• Monday, March 02, 2015


Noises and Voices

Anishta Khan

I play with my Barbie dolls in the corner of my plush, baby pink room. My room was always too big for me. I had no one to share it with. Through the careless gapping between my floral curtains, sunlight waltzed with the dust specs on my pink-white chequered flooring. I liked to see them dance together. I always watched the wedding video of my parents dancing. They looked the happiest then, under golden fairy lights.
Today, Ken asks Barbie out on a date when I hear Baba abruptly slam the coffee mug on the glass table. I imagine Ma looking up from the newspaper she was reading. I picture her hand moving up to her glasses to lower them to the rim of her ski slope nose and peering at my father with naked eyes. I have seen this scene at breakfast far too many times. Baba makes a snide comment about my behaviour at last night's party and stifles a laugh. I only took my book to read there because I knew none of his friends' daughters would want to talk to me. Ma changes the topic. She mentions democracy. I think she knows that I can hear them since only a too-thin wall separates the two rooms, my bedroom and the dining hall, even with the door closed.
As Baba argues with my mom about politics, Barbie quickly tells Ken she'll go anywhere outside tonight, her home feels suffocating. I imagine Ma calmly folding the paper and putting it on the wooden chair beside her, reminding Baba that she is entitled to her own opinion.  A 'hah' escapes his mouth and he simply says she's too ignorant to see the things forming right in front of her, because she's too involved with her personal activities. She reminds him of his own nocturnal outgoings and breaks down. Completely. This time, she doesn't even care if the neighbours can hear her. The cries are hysterical. She mumbles unintelligible phrases between her sobs. I imagine her rubbing her eyes, like an infant who lost her balloon to the sky. It has been too long for me to remember my mother without swollen eyes, without bags underneath them.
I hear the smash of a plate and imagine Ma's delicate hands getting cut a little when she threw her porcelain on the marble floor. There have been plenty of times when I tried to change the situation, turn it around like those merry-go-rounds we used to see when we went to carnivals together. Recently, though, I just play with Barbies when conflicts arise. It's easier to tune them out like that. Barbie quickly puts on one of her dainty dresses just as I hear Baba's chair screech against the floor and his feet quickly move to the other side of the table where my mother sits, weeping after saying something about his female secretary. I hear a tight slap and hands slamming against the glass table. And then, silence.
It's too much for me to handle. I drop Barbie on the floor and instinctively make a run for the door. But when I am somewhere in the middle of the room, my legs give way. I fall on my back and stare up at the fluorescent stars stuck to my ceiling, hands clenched tightly to the hem of my cotton frock. I sing myself a lullaby to put me to sleep. It is morning but I need space. As I slowly drift off I see some light falling on the origami birds above my head and their shadows make the room dance in its own peculiar way. I love to see people dance, I think. I don't know if it's me creating space, pulling myself in, but my room seems bigger after every argument Baba and Ma have.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2014

Last modified: 10:59 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

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