Letter #5

I think I cursed myself the moment I announced to the world that I wanted to be a writer. I set an expectation, and then worried that I was not good enough to meet it.

I have all these words in me, but I hesitate to write them. I want to write about that old man in the train, fingers clutching a pink backpack that is entirely incongruous to his neat button down and sensible black shoes. I want to talk about the little girl next to him, pigtails slightly askew after what I guess was a busy day at school. She is chattering on about something, face plastered to the glass even though there is only black in the underground tunnel. The old man is clearly inattentive, but his affection for the girl cannot be denied. It is in the way he places a protective handle gently over her when the train jerks to a sudden stop.

I want to write about the Bangladeshi man who sits tentatively on the edge of the seat. His clean but worn buttoned-down shirt, frayed jeans, and dusty sandals peg him as a worker. The hesitation is all over his face. He knows he has to be the first to stand up if someone wants a seat. Despite all the campaigns and reassurances, he is aware of the prejudices. Skins make statements. He scrolls through his phone, an almost prehistoric Nokia that displays only monochromatic colours. Is he reading messages from his family, or work notices from his boss? His face is a blank, and I cannot discern a thing.

And there is more. I want to write about how the wind brushes my face when I cycle. How it caresses my cheek, but only if I keep moving, moving. About the sun that warms my skin, just enough to leave an odd tan by the shirt line, but not enough to burn. As a child, I used to go down the slopes in a free fall, legs off the pedal as the ground rushes up to meet me. Now thrill is replaced slightly by caution, and I grip the brakes just a little to slow the wheels. As I cycle along, well paved roads give way to gravel. The way is still clear – after all I am not the first traveller along the path and I am far from the last. But it is clear that I am out of the city. The trees along the way are no longer planted at  deliberate distances. They are unruly, a hodgepodge of species that came together to create a patchy ceiling that filters sunlight in uneven bursts. The crickets are calling. Their cries are distinct, even through the gaggle of school children that rides by me. Don’t they only come out at night? The bicycle bumps along the unpaved roads, a city bike not meant for the roughness.

And I am a city girl, unprepared for the vast unknown.

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