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  • Pieces On Transgender Identity

    Foreword: International Transgender Day of Remembrance lands on November 20th. In recent years, both anti-trans violence and anti-trans bills across the U.S. have skyrocketed. I grieve for the lives of those not only directly murdered, but also for those whose lives were taken by transphobic systems & discrimination. As a Chinese gender-expansive individual, the stories of other Asian transgender individuals have been vital in both coming to terms with my own identity & connecting with a larger, loving community amidst systems of oppression. I hope that this collection of DAY stories across time, although not an exhaustive index of diverse transgender stories, can serve as a guiding light in your own journey. Trans women, I love you. Trans men, I love you. Nonbinary people, I love you & I am you. Stay strong. — Lilirose Luo, Publisher Shinta Ratri's Legacy by Hannah Govan A current event piece on the legacy of Shinta Ratri, Indonesian icon of LGBTQIA+ rights and trans woman who passed on February 1st, 2023. Rest in power, Shinta. “In 2008 with two colleagues, Ratri founded Pesantren Wariah al-Fatah, a school and simultaneous safe space for transgender women to have in a largely Muslim region where men and women often pray separately at Mosques.” White is a Mourning Color by Marcus Eng A short comic detailing the author’s conflict between his identity as a Chinese trans man and Westernized gender norms, delving into trans figures in Chinese history and mythology. Blood to Clay to Wood By Uma Biswas-Whittaker A poem about gender-expansive deities in ​​Hinduism, and standing against transphobia. “She was a woman now a man now neither and now all. / They stood tall hit the ceiling broke the kitchen tile / granted me a wish, exchanged a secret, / and all I could do was smile.” How Heartbreak High Helps Heal My Relationship with My Gender Identity by Jackie Zhou An opinion piece on the strength & relatability of non-binary character Darren Rivers from Heartbreak High, and the importance of continued transgender representation throughout media. “Darren’s gender identity is a fundamental part of who they are, but their entire narrative doesn’t surround it because it just is a part of them, it’s not their entire story ... I want to see people like me who are living their own life alongside these adversities, something Darren’s character does so beautifully”

  • "And You?"

    “They hate us,” my father says. “Is that so?” I reply. He grows quiet, confusion threading his aging face. “They’re scared of us,” I say lightly. It’s not much better, but “ ‘hate’ ” is a strong word. “They hate us.” “They’re scared of us., and They don't want to admit that it’s their fault that people are still dying, suffering.” I explain, my voice steady, inflectionless. “They hate us for something we didn’t do.” My father continues in his weary tone, “Do you?” “Do I?” He flicks his gaze up at me, crow’s feet caressing his the edges of his droopy eyes, “Do you hate them?” “Yes.” I reply, my voice calmer stiller than water. “And you?” “And I?” I stare into his eyes. “Do you hate them?” He stares back at me, shadows cloaking the edges of his irises. “We don’t live long,” he says. I hum, “No, we don’t.” “Why spend our time it on hating someone?” I open and close my mouth. Words stuck in my throat at the sight of a face worn with time. “We don’t live long,” I repeat. “No, no, we don’t.” “Hate is a strong word.” “It is, isn’t it?” “I’m,-” I pause, tasting the words on my tongue., “I’m angry at them,” I say quietly. “Aren’t you?” “Not angry,” he whispers. “Just tired.” Anti-Racism Resources for the AAPI Community:

  • Pieces On Emotions

    Foreword: Part of identifying as an Asian person, is the hate and bigotry that comes with looking, “sounding”, or just being Asian. While my parents' experiences with racism are different from my own, the same underlying racist tones are present in both our lives. Especially with the COVID Pandemic and the rise in Asian-Hate, it didn’t matter if you were young or old because hate impacts everyone. I might’ve not recognized the underlying hateful tones around me growing up, but as I look back, I realize how much they’ve shaped my identity now. For one, I might never have applied to DAY if there wasn’t the call to change the narrative for the Asian community. In this thematic collection, writers Eric, Feileen, and Keeren explore the many perspectives and emotions of confronting racism. —Amelia R How do I tell Him? By Eric Nhem A narrative that features a conversation between Eric’s childhood self and his current self that explores complicated emotions around Asian hate. "And you?" By Feileen Li A dialogue between Feileen and her father as they discuss their personal feelings about racism and all the messy emotions in between. An Apology by Keeren Maria Setokusumo An apology letter from Keeren to her loved ones that bears the burdens she holds, her guilt, resentment, and regrets.

  • Good Tupperware

    A late night infomercial Celebrates functional kitchenware, spreads Its revelatory gospel. Just two Payments of nineteen ninety-nine brings Salvation to housewives everywhere! Who mourn piles of sloppy rajma 1 Fallen on the floor, “Oh Lord! That damned faulty tupperware!” To those poor souls Who live in an unseasoned, nauseating, Greyscale video filter; Whose slain beans are Slimy monsters of wrath! Salvation, salvation to you! Poof! You find yourself in technicolour, And successfully you place Securely encased legumes Into the fridge, beaming! Salvation, salvation alas! And only you, Oh Lord! How I dream to escape My greyscale world. For Rajma is one among The many things I’ve ruined – those friendships, opportunities and loves, my Mind, body and soul crippled with neglect. How I suffer the terrifying piles of Experience strewn across the cold tile floor. I suffer because I cannot forget, And because the mess of my past Ensures an ultimately catastrophic future; Knowing my doom lies in burying My history, so that I can live to tell the tale. Oh, to forget would be happiness, To be a blank slate again! If only someone had given me his number, That of the man who invents. Perhaps he could have created Tupperware for someone like me. Then could I have enclosed my rotting, And shut it away In the coldest freezer Forever and ever. 1 Marathi for kidney beans Editor(s): Amber T., Sydney O. Photo Credits: Unsplash

  • Luck

    From the perspective of a 17 year-old Indian Cracks, clocks, colors determined my grade, fate, and birth date. Numbers found in astrology affect the state of my psychology. Sights of cats, cows, and crows all elicited different reactions. From foes to friends, everyone believed in them. Confused by this cultural haze and navigated through doubt in this maze, Growing up this is how I deciphered “Luck”. 6,7,9 Full moons meant prayers and blessings. Solar eclipses meant prayers and omens. Charting each constellations effect on the choices I make and manipulating destiny by choosing the right company. Yellow on Thursday and white on Saturday. Making wishes over fallen eyelashes, at 11:11 with one candle left. Growing up this is how i deciphered “Luck”. Gems, crystals, stones Red threads around my wrist and powder between my brows. Joint hands in prayer each morning with whispered manifestations cooking over fire. Fingers crossed and touching wood, Itchy palms full of curd, Gazing at statues and distributing blessed food, Right hand for prasad and right foot forward Growing up this is how I deciphered “Luck”. Editor(s): Rajeshwari T. Photo Credits: Unsplash

  • 爱不释手 (can't tear myself away)

    As she’s seated by the shoreline, her ankles tickled by the tides, it dawns on her that she’s going to miss this. Her stomach is in knots and there’s an uncomfortable heat in her chest that seems to crawl to every inch of her body, but the fury of her emotions coupled with the particularly troubled mood of the ocean, she doesn’t feel good. She doesn’t think she can feel good about this, even if she tried, because she looks at Hua who’s lying on the sand beside her, and she doesn’t think there’s anything to love about losing. Mei looks down at her hands, unfolds her fingers to reveal her palms. She looks at them and the memories etched into the lines sprawled across her skin. She still remembers the feel of the felt tip when a pen was pressed down against it during lessons they were supposed to be writing on paper and not each other, drawings and notes and things as silly as ‘do you want to meet after school?’ and ‘look at the way he’s looking at her!’ She remembers the memories she held in her hands—the first birthday gift she received from Hua, the first time she held Hua’s hand, the first time she held Hua’s face in her hands. She closes her hand again, and balls it into a fist. She watches as the sand she’d been holding onto squeezes out from between her fingers and pour back onto the ground beneath her. Her heart throbs with the ache of knowing that there’s no future beyond them and tomorrow, but she can’t falter—not now. Not now that they’re here, after fighting so hard to be. Her memories wash over his mind like seafoam does on the ocean’s surface, and his eyes cloud with the familiar sensation of nostalgia. She looks at Hua, consumed by guilt and she closes her eyes. She dabs her hand against the rims of her eyes, though it doesn’t ease the sting of tears. “I don’t know why you came out here,” Hua says beside her, like she’s aware—aware that they haven’t been silent even whilst being quiet. Their minds have been speaking for a while. Mei’s eyes have been crying. “I don’t know why you brought me here.” “I had nothing to say,” she answers. “I just wanted to be with you.” Hua purses her lips. She has something to say, but she doesn’t. She chooses to look instead, with her hazel eyes that carry so much within them. Looking into them, Mei thinks she might miss them the most—the way they look like liquid honey under the sun, the way they look more like charred wood when they’re sad, the way they look like a milky way of their own under the stars. “No you didn’t,” Hua frowns, looking away. “You’ve been avoiding me.” Mei doesn’t respond. “It’s not that,” she mumbles, insincere, and doesn’t elaborate. “Don’t lie to me, Mei,” Hua sighs, holding herself up with her elbows kneading into the soil. She doesn’t turn to look, and instead keeps her eyes on the water. Her dull hair’s speckled with sand in a way that looks like a blanket of stars tucked between gaps in a void, and her face bears a delicate glow that even the sun envies. “We’ve come too far to lie.” “It doesn’t matter anymore,” Mei replies, looking down at her fingers. She fidgets with them, and there’s a tension in her chest that feels like a string stretched beyond its limit. “There’s no us after tomorrow.” “It matters to me,” Hua retorts. “I don’t want to lose you.” “Why? Does it matter to you where I go?” Mei asks, loosening her collar. She lies down against the ground then, spreading her arms out against the sand. Her arms leave an imprint like angel’s wings there. There’s a wanderlust in her eyes that seems to challenge every force in the world, and it’s obvious in the way her lips pull into a smirk that he plans on making a life out of places far, far away from here. “Oh, don’t look at me with those eyes,” she says, and buries the twinge of pain where she won’t find it. Hua doesn’t smile. Her face doesn’t move at all. “With what eyes?” she asks. Mei laughs, blowing sand in her face. “You know we can’t be together forever,” she recalls, looking up at the sky. There’s still a smile playing on her lips, though it doesn’t seem nearly as genuine as it was before—perhaps it’s a show. Nothing has been easy about loving each other, and they’ve already lost too much to be a version of each other that isn’t real. And they know, as much as they know each other, that this isn’t real—this denial. “It doesn’t matter where I go anyway.” Hua’s frown deepens, and there’s a crease on her forehead where her eyebrows are folded. “Why?” “What do you mean?” she laughs in reply. “Two girls could never last; not even because we’re girls, but because we’re us.” She thinks about it, looking at the way Hua’s face settles with a gradual look of realisation, it hits her too that there’s no future for them. There’s no life, or love for girls like them—girls who love each other—and Mei has learned that the only way she can love is by letting go. Hua clenches her jaw, and holds her silence. And Mei thinks she could die like this. She wouldn’t mind, because every muscle in her body knows that she’s meant for Hua, that she can’t live without her. Every fibre, every breath, every tear, every desire has only ever been Hua’s and she doesn’t know how her heart will live without yearning. She stares at Hua, and thinks about how much she wants to hold her slouched body. She wants to pull her in by the face, and kiss her for the first and last time, wants to lie with her stomach on her torso, and run her fingers through her hair. She wants to love Hua, and do nothing but that. “I’ll think about you,” Mei adds, even if she knows it won’t heal their bruises. “A lot.” “And you,” Hua exhales. “You’ll be my everyday.” Mei looks at her, her eyes shining with tears. She crawls closer, climbing over Hua. She undoes the ribbon on her neck, then the trail of buttons of her uniform’s blouse. She doesn’t meet her eyes, because she knows, if she looks at love in them, they’ll lose everything. Mei presses her heart over Hua’s heart, and tucks her chin in the nape of her neck, eyes closed in the greedy indulgence of something they can’t have. “My Hua,” she whispers, rocking their bodies. “I hope you forget me.” Hua doesn’t respond to her. They lie in silence, their bare bodies pressed against each other. The tide kept rising, and Mei hoped the world would end before they did. Editors: Amber T. Image source: Unsplash

  • In Memoriam

    He’s dying and I just turned twenty seven. Wrapped up in wires like an octopus caught in a net, He smiles, asks if I’ve had a boyfriend yet. Well, I had one. We broke up. It wasn't safe for me to come around. I’m not a Brahmin after all. After a year, his parents had caught on. I knew it when they looked at me Like I was going to dig through their pure gold heirlooms And take home the life they had planned for him. That’s what my first love was., too. There were no words for it back then, Just summer nights, the cowshed in the fields, the fireflies’ magic show. He couldn’t fall asleep next to the boy he loved. He heard the dog barking, followed it outside Where it had crept all the way around the veranda. He called out and the stream called back. It was a woman’s voice ringing in his ears. The voice of the river; guilt, that buried itself in his abdomen. The tumor had been growing for the past ten years, But he recognised it as the feeling he carried with him his whole life. In the hospital, the voice softened to provide comfort, As everything returns to the earth from which it came. My parents' marriage certificate remains framed on their bedside table, in lieu of a wedding photograph because they were never able to have a ceremony. In other words, they belong to different castes. The presence and impact of the Caste hierarchy is probably never going to be erased from Indian communities and society. Its chains weigh down our education, our politics, our morals, our relationships. But that is not to say that people are incapable of rising above it and seeing their peers, friends and neighbors for who they are before any other label – humans. — So I like to think of this poem as an ode to my parents’ stubborn, spiteful, impulsive and immensely brave relationship. As told from my father’s perspective, it is also an obituary for his struggle in coming to terms with his sexuality. His childhood and now adulthood has always moved me to desperately question how do we live with the ghosts of our own selves – every version of ourself we have once been (not dead, just gone). Editors: Rajeshwari T. Image source: Unsplash

  • I hope this finds you well.

    My Inbox scroll up to update MAIL@DAEMON 9:00 Subject: Message Failed to Send Message: Message to Ellen Failed to Deliver. —------------------------------------------------------ Susan 8:20 Subject: Meeting Notes 5/15 Message: meeting notes for the most recent… —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen 7:15 Subject: hope this finds you well. Message: This is my last message —------------------------------------------------------ Susan 5:30 PM Subject: Meeting Notes 5/2 Message: meeting notes for the most recent… —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen May 12th Subject: its over. Message: I don’t even know where to start… —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen May 2nd Subject: what are we? Message: Hey, can we talk? —------------------------------------------------------ Allan April 30th Subject: Buzzfeed, have you seen this? Message: THIS article is CRAZY —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen April 15th Subject: Love you <3 Message: Hey, I just want you to know that no matter… —------------------------------------------------------ Fred April 3rd Subject: How have you been? Message: Can we catch up? —------------------------------------------------------ Beth April 1st Subject: Meeting Notes 3/29 + we should talk Message: Meeting notes + 2 weeks notice —------------------------------------------------------ John March 15th Subject: 15% THIS WEEKEND DO NOT MISS Message: IDES OF MARCH SALE —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen March 3rd Subject: Photos from the weekend <3 Message: From the weekend Trip :) —------------------------------------------------------ Jay February 22nd Subject: Catching Up Message: Hey! Let's grab lunch! —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen February 17th Subject: Movie! Message: Got us tickets to see the new …. —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen February 14th Subject: Plans ;) Message: Can’t wait to see you later! <3 —------------------------------------------------------ Beth February 13th Subject: Meeting Notes 2/12 Message: Please check the meeting notes from… —------------------------------------------------------ John February 13 Subject: 50% BOGO Flowers! Message: VALENTINE'S DAY LAST MINUTE SALE… —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen February 12th Subject: Coffee? <3 Message: Meet me at the cafe ;) —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen February 10th Subject: Reservations: 7pm Message: Dinner at place downtown! 7pm! —------------------------------------------------------ Jay February 3rd Subject: Dinner! Message: Hey! How have you been? —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen January 29th Subject: Dinner? Message: Feels like forever… let's make dinner plans… —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen January 20th Subject: Lunch! Message: Let's meet at the cafe down… —------------------------------------------------------ Beth January 15th Subject: Meeting Notes 1/14 Message: Here are the notes from the investor —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen January 5th Subject: Great seeing you! Message: It was wonderful grabbing coffee ;)... —------------------------------------------------------ Ellen January 1st Subject: Coffee? Message: So glad we met! Let's grab coffee… Editors: Marie H., Amelia P., Joyce S. Image source: Unsplash

  • Sunflowers

    Sunflowers curl over a sea of seeds. Sprouting and growing, they reach the surface thinking they will bask in the spotlight - but they burn, crack, and sigh. The sea of seeds (now full-grown flowers) long for a life just like their founder’s but they suffer from the loss of their life’s power: No air to breathe, no water to sip - just flames suffocating (now they’re hung with a drip). The ones who survive gaze at their meadow: Once oh so green, now anything but. The boiling morning and dry midnight will only get worse with dawn; tomorrow’s seeds and tomorrow’s sprouts will never be able to find a way out. Their birth won’t be a celebration - their birth will lead to inevitable self-destruction. Today’s destruction will never be solved if today's flowers leave the problems unresolved. Sunflowers curl over a sea of seeds; Some sleeping, and some fighting for their needs. Editors: Rajeshwari T., Amber T. Image source: Unsplash

  • Ripe

    TW: self-image, fears of Sexual Assault. When I started to develop as a woman, I also developed the fear of being one in public. I would always wear a rashguard and shorts over my bathing suit, and I avoided tank tops and tight fit clothing. I didn't like wearing spandex, sports bras as an active top, or even strapless homecoming dresses in fear that something could happen. When I got my first training bra, to me, it felt less like the cage that most women see it as and more like a shield. I liked wearing it. I felt protected. And for a while, I was able to hide what I was becoming. As I got older, I got rid of the rashguard and swim shorts so I'd look like the cool teenager my friends were turning into. Girls my age loved beach days and recreating cute bikini photos they found on Pinterest. I always felt weird posing– putting my hands on my hips, framing what I felt should be covered. I never felt pretty in those photos. Sometimes my friends would confess that they didn’t either, but we posted them anyway. As middle school approached, everything was developing except for the boys. I was growing. I could no longer use a training bra and all bras lost their power of concealment. I was becoming a woman, but this time, everybody knew it. But things didn’t end there; on the day before swim practice, I learned I had bigger issues than having to swim breaststroke in front of a boy. When I saw what was happening, I remember being doubtful that the crimson tide came in. I called my mom to confirm my dreaded diagnosis, describing to her what had happened and explaining that “it hasn’t stopped.” I was right. The traditional function of a woman was active in me. I knew what it was, what it meant, and what could happen. My mom had taught me how to prepare and my dad warned me of the power I’d gained. Through these different approaches to ‘the talk,’ my parents instilled in me a fear of what could leak and what others could do. As more of my moons came and more women were crowned, I became comfortable with my changes– and so did the other girls at school. Periods became less of a shameful secret and more of a clandestine camaraderie. We share the powerful abilities that our bodies have and we had no control of. But after a couple of years of secret freedom, the boys caught up and the men were awake. At their rouse, ‘no’s were shoved into and over our bodies. At school, male speakers instructed that we girls always say ‘no,’ as if we were the ones who would have the final say. Girls weren’t allowed to wear anything provocative in order to keep the boys at bay. Even on the hot field days, a one piece bathing suit and a pair of running shorts didn’t suffice but required a t-shirt thrown over in order for us to run around with the half naked boys. While I hated the blame that our bodies earned us, I was happy with the clothing regulations of my school. This way, I wasn’t the only one who preferred that their world be covered. College made me feel the opposite of how my high school made me feel. The male gaze felt ever more present, there, active. But also, it felt like it was meant to be there. With going out, sorority rushes, and the emergency light boxes lighting my path home, it all felt objective. It felt unfair that we had a freedom to dress how we wanted now, but how that same freedom had the possibility of getting us cornered. In a second semester February, I wrote in my journal: “I don’t know when I learned what it was, but for some reason whenever I’m around full grown men, I always feel like there is a possibility of it happening. No matter who they are, I always have this feeling.” Even now, feeling sexy is always overruled with fear– it feels like I am giving myself up for predation. It is a corrupt undertone that was planted out of safety. The gift that was manipulated into a curse. I always loved being a girl, but I think I’ll always feel reluctant to be a woman. Image credit: First Moon Original Art Piece by Aubrey Meiling Editor: Cathay L.

  • mother's love

    There’s food on the table when Maya gets home, but none that she can eat. Her head is tucked where her mother won’t notice the imperceptible guilt lingering on her face, and her fingers gnaw into the straps of her bag with the hopes that it’ll keep her from saying something she shouldn’t. She pauses at the doorway, a few feet away from where her mother is laying the table with the food she loves—aloo paratha with fresh chana—a dish that she makes only as a reward because of how much it motivates her daughter. But there’s nothing to be proud of. Nothing. Maya forgets to move, almost as though she has been cemented to the ground. She watches her mother with longing eyes, as though fearing that another step closer would ruin the relationship she has with the only one in her life who has ever cared. She can’t do this. Throwing everything away for something that’s seemingly so ignorable in the grand scheme of things, is that really how things should go? She has known it for a while—from the moment she looked at a girl and thought for the first time, ‘would she like me if I was a boy?’—that she set herself down a path that would inevitably end in pain. “Why are you standing there?” her mother asks, turning to face her with a wide smile on her face. She adjusts her dupatta before it slips off her shoulders, draping it around her neck. Colours of a melting sunset seep into the room, washing the walls in deep red like her mother’s mango achar. Even as her mother leans her hand against her hip in her usual, relaxed fashion, Maya can’t help but feel worse. She knows she shouldn’t lie to her. Though, is it really a lie if she just doesn’t say anything at all? Leave it to time and hope it’ll all go away? “Asho re, asho. Change your clothes and eat before the paratha gets cold.” Maya steps out of her shoes and nudges them to the side. She takes a slow step forward, easing her band out of her tied hair to let it fall on her shoulders. She maintains her quiet distance from her mother, walking against the walls like a shadow. As she observes her mother making her rounds around in the kitchen, bathed in the mellow light of the sun, her heart clenches. Everything she wants to say comes bubbling up her throat like effervescence, even if she tries to shove it back down: Hey, Ma, I kissed a girl. I know you said you’d be happiest at my wedding because you hope it’ll end up better than you and Papa did. I’m sorry that won’t happen. Are you angry? I’m sorry. Maya averts her gaze, muscles aching with the threat of tears. “Special occasion?” she asks softly, mustering a forced smile on her face if it makes her sound all the more believable. Her mother pauses in the middle of her path back to the kitchen, and glances over her shoulder, at what Maya hoped was a convincing act. “What? You forgot already?” Maya gulps, searching her mind for anything she’s done that might be worth a celebration. Conscious of her mother’s unwavering gaze, she straightens her collar and fidgets with the seams of her uniform. An awkward laugh escapes her lips as she turns away, deciding that this is a situation that’s only going to ruin the night for both of them. “Your exams finished today, right? Or is there another exam tomorrow that you didn’t tell me about?” she questions, stopping Maya in her tracks before she can scurry to the bathroom to change. “Oh,” she says, trying to dodge her mother’s hands when they reach out to brush her hair. “No, I just had so much fun with my friends after the exam that I forgot about it.” Her mother makes a face at the excuse, but doesn’t ponder on it for too long. As soon as she has the chance to breathe out of her mother’s grasp, Maya drags her hand against her lips in a feeble attempt to wipe the bitter taste of a secret she wishes she didn’t have to keep. Maya sits at the dinner table once she changes, and she does everything in her power to avoid her mother’s persistent questions. She maintains her weak smile as she looks into her mother’s eyes, picking and choosing answers from her brain that won’t give her mother a chance to figure out how she spent the latter half of her day. In front of her, her food remains untouched and the world has gone cold. At some point, she can’t bear to keep tossing the chana around with her spoon and just sits back in her chair. For the most part, her mother’s questions are easy to answer. Do you think you can get 80% for your exam? Was there any question you found difficult? Are you going to be at the top of your class again? Then she asks, “Who did you spend your day with?” And Maya can only be grateful she has an empty stomach. Maya’s nothing like herself in the week to come. She roams like a ghost in her own home, walking with her head lowered in shame and shoulders slumped forward, doing her best to stay out of her mother’s questioning gaze. She’s undeniably perceptive when it comes to her only daughter, and it’s impossible not to notice the subtle changes that unfurl as Maya becomes a shell of the girl she once was. Gradually, she finds Maya coming home an hour or two later under the excuse of extracurriculars, or going right to bed when she does return on time. Maya doesn’t answer when she’s asked. She musters a small smile, promises it’ll be okay, then acts as though everything that happened is gone with the wind. At some point, there’s less guilt and more sadness on her face when she comes home, sits down at the dinner table, and doesn’t finish another meal. All of it has become a predictable routine at this point, and even as the portions get smaller by the day, Maya’s stomach doesn’t leave much room for anything after digesting her sour feelings. Needless to say, her mother notices the change—the way the rims of her eyes are red and swollen from crying, her hands shake around the spoon in her hands, and the obvious sullenness in everything she does. Did you get your test results back? No. Did something happen? Nothing. You’ll tell me if something is wrong, right? … Right? …Goodnight, Ma. When Maya leaves the bathroom after a long shower, she finds her mother seated on her bed with her hands intertwined over her lap. Her bed is neat, almost eerily so, with not a single wrinkle on her sheets apart from the creases where her mother’s seated. She pauses by the bathroom door, pulling the towel down to her shoulders as she observes her expression, darkened by the dimly-illuminated room. Outside, the sun has already sunk into the horizon and the once-vermillion sky is as dark as soot, leaving no light in the room apart from the flickering ceiling light. Maya’s heart thrums at her fingertips as she inches closer, only recognising too late that the phone beside her mother is her own. “Ma—” the words leave her mouth with a sharp exhale. “How long were you going to keep it a secret?” she asks, lifting the phone. Plastered across the screen are several notifications for missed calls and an eventual one that indicates the calls were picked up. Maya’s blood runs cold. Her arms fall to her side as she notices the look of disappointment in her mother’s eyes, her heart squeezing with regret. All at once, she wishes she could go back in time and do everything all over again. She wouldn’t befriend the pretty girl from her class and fall in love with her, they wouldn’t kiss, and she wouldn’t feel so guilty in front of her mother. Tears gather in her eyes as she musters, “I don’t know.” “Why?” her mother asks, and before she can continue, Maya starts crying. The towel slips off her shoulders as she lifts her arms to her face, trying to do something between frantically wiping her tears away and hiding in embarrassment. “Oh, beta,” her mother coos as she places the phone aside to hold her daughter. Her mother wraps an arm around her and pulls her into a tender embrace. “I’m sorry, Ma,” Maya apologises between sobs. “I’m sorry for disappointing you. I know you wanted to see me happy with a boy, but I don’t know how to do it. I really tried to stop it. I tried to break things off with her but none of it was working out and everything just got messed up—” “Maya,” her mother hums, placing a hand over her head. She pulls her daughter against her chest, where she hears the steady beating of her mother’s heart. “Your friend told me everything. I’m not angry.” Maya’s body stiffens at her mother’s words. “You’re not?” she mumbles as tears continue to spill out of her eyes, soaking her shirt in the process. Her lips fall agape as she pulls away to look at her mother’s expression, searching for any hint that she might be joking—instead, there’s sincerity. The faint light from the ceiling catches in her eyes, glossing over hazel brown like a calm water surface. Her chest is still sore, and her hands are still trembling, but for some reason, that fear feels conquerable now. “Really?” “Really,” her mother promises. “I’m your mother, Maya. The title of ‘Ma’ isn’t earned so easily. For nine months, you were a part of me. You ate the same things as me, drank the same things as me. Even after you became your own person, I cared for you every waking moment of our shared life. How could I see you so sad, hm? Everything I have done so far was to make you happy. Did you think one thing like this could ruin all of it? I can’t say I understand this completely, but this doesn’t change the fact that I love you. I’ll love you always.” Maya’s face burns again. She wraps her arms around her mother in a warm hug. “Ma…” she sobs as she buries her face in her mother’s chest, sparing no strength to hold her. Her mother chuckles fondly as she holds her daughter, stroking her hair. Although the room has gotten humid and unbearably warm, with her mother’s love, somehow, it doesn’t feel so bad.

  • 5 reasons i hated therapy

    5 reasons I hated therapy*: When my therapist diagnosed me with depression, it surprised everyone but me. I had felt the sadness in my stomach grow heavier, more viscous. When it finally leaked from the carefully contained chamber of my mind, leading to my first failed math test, my mother booked me an appointment with a professional. #1 I hated opening up. It went against my instincts. I was used to tucking my feelings under caffeine rushes, eyeliner, and choppy poetry that refused to roll off of the tongue. I couldn’t stand the vulnerability that came with articulating emptiness without the layer of protection provided by artistry. Stripped clean of metaphors, the things I thought about myself were hideous, terrifying to speak and even worse to listen to. The thing about growing up as the eldest daughter in a Bangladeshi household (i.e. a household that is loud and demands things of you loudly) is that you make it a habit to be quiet. And being coaxed out of it? It feels like breaking a fast, the first sip of water glorious, but after you’re already suffocatingly full. #2 She’d give me homework. A chart to map my mental health over the week: How would you rate your mood out of 10? What are you thinking/feeling/doing when you cry? I started journaling, miles of raw stream of consciousness, sometimes tear-stained, till I abruptly ran out of steam. I started practicing math too, which had become so central to my anxiety that I had to avoid it. When I got back the next test with a perfect score, I felt this staggering sense of relief. My therapist had told me my sense of self worth shouldn’t depend on my academic performance, and of course it shouldn’t – but I realized in that moment that it gave me some semblance of control. #3 It used up my weekends. It was only an hour on Saturdays if time is only counted in minutes. But from inside the pile of awful memories that I had to drag like dirty clothes into each session, it felt like forever. Therapy meant dragging the worst points out of every week and laying them out for dissection. I’d begin to enjoy things again, eating, reading, and playing guitar. But after Saturday mornings, it was hard to remember where I was and that I was supposed to be past the storm. I was supposed to be able to see the light. #4 It was so expensive. The guilt followed me around. After every session, I would question if it was worth it. No matter how often my mother told me it was. In Bangladesh, mental health resources are difficult to come by, and the result was I was sure that if I had gotten better at hiding the sadness, I wouldn’t need to be here at all. #5 My parents tried, but they didn’t completely understand. My mother’s guilt was heavy around her, and my father’s was sharp. Forever a man of science, he didn’t believe in what he couldn’t see, and I never cried where people were watching. He talked about it in the brusque, dismissive manner of men hearing things they don’t want to hear, but he stayed near, a solid presence, and hugged me goodnight. My mother tried to hold me all the time and asked how I was feeling and apologized incessantly. It hurt them that I was hurting, and it hurt me that they were hurting, and so, I saw it through. So that I could tell them I’d be okay, and hopefully believe it. * +1 reason I didn’t: I aced my math exams later that year, but that isn’t the point. I also got my father to tell me he loved me. Multiple times. Over and over. Editor: Sam L.

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