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There are Fireflies in the Dark – Marzia Rahman

Nov 12, 2021 | Non Fiction | 0 comments

3rd Place, The Antonym Creative Non-Fiction Contest ( Subject – Belonging), Octover 2021

Nobody goes into the woods. Not even for a stroll. Set at the edge of the town, it is kept at bay. Forsaken like an untouchable.
People often complain of an odor oozing out of the woods. But no one could put a name to it.
I recognized it though. It is the smell of rotten days, wasted summers. It is the smell of boredom. I once flew from it.
*
When I was a little girl, I was scared of the woods. Ever since my grandmother told me evil spirits live there, trapped between two worlds. I stayed awake at night, imagining them hovering in the woods, preying, hunting.
It was years later that I realized the hunter could be hunted too. Non-belonging is a breezy concept. A man could be more sinned against than sinning.
I read Shakespeare at college, where I met Daniel, the man I loved for years. The lover I dreamed of night after night, while my husband lay next to me, oblivious.
As I stand outside the woods today, I think of Daniel and ask myself: what do I do now? Do I walk ahead or go back, live in a bubble, eat yogurt, drink ginger tea, listen to soft music and stop resolving life like a story?
I take one step forward, two steps, how many steps does one need to take to forget the scars and bruises left by a past that still hurts, keeps hurting?
I look around. All around are big trees with ancient, gnarled roots, snaking here and there, everywhere. Was it wrong to return to the roots where I no longer belong? No longer wanted.
My mind is clouded, caught in a quandary. I want to start over but I don’t want to start over. I don’t know how to do it—starting over, trusting, falling in love, reaching my family who seem to live far, far away, in a planet of their own. Is Neptune a planet too?
Too many ‘no’s fill my days. My nights too. Somedays, the unknowing itself seems comforting; ignorance feels like a shelter. A cave I crawl into.
But somedays, I crave some answers. I crave the simple days of childhood—when I could chase a cat and fight with Mira and could still be happy. When I could build houses on clouds because dreams had wings and mistakes were simply mistakes, not leveled as sins.
Too many sins, they said, I have committed. But I don’t feel sinful. I feel sad but not sinful. Not immoral, just sad for hurting myself for the wrong reasons, for trying to hold on to love when there is none.
Maybe love is an illusion, a word poets love to fiddle with.
If I were a poet, I could ask poetry to save me. But I am no poet, poetry doesn’t appeal to me, and I don’t think words do either. Numbers make sense and I am fearful of the number thirteen.
At thirteen, I wanted to flee home. At thirty, I returned home, the ancestral house that stopped feeling like a home long, long ago. Still, here I am. Am I wiser? Saner? Probably not, but I am not heartless either.
It hurts me seeing my father dying, my mother not dying but not living either, the truth is she has never lived, only survived. Maybe there is no truth.
Truth is an illusion too, slippery like imagination.
Standing in the middle of the wood, I wonder where to head next. Should I go home, see my father, and try to love him a little before he turns into nothing but a distant memory?
I turn back to go home. And it is then I see—sparkling something, something sparkling—right before me. And I ask myself, is it magic or real?
I see them, moving, in the air—one, two, three, nine, more and more—flickering, glowing, flying, up and down, circling all around me.
I stretch my hands out and a few sits on my palm. The moment I try to catch them, they slip away but I don’t chase them. I wait.
I wait and wait but it doesn’t make me sad. I feel rather young and happy.
I feel calm too—even though the sky is dark, and father is still dying, and mother seems unapproachable and finding true love still seems poetic and untrue—yet, yet there are fireflies in the dark.

Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi fiction writer and translator. Her flashes have appeared in 101 Words, Postcard Shorts, Five of the Fifth, The Voices Project, Fewerthan500.com, Dribble Drabble Review, Paragraph Planet, Six Sentences, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Borderless Journal and Writing Places Anthology UK. Her novella-in-flash Life on the Edges was longlisted in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award Competition in 2018. Her translations of poetry and short stories have featured in Six Seasons Review, Writing Places Anthology UK, The Book of Dhaka and The Demoness (The Best Bangladeshi Stories 1971-2021). She is currently working on a novella-in-flash and a collaborative translation project on Shahaduz Zaman’s Ekjon Komlalebu. She is also a painter.

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