the mind of a self-proclaimed كنداكة

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Entry #13

The cobwebs brushed against her smooth copper fingers which were welded by years of weekly dilka scrubbing. The emptiness inside her resonated too loudly for her to pull them off her hands in the fear that she usually would respond with in such a situation. Complying to her fiery nature, she continued sifting through the box for old letters and photographs with an unexplained anger. Every photograph looked so painfully redundant, nothing looked too unusual: her mother wore a flimsy headscarf, barely displaying her kinked locks twisted together to form two neat plaits on either side of her head. Despite the bi-coloring and resultant monotony of the picture, the richness of her mother’s brown skin emanated intensely to the observer, her protruding eyes showed a peculiar depth that alluded unconditional kindness, and her long jar-jar appeared to reflect the sunlight that was shining on it in different hues of its otherwise coal-black color.

Why did her mother have to be the opposite of what she was, and punish her for it? The photographs screamed at her what her mother consistently told her during the peak of her rebellion:

“Do not set foot inside my house with that nose ring and box of cigarettes ever again!”

“Ya biti, how many times do I have to tell you to not express your political views so openly to your disapproving minister uncles?”

“What are you doing with your life? Thirty-one with a foreign husband and no child?”

Annah shrieked in frustration; her mother spent a lifetime tormenting her only daughter and now, she couldn’t shed a single tear at her own mother’s funeral. And how dare her mother tell her she’s proud of her on her deathbed?

“Ah-nna, are you alright?” A familiar voice asked from behind. The anglicized pronunciation of her name always bothered her but at the moment, she preferred to be Anna over being a girl given a name that meant mother in her native tongue when her own mother despised her.

“Uh, yeah, I’m just looking for something that I doubt exists.” She scoffed to herself, angling her face slightly in her husband’s direction, displaying only half her face and a faint smile. The hostility painted across her face would seem despicable to outsiders not directly experiencing her struggle.

“Alright, we’ll be waiting for you downstairs.” He told her before closing the attic’s door, carefully tip-toeing around his wife to avoid upsetting her in this volatile state.

Hearing his footsteps as he walked away from the door incited a sense of urgency in her. She needed to know what her father meant before anyone got suspicious.

“Your mother was a lot like you: a rebel and revolutionary defying social constructs. She behaved and dressed however she pleased, and spoke whatever and however she pleased. Your grandparents, who you know were freedom fighters, couldn’t be prouder of their little independent thinker. She was both a biological and intellectual product of their union, a masterpiece that they valued above all else. I met her in college in 1970 in a protest. I was not only mesmerized by the sharpness of her beauty, I was in awe of her burning passion. I fell in love with your mother so deeply that it would hurt me to tell you what happened to her when you were only a year old. It changed her immensely. You’ll find your answers in the box labelled the 1980s to 2000.”

The ambiguity in the ending of the short tale her father told her earlier this morning fueled her even more. She decided she would only look for letters, they’ll explain in greater detail than the pictures would. Annah continued ravaging through the box so violently until it toppled over. A loosely sealed envelope with the words “BURN AS SOON AS READ” slipped onto her lap. Curiosity whisked her away as she tore through the envelope and gripped the letter placed in it.

Dear Yusuf,

I wish I could start with the niceties I would usually use when I begin my letters but all kindness has been drained out of me. I’m sorry I haven’t been home yet but I can’t let you and Annah see me like this.

It’s been a month and my recovery is slower than I thought. Seeing you wouldn’t speed it up, it would only slow it down. I still have dreams of the torture chamber they threw me into, only they remembered to seal the window shut in the dream. I was a fool to believe in guerrilla intersectionality, I should’ve have listened to you.

I need to cleanse my mind, body and soul. I need to change my ways and find my way back into the light. They threatened to kill you and Annah if I didn’t cooperate with their cause. I can’t keep challenging them and have you both alive.


The letter fell out of Annah’s hand as her eyes trailed the last sentence over and over again. An understanding of her mother’s behavior slowly sunk into Annah’s brain. 

Ummi didn’t want me to go through what she went through.

WAAAAAAAAAAAY!” A symphony of booming voices suddenly engulfed Annah’s subconscious into realization: her mother’s corpse was ready for burial.

Annah hurriedly tucked the letter into her pocket and stormed to the bottom floor. She was met by a parade of shrieking women running after four boys carrying the bed supporting the wrapped body.

“LET ME THROUGH!” Annah pushed through until she reached her mother. “Put her down, NOW!”

The boys obliged instantly. Annah dropped to her knees beside the bed, her head falling forward and grazing the body covered in white cloth.

“I’m so sorry, Ummi.” Her broken voice whispered. “Now I understand. Please forgive me. I love you.”

Annah slowly raised her head in perfect synchronization with the boys lifting the bed once again. As the bed ascended to its designated position, the wetness of the cloth where Annah’s head rested brushed against her goose-bump-covered bare arm.


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Entry #5: Woman

I walked out into the harsh winds, ignoring the incessant biting of the cold winter into my frail bones. I walked down the marble steps, my worn out soul trembling, my faith shaken, my energy withering but my body resilient to any discomfort. I walked straight onto the rough granite pavement embedded with the footprints of distressed civilians, inconsiderate of whether or not I was crossing a pedestrian’s designated path.  I walked down the street, dressed in an abaya which served as a constant reminder of the tyranny I was coerced to live in harmony with under false pretenses of the religion I devotedly believed in, avoiding to look into anyone’s angry eyes in fear of the accusing glares deeming me a harlot in spite of my consented full coverage. I walked past the first man, lowering my gaze as I was expected to and felt, I felt his searing gaze scanning my body half-longingly half-distastefully, wrongfully judging the oppressed woman, the silenced voice underneath the humble black garment. I walked towards my destination; bearing the word “underdog” in my mind but having the taboo of a word “woman” emblazoned on my chest and carved into my features, ensuring the indifference my expression conveyed. I walked past the string of grimy stores, ignoring the monotonous words of the citizens while having my mental voice engulfing my thoughts with its anger and struggle to attain my lost rights. I walked on as the thunder rumbled wildly and the sky began to water the earth, inhaling the sweet scent of tobacco mixed molasses which reminded me of the fact men chose to harm their health while women couldn’t due to the social unacceptability of females smoking. I walked, embracing the soon to be transient nature of my suppression, promising myself it wouldn’t be long before I could behave the way I wanted to. I walked, swearing to Allah that they will rue the day they chose to regard women as the weaker sex. I walked and walked, hoping my legs wouldn’t give out and my mind would finally be quiet for once.


Entry #3: A short story

Clutching the edges of the icy marble sink, I exhaled heavily. Ochre fingers gone pale and mauve lids snapped shut; I gnashed my upper incisors into my bottom lip, which acted as a barrier between the two rows of calcium-strengthened teeth in my mouth. I could not feel anything, the pain was nothing, it meant nothing. Reluctantly, I opened my cocoa eyes and, with a wince, stared straight into the mirror ahead. I slowly traced my swollen face, momentarily lost in thought. My eyes were brilliantly bloodshot, my dark complexion had gone ashen, my nose was abnormally red and my chapped burgundy lips were conveniently bleeding. I watched myself die a little every passing day and remained neutral. I was a falsely accused psychopath barely struggling in my straitjacket, a vicious and vivacious lioness declawed, a faltering show of fireworks in the morning of the first of January. A choked sob struggled up my trachea, painfully suspended in my voice box. My eyes welled up with salty water, threatening to gush forth as I feebly attempted to hold the tears back. Ultimately, streams of saline water escaped my eyes as I gasped for air, an appropriate embodiment to the train of negative thoughts forming deep in my head.


A bristly gust of wind entered through the chestnut-paned window, reminding me of the unforgiving winter nights. Inhaling sharply, I dragged myself to the opening in the room, followed by the ominous sound of my battered boots against the rigid wooden floor. I poked my disheveled head out into the frigid December air and closed by lavender lids, savoring the frosty weather, fully aware of my subjection to hypothermia. This scene could have easily induced a panic attack in a cheimophobe like my Australia-residing sister but honestly, who cares? Fluttering my lids open, I gazed into the light morning sky, faintly glittering with distant stars, and think of how long winter nights and loneliness are a package deal, a deal no one in their right mind would agree to.


The stars’ withering luminance reminded me of my own, which only seemed to falter each passing day. I had repulsively been wallowing in self-pity and despair throughout the past month, blaming the world for my own mindless mistakes. Fuelled by revulsion, I heaved my exhausted body off the windowsill and grabbed the burgundy coat swinging lifelessly on coat rack. As I slipped my numb sienna arms into its velvet armholes, I marched towards the door leading to the street. On my way out, I clutched the lonely umbrella leaning against the slate wall and snapped it open. Holding it above my head, I exited into the vapid December air. 


There was nothing particularly distinctive about this day: it was typically bleak, disheartening and carried a sentimental kind of aura. The cadet sky had begun shedding its precious tears, which only meant one thing: impatient and dispirited civilians. Walking aimlessly amongst despondent pedestrians, I bumped into a tall male in a fine coat, a shade of maroon similar to mine. Unjustifiably unable to apologize, I stared into his prominent eyes, my insipid chocolate boring into his vibrant cerulean. Flashbacks of my childhood passed fleeting through my tired brain; my stunning mother running after me around the backyard, my handsome father playing soccer with me in the front lawn, my caring older siblings hissing warnings at me whenever I dared to defy my parents, my schoolmates singing me a happy birthday when I turned eight. Gazing into his dark eyes, I could not help but feel pure joy. His mere presence seemed to induce happy recollections in my worn-out mind. He halted wordlessly and lifted the right side of his cerise lips into a slight, ironic smile. Yearning an unexplained non-existent past including him, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Who was he? He blinked his lashes once and muttered a quick apology, his deep, familiar voice reverberating through my icy bones. I nodded my freezing head once and continued down the granite pavement. I sped down the sidewalk, blissfully reminiscing while slowly slipping into an inevitable trance. As my consciousness faded, I felt my heart pound with adrenalin, hoping for another accidental encounter with this intriguing stranger. In spite of my heart’s pathetic desires, my dazed brain was fully aware of how far-fetched that was. It didn’t matter if those thirty seconds happened to change my mood to the complete opposite, I knew that it was one-time thing, a reminder that I am more than my fleeting emotions. And I was right.