my peripheral vision, I saw him slowly approaching from the front of the class. His black gown would flutter against our dirty classroom floor, but it never seemed to bother him. Out of habit, I didn’t bend my eyes up, since I knew he sometimes positioned himself in the back of the class to get a better view of us entirely. But then I felt his breath next to my ear.

   Everyone else was doodling too. There wasn’t much dynamic in the class, so his face propped right next to mine passed as normal. As a normal conversation between a professor and a student. I turned, facing his bearded, smudged smile. 

   “I accepted your friend request.”

    I smiled. Shily.

   He then whispered, “I was awake until 2 AM last night going through your photos. I really loved the green dress.” He left. I gulped.

   My two desk mates looked at me with enlarged eyes, questioned without saying a word, and went back to their phones. That was just a silly taste of the rest he would put me through until I would get my diploma and leave that place for good.

   How natural it was for him to go behind the desk and resume his sacred life of a priest, of a father, as a husband. Every once in a while, when you would light up a cigarette behind rammed buildings in the school’s inner garden, you would hear about another story concerning another girl. Everyone laughs. Everyone calls him an idiot. We act surprised he had the grotesque nerve to say that in front of an entire class. Maybe, someone who is a bit of a nook would question why no one is saying anything and everyone laughs again. You throw the muck of the cigarette in the bulging one and you go back to class. 

  I want to vomit as I write this. 

  I don’t know why my fingers submissively traced his name for this article. 

***

one last sunset.

I believe falling in love is grotesque.

For some unknown reason, your mind fails you in your direst hour. There is a strange presence in your life, something you are so vulnerable and attracted to, anything goes. If you are denied a smile, you begin writing paragraphs searching for a reason why. We need to analyze how the average human being decides upon another to spend their nearest future in disgust, pain, and infallible emotions which only lead to despair. As far as I was concerned a couple of months ago, maybe even if we dip our toes into the waves of summer of 2019, my skin repulsed the idea of love and its consequences. Irrespective of the tiny moments punctuating our memory at that moment, we dive into others and easily forget about our lovers. There might be a night, cold and deeply far away when your nose swallows in their fragrance on the street and your knees mellow. It happened to me too many times my knees started to build some muscle. Each fragrance that decimated a safe part of my soul would remind me that I once, too, fell in love at the worst possible. An unaccounted factor. But in this day and age, spilling words and wine glasses are useless. Unremarkable even. The sole idea of breeding alone in a corner, feeding on the distant thoughts of having loved in the past is becoming even more real. It chiefly lurks in my mind until it becomes a necessity. I remind myself of holding his arm in the car, while the other was fluttering the cigarette off the window. On our way to the cheapest beach he told me so many stories about, when nothing seemed too urgent. I would look at the entire landscape surrounding the car and gulp of my ignorance. The constant beauty paralyzed me, while his hand grappled mine even harder. We would fight yet again, but right now, I do not remember why. Right now, I do not care to. The passion I felt in our arguments was an addiction I easily scratched off at the end of the summer when I kissed you for the last time. Regardless of how many times I begged my self to miss your touches, I could not. My fingers would light another slim cigarette on the verge of the rock, where my yet heavy head would pause on the wall I found to be way too uncomfortable and lookup. I would often think of you and your intensity. After a few months, my fate paused and inquired about my loneliness. There wasn’t a definite answer I could offer since it seemed I was anything but stupidly lonely. I found myself shaking in the bed, staring at my crapped wall. I must have been lonely. I must have been the epitome of loneliness when you took my empty hand and I allowed you. Now, a prisoner in my own humility, I wonder how did I indulge into pleasure when pleasure was everything I sought? There is one instance, so deeply cut into my brain, I cannot seem to phantom erasing it. Life hasn’t given us time, but we fairly timed the one given. My tiny feet came into your room while you were drunk on red wine, dancing alone in the middle of nothing and everything. You took my hand and laughed at how it was easily swallowed by yours. We allowed ourselves to project the wine and dance through it as if there was a continuation after this. As I hoped it would be. My mind distinctly remembers when we fell asleep holding each other’s heads for warmth. How silly of me! I suspect it is only me on this earth that remembers this. That is the thing about unreciprocated love. It is uncalled for, as a weird uninvited guest at a fancy charade. You want to push them out but you are afraid that, in the midst of all, you become the evil character in the plot. You were not evil. I was just too in love to let myself out. It is alright with me and my peace. Some moments need to accompany me to the grave and back.

Scraps from March 2020

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