The World Is On Fire


Sarannaya Bose
B.A. (H) in English

The night before yesterday, I felt my eyes well up as I stared at the television screen. I cried a lot that day, for long hours until daybreak. The more I rubbed off my tears, the warmer my eyelids felt, until they burned like a papercut and I grew tired of crying. I cried like a toddler without shame or reason and yet I cried silently. I felt a cruel defeat like the one I felt when I was nine. Forty-seven of us running into a class after recess. White square pieces of paper on each desk and my Science teacher at the back of the room.

"If you can fold this paper more than 7 times, I'll give a free class today!" she said. The first four folds were easy, and I felt swollen with victory. There was a deaf silence all over the room as our tiny hands struggled to make the paper fold for the seventh time. Stiff as wood, it automatically unfolded itself to its previous position with five folds. I felt an overwhelming defeat gushing all over me as I unfolded the paper again and again with unruptured attention, lining the two edges to finally make it work.

Now, when I said that I cried a lot last night, and the day before that, and the previous Monday when it rained a lot, and when I was down with fever and messed up the buttons of my shirt or when I could not close the umbrella as the water dripped all over the living room and at my sister's wedding, I don't remember how I caught it or why I caught it or when I did. I don't know how it begins or when it ends. I don't think about it too much.

Perhaps, it ends when he slowly peels an orange, separating the thread-like strings, and holds out each slice like an orb to his lover.

My dad's patient hands holding a small ball of rice as I continue to push my face away.

Gubli's muffled laughter as we watch Mom smile and frown in her sleep.

The cold marble floor stinging us in the middle of January as we tiptoe our way upstairs for pee breaks.

The cold burns my naked feet. It burns it stark white.

It is burning me. It is burning you.

The cold is faithful; it stays long after January is gone.

It lingers when I wait for the lift or while a reheat my food for the fourth time or when I listen to Florence and the Machine in a crowded bus or when I lay down all alone with my eyes wide open.

I wish I could eat the whole table or I could find better metaphors to describe my heart.

I wish I had dyed my hair auburn last September and the September before that. I wish I hadn't tucked my words in and let them melt into silence.

I wish I talked to the man on the bus. I wish I stopped him as he melted into the sidewalk, into five thousand heads across the street.

But they say I am Goliath.

I am the whole mountain.

I am the fire.

And yet, the cold burns me throughout.

It is burning me. It is burning you.