This piece is written by Fabliha Anbar, one of Spicy‘s Guest Contributors. Fabliha is an 18 year old from Brooklyn, New York. Most of her creative work focuses on the importance of story telling. Her writing emphasizes her childhood and Bengali upbringing, because she believes every soul is a conglomerate of their past selves. She believes one’s adolescence is a huge part of who they are today, and her stories show that – whether it is painful or full of joy.
It hurts when I think of my past. I was standing beside the microwave with a bowl full of leftover mangshow and rice when I realized this.
When I try to recollect memories from my childhood, it feels like I’m envisioning someone else’s life. As if they’re characters from books I’ve read and jumbled them all up into one person, except that person is me. When my friends look back onto their life and spew out vivid memories of times their parents took them to their favorite bakery, or how much they cried and clinged onto their mother’s legs on the first day of school, I can’t help but have an overwhelming feeling of envy.
We were all at the same place at the same time, but for some reason as much as I try to, I cannot remember myself there. My parents tell me, what feels like hundreds and hundreds of stories with a sense of nostalgia longing on their faces, about how they would take me to Gino’s pizza store around the corner and how I would beg them to cut them up into tiny squares because it looked ‘proper’, even though the greasy cheese would slide right off and plop onto my school uniform. Or how they took to me to Dada’s music class on the weekends. Or swimming classes at Sunset Park.
If I think hard enough, it briefly comes up in my head and quickly shuts down. It’s like a blur. I know that I have lived through all of those moments, but it still felt as though my memories were just a lense of what the people of my life has told me. Like it wasn’t actually me that they were talking about. Like the memories aren’t mine. I would nod when they tell me their stories and smile respectfully, “That sounds nice, amu. Thank you”, expressing my gratitude as if asking them to tell me about my own past was tiresome job for them. But in result, I was the one left tired.
After not feeling fulfilled by the stories my parents told me, I took it upon myself to look at my childhood photos. At the corner of my living room, three brown boxes carefully covered in plastic wrapping paper are stacked near the air conditioner. I ripped the tight tape open and found books and books filled with photos and photos. The corner of each book was ripping apart and the pictures were starting to form a yellow tint. The plastic lamentation covering them were starting to loosen and the paper underneath were falling out.
I looked carefully at each and every one of them. Starting from my birth to fifth grade graduation. I realized middle school was when everything started to be digital and no one found the need to print out photos anymore. I found myself a little upset that I couldn’t see how I looked in middle school.
I saw pictures of myself in picnics for the Bangladeshi Association, where families and friends would gather around in expensive saris and suits on a park and eat torkaree on the grass.
Pictures of us in Sesame Street Park. Pictures of us in Universal Studios. Pictures of me sitting on his stomach in a pool. Pictures of me holding her hand while our ice creams flows down like a river. Pictures of us dressed in red to match the decorations surrounding the table, singing happy birthday to him.
I felt my breath quicken and my chest felt tight. Thoughts that felt heavy were rushing back and forth in my mind but each thought was empty.
I shook my head quickly and smacked my forehead as if pounding it hard enough would get rid of the thoughts. I put away all the books and neatly stacked the boxes on top of each other, not bothering to put the tape back on and continued to heat up the leftover mangshow while I try to hide my thoughts in a place full of forgotten memories.
Image courtesy of Ally Zhao