Art & Creative Writing Section Premiere: "Patches"
About the New Section from the Editor, Smitha Krishnan, 17
Throughout my life, I have found that a constant for my life was stories. I loved being surrounded by tales of different worlds and getting to know all the unique characters. It was only recently that I have realized that it can be our own lives that we are the main characters of. Creative non-fiction provides people with the incredible ability to materialize their thoughts into a piece that can inspire. I am so excited to head this section and have this platform to allow people of all gender identities and races to share pieces of their own lives.
The crisp, clean-cut grass that surrounded the bus stop was drying out to be of a sickly yellow colour. It stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the only imperfect thing in our neighborhood, with its meticulously manicured lawns, picturesque houses, and perfectly pruned trees. The click-clack of heels against the pristine sidewalk pulsed through the air, slowly getting louder, a bomb ticking, ready to explode. Just then, a troop of blonde-haired women in their matching velvety tracksuits walked by, each a variant of the other, the only difference being the leash used to hold their whining Chihuahuas. "Ugh, I’m going to call Cindy, the board has to do something about this!,” “Rumour has it that the head of the board is, one of those sorts, you know?,” “I always suspected those lavender shorts”. Vapid conversation streamed out, and clouded the air between me and the women, whose kids—my fellow classmates—had just arrived. The girls all had the same headband in their golden hair, the ringlets cascading down their sundress-clad backs.
Glancing down, I looked at my own outfit, nothing but a tacky rip off of the outfit the girls were wearing. Their dresses were light and flowed in the wind, figurative expensive price tags dancing from every ruffle and well-placed sequin. Mine was a little too bright, flowed a little too much, and the artificial colour was illuminated by early morning sun, glowing radioactively. My stomach curled, and my breathing grew shaggy; no longer did I feel adequately normal to be seen. The girls were the stuff of my day dreams, to be tan—but not as tan as I was—to have blonde hair, ocean blue eyes. Instead, I could only look at them, my dark eyes filled with longing as I heard calculated laughs, snide comments and steely gazes, discussing the unsightly patch of yellowing grass. ”It just doesn’t fit in, right?” called a familiar voice.
“Duh, didn’t you hear? The world is scheduled to end in approximately ten minutes.” I answered, comfort easing back into my voice. She chuckled, whispers of her Iranian accent lingered in her laugh. Though she carefully calculated her syllables for every word she spoke, her efforts to eradicate her accent failed in just one aspect: her laugh. As a result, tightly controlled smiles were her sign of her happiness, a chortle was as rare as, well, bad grass in our neighborhood. No matter her efforts, Lara was unmistakably foreign, her fragrant lunches and virtually unpronounceable last name made sure of that. Being the only non-white families in the neighborhood, there was an unwritten contract that we were to be each other’s rocks, each other’s protecters—a semblance of familiarity. Both of us whispered, not wanting to catch the attention of the group of girls, who reigned the hallways of fourth grade with their Lululemon headbands as their crown. The bus rolled to a stop, crunching the charcoal grey gravel beneath it. Quietly, Lara and I slid into our seats. The bus seating arrangement was a system that Lara and I had honed down to a science. We were defensive about our seat, with its prized location as the exact middle of the bus. Graffiti was scrawled across the walls, the angst of middle school years screaming with each poorly-written letter.
The trees whizzed past me, soon they appeared to be one emerald green strip. The silver clouds were fading and the pale golden sunlight streamed through the spaces, illuminating the morning dew on the grass. The bus gently rocked along. “Hopefully we don’t stop at that bus stop by Maple, I just can’t handle those people anymore” Lara spoke, her words broken by the intense concentration she was using to do last night’s math homework, which was subsequently the homework of three days ago. “Yeah totally, there’s no space anyway” I chimed in, anxiety rising as I quickly noticed that the bus was slowing down by Maple, the neighborhood in which the majority of the population was Indian; “Brown Town” was its unofficial moniker, one that was shared in quiet laughs and hushed whispers. The “whoosh” of the opening doors flew through the air as the pitter patter of Nikes stepped onto the bus. Various shades of brown, all darker than mine, I hung my head. I deflected my eyes away from the supposed freak show of Indians, not wanting to be associated. “Ew. Just Ew.” Lara spat, a strange anger in her voice.
Hyper aware, I felt as if I was a criminal who had escaped prison, an infiltrator to society whose time was quickly running out. Trapped in the hourglass, I was counting down to when Lara realised that I was part of those Indians, and that the same melanin in their skin was also present in mine, no matter how many face whitening creams I slathered at night to little avail. Though I wished upon stars and four leaf clovers and on fallen eyelashes, my skin did not become lighter over night, my hair did not lose its jet black nature and my deep brown eyes did not become the captivating ocean blue that I so deeply longed for.
I got snapped out my thoughts by our arrival at school. I looked over at Lara. Her features had hardened. She took off her hair barrette that her grandma had put for her and fixed her lip gloss. “ I’m finally presentable,” she remarked, closing her compact mirror. “ Yeah”, I laughed, the sour pit of guilt sinking into my stomach as I dumped my lunch of idlis into the trash. As I stared at the empty lunch box, I thought about the conversation on the bus, but why? It happened every day. On the way back, I saw that the patch of brown grass had been dyed green. Although it had patches of green over it, there was no denying that it still didn’t fit in.
About the Author
Smitha Krishnan is a 17-year-old aspiring writer who is based in Bangalore, India, and Massachusetts. Her experiences with clashing cultures, chronic illness, and teenage life in an era of change inspire her to capture the world around her.