“Breathe, quickly”
Maa looks at me, the glare once owned missing.
“You look up at the ceiling, and you breathe”
This is not the first time she said that to me,
I was twelve when I used my dirt-stained hands to wipe away my tears on my uniform again,
“I can’t keep washing them away, ruins the quality”
“Next time it happens, you look up at the ceiling, and you breathe”
And so, I did.
I was still fifteen when she said it again,
I made a note that when girls have their fathers pick them up,
You’re not supposed to be sad.
You say your father’s working late again,
You pick up a mahogany for yourself
And “you look up at the ceiling, and you breathe”
At twelve, it seemed like the biggest truth that could shatter me,
Was the fact that it was never about the uniform.
At seventeen,
I learned that when you feel like your nails are drawing scratches inside your throat,
And when a boulder the size of a coffin makes its way up
from your stomach to your heart,
And the stench of the graveyard is gnawing the insides of whatever’s left of you,
You make more space for it, as you look up, and breathe.
But then,
At twenty,
You’ll realize that you’re a room full of graveyards,
Of memories that didn’t happen,
And this time,
She’ll again tell you “to look up and breathe”
She will not glare anymore,
…..did she realize?
…..have you..started to fill her shoes yet?

– Maniti Shah