Our Time of Telling / Meena Rakasi

A young woman in a forest with her eyes closed, holding a branch in front of her face.
 

My mother held my hands soft, like crushed rose and velvet, and cried crocodile tears when I told her I was leaving. Her eyes spoke triumph through false-wet lashes, and her parting words spoke whispers of salvation, and it was her own.

You took me by the hand and treated it like flesh and blood, and so you sang through my veins and fashioned beauty from bare bone. You called our home a tower and I called it damning when you left to pluck your rampions and I learned I shared my heart with a vegetable: both of us would die left unattended. Sometimes, you would bring sweet-smelling flowers and music and fire from faraway lands and weave them all into my hair as we embraced, a welcome home. You said that one day, you would bring me with you, to sample all the sable-soft gentle things the world had to offer, and it was my solemn duty to remind us both of the fragile state of our illusion, how easily it could be fractured under the press of an onlooker. You would agree with reluctance wrought into your cheekbones and I would whisper I winbefore kissing you, hard.

And so we passed eternities in our own divine pocket of the universe, tucked away from harm, nestled within each other. You, a brilliant moon, were quiet in your own radiance, and I was nightshade soaking in your reflection, learning by example to create my own light. Within the tower there was no want for anything but soft gentleness and simple fire. I shed my thorns for fireflies and our roots intertwined so intricately that I slept the moment you closed your eyes. The best nightflower blue of me bloomed beautiful under your touch, and this was how it was meant to be.

A man condemned us with his favor when he passed by, concealed so treacherously by the bird and trees and harsh brightness of sun. He caught your luminous descent and sought, as any mortal would, to replicate it, and the beginning of the end frosted over my bones when I pulled my hair through the windowsill and saw him. All rough scattered stubble and awkward mass. He could never even begin to locate his center of gravity. I knew the second I laid my eyes on his form that he had no place here.

Fairytales are for girls and boys with spun-gold souls waiting to be redeemed and, my dearly cherished, I am nothing like them. My soul was forged of steel and tempered by you. We never belonged on anything more solid than borrowed time, finely ground quicksand; I felt this truth in the ringing of my ears when I locked terrified eyes with that man and heard your voice, all rich gossamer. He peered out the window before I could tell him he had no right to even look in your direction and I wanted to cry but the tears froze to film over my eyes because reality, in all its inevitability, had finally realigned once more.   

I ran to the window within this gelling state of time and pushed the man out of the way and saw you, brine on your face where it shouldn’t ever be, and when I searched  your face all I saw was scorching sand and hateful wind slapping my skin and the tower was no more and it never would be again.

Sometimes, in the desert, I entertained myself by thinking of what could have been if I had never met you. To have grown up in a house of simmering venomous silence and never have left, for the toxins to steep into my soul. I would have met neighbors who tell me I look just like my mother so many times my mouth would be forced to memorize her split-lip smile. I would have met a man, eventually, and convinced myself that my fingers were not meant for curls and moonlight they had never met, but for callously shaven skin and beds with both sides cold. Maybe there would be a village girl who would catch my eye, and maybe I could resist and maybe I couldn’t and she and I would retreat to our own shared liminal sunlight. I would have children, eventually, borne into a loveless house, their own tomb.

Meeting you was the best thing that could have happened to me.

And so these grey years passed devoid of softness, save for what I managed to resurrect from memory. Somehow, I could never find my way back to the tower, as if that fold of space-time had punched up around it and gulped the structure whole. In my deepest heart of hearts (the one that was forever, eternally yours) I knew I would never see it again.

I learned the art of self-sustaining, of putting myself back together on my own. In the era before you, there was nothing to pick up; in the time after, I was bursting out of my own skin. And my hands learned to hold their own water and my lips remembered how to drink and my love for you grew more and more beautiful by the day, scabbed with silver and forest flowers. To the years I learned how to hunt on my own, how to divine the nonsense my soul needed from the stars overhead. The years that taught me how to exist in your absence, priming me for your return.

Because it was inevitable. My soul may be steel but yours was moonlight: meant for more beauty than any fairytale could handle. One day, when I was fetching water, I saw your figure among the firs, poking holes through pinpricks of sunlight, and you came back for me.

I’m so incredibly sorry, you said, eyes pooling over into mine.

I love you, I said, before returning to where I belonged.

(We never needed the tower again; there was more than enough space for us in the expanse of ever-loving wilderness, under Her starstruck sky.)

***

Meena Rakasi is a sixteen-year-old junior from San Jose, California. When she’s not buried under schoolwork or crying over her physics textbook, she’s mining good music from Youtube, annoying her little brother, and yes, writing. Her work, the prose inextricable from advocacy, is littered around the internet, with most centering around the cultural disconnect of being a second generation American. She has been published in the Mercury News and her mother’s fridge.

See more: @meenarats