Tag Archives: USEF 2016

‘Theirs to keep’ by Fatima Malik

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Every Friday, my dear mother would make sure to take me to her weekly visits to the hospital. She knew. She knew exactly how every corner and every speck in the waiting room glared at me, threatened me, told me I was broken, told me I had no future. She saw how the receptionist shot daggers at me and how the janitor scurried away as fast as he could from every corridor that I walked in. Worse of all, she made sure the seat next to the aquarium was left for me. So, I sat at the very edge away from my death every Friday.

How did I survive? I screamed. I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“Banshee!” the receptionist would scream and in less than two seconds everyone would be out of the waiting area. Then, my oh-so-lovely mother would take her time to walk in and slap me, right across the cheek. It had become routine for me. It did not even bother me that the print of her fingers would not even go away anymore.

“You dumb kid! It is only an aquarium! You have to learn to look it in the eye and not let it scare you,” my mother would say, every time. She would then forcefully grip my arm and drag me out of the hospital. Yet, she would still bring me the next time and history would repeat itself every, single time.

A gush of wind rushed past me and it takes me two seconds to regain my balance, stretch my arms again and secure myself on the rope. I had taken twenty three steps and according to my calculations, I was now in the middle. Never had I imagined my brain to remind me of my mother; my mother who was the reason fifteen years of my life had been a complete and utter disaster. I thought this while I was on a tight rope with the risk of plunging to death and with no idea what lay underneath the pads of my feet and the tight rope.

In that moment, my eyes felt as restless as ever. I knew they were going to betray me, exactly like every other organ in my body had betrayed me. What I felt in that moment was intense and tempting; the kind of feeling that is hard to describe. You know that tingle in the pit of your stomach when you are on a rollercoaster and it goes into a free-fall? It was the reason I would sneak into the local circus every year and ride the rollercoaster; it was my form of getting rid of the temptation that feeling gave me and hence I looked down and my heart skipped two beats or maybe more. I did not have time to count.

As I glanced down, I saw it; I saw it all and I heard it. I heard it all. You know the feeling I described? It came with twice the force but I was not falling and the feeling was not going away anytime soon. Underneath me, the expanse of blue water stretched in every direction. The waves kicked in every direction. They were angry. They roared until the birds stopped singing and they screamed to tell the world that they were not afraid.

Inside me, regret of coming here filled in. How had I not heard the roar of the waves before stepping towards my death? I had always wanted to do this but I never knew I would have to face water, the one thing that I feared. Why had my eyes not betrayed me earlier? I could have easily walked back. My hands felt shaky and the inside of my knees and elbows started sweating. My knees felt weak and in that moment I decided that the only way out was to trust the tightrope and walk as fast as I could, reach the other side of the cliff that was twenty three steps away, go home and sleep until my knees calmed down.

Yet as I stepped forward, my eyes refused to leave the blue of the waves; the blue of the waves that refused to come in one color; the blue of the waves that reminded me of the painting shade card back at home.

The most dominating ones were the ones that were midnight black. They reminded you of cloudless night skies and when they roared, the roared like the lion. They roared how the lion roars to prove its dominance. Then there were the ones that changed colors. They were the ones that had two sides: the calm and gentle side and the rough and tough side. Then came the waves that reminded you of calm California beaches. They were the lightest shade of blue and they splashed with a white lining. Yet, the darkness of them all combined made me believe that these waves had no ending, that if I fell I would be falling for the next two centuries.

In a matter of seconds I realized that I was two steps away, two steps away from the cliff. I had made it, I was safe and I was ready to go home and mark yet another adventure off my bucket list. An adventure that was by far the hardest. All the mountain climbing and late night driving to the middle of nowhere were nothing compared to this.

Something then surged inside of me, in a very little amount but it was something and I did not like it. So I took my chances and I glanced down and I was right, the feeling disappeared but something else kicked in. Beneath me, the waves were calm. They were lying down and they refused to roar. They collected themselves and lay there, waiting, waiting for someone.

Who were they waiting for? Why were they acting so calmly? Did they always do this? In the midst of it all, I noticed it. I noticed them smiling up to me. I noticed them calling me, but why would they? What was I to them? Why were they acting like if I fell down, they would catch me. They would rescue me and they would take me home? Did they make everyone feel at home?

I was out of my mind; I had to go home. Locking each and every thought in the back of mind, I stepped forward. One step to go.

“You are one of us.”

Were they calling me? Did they want me? No one has ever wanted me.

“We need you.”

That was it. That was all I needed to hear and I was theirs, theirs to keep forever. They needed me and I was glad to be theirs.