written by Anuja Ghimire | illustrated by Jia Sung
You announced you were coming with the roar of a supersonic motorbike revving. You had us at your first knock. The billows of dust clung to the windows, which had unlocked themselves. Still, the curtains danced, and the glass cracked. I remembered what I held. We were arrested without the cuffs. You clanked the plates together; we tumbled. Flowerpots on the balconies jumped to their deaths on the street. As the doors swung, the hinges clattered, and the floor crept away from our feet, we swung with the walls that shook. Our bones wouldn’t turn into shields just because we wished. Even the children’s fates were sealed with slabs of concrete. Cement would stay hardened where it would hit. Beaded saris and creased hats tangled under the fallen beams. We couldn’t move that which broke us. You took what you didn’t need. What we leave behind remained. What you left untouched was odd. The couches were velveteen and pristine, but the guesthouses were slanted. The chandeliers still hung from the ceiling, but one story disappeared from the building. That one suede shoe slid from the slit with its unstained heel. The house smashed like a toppled vanilla cake, and the golden bangles on her supple wrist and jeweled fingers sparkled in the afternoon sun but no longer clawed their way out of the wall. The undoing came in jolts. I held my two little girls with rosy cheeks, trembling hearts, and throbbing temples. We huddled under the April sky. I kept remembering them with my cramped wrists near my ribcage. We stampeded in flocks. We moved with everything that rocked. I didn’t know if all the ones I loved were still whole. The wires were jammed; the poles were bent. The blood in our throbbing veins was already spent. You were everywhere, even in the words that had broken the air. You had punctured the ecosphere. Even the crows stopped their flights. The dogs suspended their howls. The roosters broke their songs and paused the clocks. The word came in crashing bursts. Not too far, the hills shed their amorphous rocks. The highways fractured with open jaws. When the roofs kissed the ground folding in, so many of us were late just around the block. We heard you plucked and crushed the domes, steeples, statues, temples, and stupa where we housed gods. Like a stale cracker, you broke Dharahara tower. The warrant was centuries old. You were in every brick we cemented, every log we carved, and every metal we engraved. You were in every fall that we had planted blueprint after blueprint. We heard, with each aftershock, each loss we lost count of. We rattled; we swayed. We rattled; we prayed. The path to escape the ground was nowhere to be found. We embraced the earth you were cracking because her doors were still open. I kept remembering the life I held in my palms near my ribcage. I remembered why I held.
About the artists:
Jia Sung is a painter and illustrator, born in Minnesota, bred in Singapore, now based in Brooklyn. In her spare time, she is a professional cephalophore, chronic complainer, whinger extraordinaire, velocipedestrienne, flâneur, domestic sensualist, and bon vivant.
Anuja Ghimire is from Kathmandu, Nepal. A Pushcart-nominee in 2015, she is published in over 30 journals. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and two little girls.