Maryam writes short and long fiction and is currently hard at work on a "long project" also known as a novel. Armed with an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, UK, she is also the editor-in-chief of The Missing Slate, an international art and literary journal. When Maryam isn't writing, she's busy compartmentalizing herself in 140 characters or less and / or snarkily watching TV. Her work has previously been published in The News, The Express Tribune, Papercuts, Chowk and various other publications.
Ruminations in Monochrome
He’s telling me to turn my head: “left,” he says. “No, that’s not right. Turn your face the other way.” I see her standing on the fringes of the room, clasping and unclasping her hands, passing her fingers through her hair. “Chin a little higher… yes, yes! There.” The starch presses into my flesh, and I can feel the golden buttons glowering at me in the spotlight. “Don’t do it!” they seem to shout and my hands curl in on themselves: thank God for small favors — the photograph is not a full portrait.
Soon, he’s going to tell me to get going: there’s a long line of others —uniform uniforms some with wives, some not. Fear writ on a few faces, excitement on others: me, I’m just looking at them while my woman — her hands rest on her inflated belly — dreams of the day I will return, run into her arms like they do in the films I have not yet lived to see.
But I won’t. I never will — gasping intermittently — expiring in an unmarked ditch somewhere, with my last photograph slapped onto a postcard for remembrance.
They’ll talk about that face I am wearing (trying it on for size), looking out into the distance and wonder what I was thinking. They’ll talk about the ruler-straight line parting my hair almost as if it were measured and will put it down to the barracks, not knowing it has nothing to do with ‘em. My Frances staring at me from beyond the pallid light cast by the photographer, his flashbulb waiting to go off at any moment, dabs her thumb with a bit of her spit and parts it through. Diligently. Every morn. She always had a way with this stuff did Frances.
The postcard will be buried deep into a box, the one piece of me she’d rather not keep, naming our baby after the man who never lived to be its father. Her middle name, his only name. A child I’ll never see, nor witness its first step, first word, first tear, first kiss (nor hear a whisper of it later). And it’s alright, really — I will continue living in my languid little box, buried somewhere deep, largely forgotten, occasionally remembered.
Until the day I am bundled up with others: a concentration camp Jew, a stillborn baby, an old photograph of a dead colonel or the other — perhaps I passed him on a street — his whiskers do look familiar. I end up in the hands of a bundled up girl, bundled in a nunnish habit of some sort and know it’s all over. I am dead.
Oh my God, I am dead.