The dancing girls

Published: May 21, 2017

But it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing mattered within these four walls. PHOTO: TUMBLR.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Relax your diaphragm. Repeat.

This was my mantra, at least, these days it was. I tried to tell myself that these three steps would make everything better, would make the way I feel better. But I don’t really think they do. I can see the city lighting up from my window. I know that outside, people are getting ready to leave their houses, and venture out into Karachi’s beauty. I’d be a part of it too, if I could, if I knew how. But the bars on my windows are too strong. They skew my vision as I lean forward trying to catch a glimpse of anyone, anything; a sign of life outside these four walls. The walls are painted a dark grey. The single bed I sleep on has a dull grey sheet on it. There’s a table in the corner, it’s a pale grey too. Seems fitting.

I think of the protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaper’, I imagine that my walls have women trapped inside them too, dancing and luring me towards them. But I wasn’t that girl, no matter how many people in here tried to tell me I was. I knew that within these four walls, I had to be who they wanted. So I did. I ate the food they gave me, I stared at the walls and pretended I wasn’t thinking about anything even though my thoughts spanned faster than I could breathe. Thoughts they said I shouldn’t be having but at the same time, thoughts that I would always have. I couldn’t help being an over thinker, I guess it was what got me here in the first place. That and the fact that I was always too curious. My mom said I was too curious for a girl, always questioning things that have no need to be questioned. But I never believed her. I wanted to know why we ignore and placate over everything in this society.

But it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing mattered within these four walls. I think of Blanche DuBois. Would it be my saving grace to be like her? Maybe I didn’t want realism anymore. Would that make this place more bearable, more liveable? Everyone else in here is unstable. I don’t understand why I’m even here.

I don’t think I’ve seen my family in over three months. I miss the sound of my mother’s voice calling out that it was time for bed. I miss the hum of music coming from my brother’s door. I miss having food that was actually a substance, not just goo. But you don’t get to be picky in here.

I don’t know what it is about the onslaught of summer that makes me feel this way. My heart grows weak. My body is fatigued. I pretend I’m listening to ‘Modern Girl’ on repeat. Sleater Kinney is my serenity. It takes over my body making me nostalgic for a time I don’t even think I wish to relive. But that’s the thing, I am always wanting more. Out of people, things, my life, but mostly, myself. I can never be who I ultimately want to be. I can never do it because I am weak. I am tired and oh, I am so alone within these walls.

I wake up feeling like I don’t exist. Days pass and I have no conversations that mean anything. Maybe they do. But not to me, not anymore. I’m aching to be heard, to be felt, to be at least understood. But no one gets it. My pain. Is it real? Do I imagine it half the time? Maybe it’s this place, that’s what my mother used to say. Back when she visited me. But that time passed almost forever ago. I stopped thinking about time as something real. It is intangible, but in here, days do not fade into nights. People sleep at any and every time. They sleep to drown out the voices of the crazy ones; sleep so they don’t have to swallow their pills, sleep so they just don’t have to be any more. Because sleeping ceases everything, even time.

I pick up my journal from under my bed. It’s worn out, and the only thing I was able to bring with me. But it’s my solace. If they knew I had it, I’d be in trouble because thoughts that aren’t synonymous with their thoughts are not allowed to be documented or spoken of. And I was documenting it all.

I start writing. I write poems because my mind is too numb for prose. I write free verse, and haikus and sonnets. Not really about anything but just about something. So I try writing more. I know there’s a story somewhere within these walls. There always is. I just need to find it.

Maybe one about the girl who screams every night. Or the girl that pulls out her hair every time she sees me. Hmm, nothing is appealing enough. My pen is almost out of ink. I lie back and read and re-read my poems out loud.

There’s someone coming. She pushes my grey door open; she is also clothed in grey, like me. Her hair is tied in a tight bun and it looks like it really hurts, but her eyes, her eyes are what I really see. They’re angry. I don’t know why, It’s not like she’s trapped in here. I realised a long time ago that there are so few people out there that you meet that are genuine. And she sure as hell wasn’t one of them.

She’s holding my medicine in her hand, I can see the injection. Sharp and encompassing of all the evils this place offered. She doesn’t say a word but I know she sees my eyes. I know she sees life inside them. And she wants to destroy it. As I think this, I feel the shock of the injection going into my left arm. Just like that, I am lulled into oblivion.

I wake up with no feeling in my arms or legs. My body is numb. I try to get up but I can’t. My head feels heavy. I look at the walls.  I see the women. They are crying out to me, calling me. Somehow, I am able to move towards them with all the ease of the world. They stick their arms out towards me. I hear them whisper that this will be my haven, my escape. So I crawl further towards them and let them take me in.

Maheen Humayun

Maheen Humayun

The writer studied Literature and Creative Writing from John Cabot University in Rome. She is the author of the novella Special. She is currently a sub-editor at Tribune. She blogs at and tweets @MaheenHumayun

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