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The Deteriorating Heart

 Anamta Aibani

The first time I smoked was at the age of 10,
At a time when we taught how to write with a pen.
But instead of ink on my fingers, I had burns on my lungs.
Because of a faraway relative who thought it was imperative
To bring me chocolates and make me sit on his lap.
Running his fingers inside my pants
Then lower & lower, harder & harder.
It was the first time I was told by mum
“It happens in this world, It’s just part and parcel of being a girl”
So, every time a man touched me I lit a cigarette.

The type and number of cigarettes depended on the severity of the touch.
1 Gold Flake Light - For every time a stranger brushed his hand on my upper neck and lower back.
4 Gold Flake Lights - For every man who thought it was okay to squeeze my ass.

At 18, when Dad would come home stressed from work I would make him a piping cup of black tea.
Only realising that he needed something more, when he’d take Maa in and shut the bedroom door.
I realised that every night I prepared the tea, Maa would pop a pill before her sleep.
I never saw it earlier but at 18 I did,
Maa too had her cigarettes that killed.
She would hurt to distract herself too, little by little.
The only difference is her ‘white & brown’ came out of a bottle.
Now, married at 24, just like Dad he comes home stressed from work too,
And whispers in my ear “All I want is you”
So I’d let him take me to our bedroom and shut the door. Push me hard onto the bedroom floor.
14 years is what it took for me to not ask another to stop, to be okay.
14 years is what it took for all my NO’s to turn into an okay.
No.
Well, surprising how overpowering a word so small is you know,
Not saying it when you want to, kills you more.

So while he bit me, scratched me, pushed himself inside me for 365 days again & again. I would remember the me I was before the age of 10.
Catch myself counting the seconds on the clock every night, I’d diminish.
While he released his stress, I’d wait for him to finish.
And then light another 9.
8 - For his performance
1 - For my numbness.
People say that one cigarette brings death two steps closer to you.
According to my calculations, Death should have been at my doorstep, yesterday.
I guess it just got lost on its way.

At 25, I went to my parent’s home (not mine anymore, apparently) to visit.
Tired of waiting for Mr./Mrs.Death I decided to take things into my own hands, try and ease it.
So this time when Dad came home yet again stressed and took Maa into his bedroom to undress.
I grabbed my mother’s bottle of pills kept behind a cookie jar.
Gulping it down one by one, I could feel myself falling into the black, oh so far.
The dripping of my lungs, getting rid of the built-up tar.

It felt peaceful, ending of time. With me being glad of my record not exceeding 9.
However, mankind couldn’t bear the sight of my peace,
As one of you came digging into my grave while I was on an eternities sleep.
Leaving me wandering on the streets looking for an entire pack to light.
8 - For my numbness
2 - For your effort.
But no one could seem to hear my plight.

If you can hear me there’s something I would like you to do.
“Could you bring me a pack of advance, you?”
Wait, I hear the scraping of another spade against mud.
“Could you please make that two?”


6 comments

  • This is magnificent, very maturely written.

    Akshay Ramani
  • Ethereal. The word play is simple yet overpowering.

    Ahmar Sayed
  • Wow.

    Nidhi
  • I have chills!! This is so brilliantly written.

    Shivani Manohar
  • Amazing

    Pritha Vashishth
  • These words are profound !

    Amayed Khan

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