On some days I enjoy looking into the mirror more than I usually do. I play with my hair a little, hair that most people don’t have the slightest idea about. I take a good look at my features, memorize them so to speak. I would like to remember my face vividly, if by chance, I am unable to see someday. Once I’m done, I take a good look at my eyes. If the camera focuses on the lens, if the pupils dilate at the sight of pupils, what happens is some kind of irony, some confusion.
They say that my face is always fixed in that confused state. My pupils dilate at the slightest bit of information. I am caught off guard easily.
I have never claimed that my eyes have seen too much. However, they are really heavy, deep set eyes. I discuss my dark circles with other girls, they are equally worried about the craters under their own eyes. Dark circles are said to be battle scars; sleepless nights do that to you. Craters, on a smooth surface, never form for no reason. There is always impact, there is always external force. The reasons are never as simple as going to sleep at 2:00am or pulling an all-nighter for an upcoming exam.
A comedian I was “almost” seeing told me that my eyes intimidated him, the dark circles are almost too much to handle. “You look like a failed suicide attempt,” he said and waited for me to get the punchline. I smiled at him and finished my coffee quietly. Another boy, much younger, told me that my sadness had a poetic quality to it. I told him about my conscious choice to be a doer, that I was certainly not the type to sit around and mope. He would rather have me moping, so that I could “use a shoulder to cry on” from time to time.
My eyes were fixed on him, unmoving. He looked away; the romance of my sadness was suddenly unattractive to him.
I have been told, in spite of everything, that my eyes are beautiful. An artist and a close friend, he jokes about how I went on a stealth mission to steal a pair of eyes from an innocent cow. In response, I hum the Mission Impossible tune in jest. A red-haired friend, unbeatable at the football field during her school days, looks into my eyes and asks if things are going to be any easier for her anytime soon. She finds reassurance in these eyes, even though she is self-sufficient. She trudges through her daily struggles; I trudge through mine. A Tumblr post says, “Real queens fix each others’ crowns”. We both laugh it off in unison.
One night, when one of my many tragedies had just unfurled, my cousin had come to stay over. Sleep would not come to us that night, so we stared at the ceiling in silence. The mosquito net swayed, my eyes went back and forth over the little ripples being created on it. The teenager was the first to break our silence, “Apu, don’t you think you’ve seen it all at this point?” My sister took a deep breath and went on, “You see, when stuff like that happens, people show who they really are. I know, I know exactly how it feels to see those masks come off.”
She is a fatherless child. Her life has unmasked many of those people for her at a tender age; her garden is devoid of weeds.
My eyes were still fixed on the ceiling, the fan, the mosquito net. I felt that I should hold her tight, allow her to have a good cry on the occasion. I held her hand instead, and she held mine.
Qazi Mustabeen Noor is an MA candidate at the Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University, Canada. Her work has appeared in Arts&Letters, Himal Southasian Magazine, Six Seasons Review and Monsoon Letters.