I drink tea from our old Trader Joe’s minced garlic jar, you from the blue mug we bought together downtown. Like a prayer, I hold the jar tight in my hand, hot and urgent. On a Monday, I walk to our apartment in my new beige shoes, bags of fresh produce weighing me down. I cook sticky stir fry. Spill sauce, then wipe it clean with a red cloth. Even then, flies swarm around the faded stain on the countertop. Sometimes, it rains and rains, and still, I never think of home. At the 7/11 across from us, I ask the kind lady in the hijab for quarters. She tells me they're all out, so I walk back defeated, shoes red with mud. I let the laundry bag in my room fill up with sweaters and blood-stained underwear and scrunchies that slip off my hair in the middle of the day. When I forget to rinse the jar for days, the old tea bag in it sprouts white watchful fungus clouds. On a Friday, you sit in your corner and draw an outline of our dining table with a black felt-tip pen, then label it ‘16 Royce Road.’ As if through a camera, I watch us. As if through a camera, the image stutters. Sitting in our olive-green chair, I write poems about our apartment in the past tense. When they sound pretentious, I change them to the present tense. Big difference. Here, there is jazz. And tea. And a blue futon. And an orange stain on the blue futon, from yesterday’s butter chicken. A couple across from us that makes music all day long. Trains whizz by, large crates of light in the dark, moving. There are places for things to be kept, but mostly stuff is everywhere. When looking for a necklace I lost, I find Diet Coke cans congregating under the sofa, silver and as real as anything I've ever known. In the night, I trace two fingers across the wall. There is dirt, and paint flecks from some other life someone lived here long ago.
Manal Ahmed is a writer from Karachi, Pakistan. Her work has previously been published in Dhoop Journal.