While Other Children Play

As I walk my feet stain the ground, building resistance with every scab I grow. Past me wooden heels clack against the bricks, deadening as they turn into alleyways. At least a snail leaves a trace behind.

At the Buxton house my boss opens the door. He is wearing leather shoes too. They’re as black as coal. When you squint your eyes the reflection looks like it’s smiling at you.

“What are you standing there for?!” he coughs as he pushes me towards their fireplace. I already smell the smoke. With my brush in hand I squiggle into the chimney, the walls using me as their facecloth.

Like a snail, I stretch and contract my way up, space tightening around me. It’s a race to see if I can reach the light before the darkness reaches me - before my insides are as black as the remnants of past fires.

The moment I break the barrier, the space above the suited men sends winds of fresh air. My lungs are free and so am I where leathered feet are way too big to ever come crawling.

I watch the ground when I walk so I don’t step on the ants. We’re all just trying to get to work, you know. They seem to have time to get distracted - bumping into one another, saying hello.

They step out of the palm shadows into the fiery light which doubles their black tiny silhouettes. Good thing I walk faster than them, I don’t think I have enough skin for more bruises.

We children we sow the beads onto the sarees, for no man has fingers as nimble as the childrens hands. Tiny like an ant, a busy ant, carrying thrice my weight in form of a needle. I hold it between my fingers, see the color of my skin morphing with the metal.

“Why aren’t you sewing?!” he screams, spit landing on my face. His hand is raised and I get back to work.

Past the needles and the fabric I catch one of my friends. He crawls up the molding wall, into the open hole, fading into the sun. Tiny lights dancing on my eyelashes free my heart to the open sky.

Walking past the thorny bushes I check my skin to find the traces of our last encounter. Dry blood and scratches reminding me of what will happen if I don’t go out to sea.

On the days when the sun is too sick to shine, when she hides behind blankets, I pray I could too. Only the mountains and the trees know how to dress for the cold, peaking their heads from their coats. Dark shapes emerging from the distant nothingness.

I stand on the edge of the boat. There’s a nothingness underneath me too, a closer one. One in which I have to dive, and play a game of hide and seek where I’m always the seeker. Seekers are always alone.

Looking for a tangled net a seeker can become a hider. Caught by tree trunks or retaliating nets, they scream to be found. Only bubbles rise back up.

“What are you waiting for?!” he screams, tearing up the fog and I dive down. Some feet underneath, I’m completely free, as waters open in front of me.