By Aneeqa Mazhar Wattoo

Walking around in Central London
I find myself even browner than I remember
feeling when I lived there three years ago
before returning to Lahore

                                                            [and her kind shisham trees
                                                            and the unkind eyes of strangers
                                                            that make my eyes heavy with the second
                                                            pair of eyelashes that grow over the first as I
                                                            navigate her narrow sidewalks]

but London looks exactly the same—
everyone seems hurried, busy
rushing to someplace else, someplace better
where suddenly, violently
like snakes shedding off their skins
they will blossom into
finer versions
of themselves.

Now at a roadside café
I try to gather my
self but I cannot
feel anything.

Instead, I watch myself from a distance—an object clad in
red pants, practical blue Toms, and wristwatch
with a cluster of crystals around the dial

and I wonder
how the faint London sunshine
manages to erase me
so efficiently, so completely
every time

until one of those absurd motorbike rickshaws targeting tourists
races by and the notes of a loud Bollywood song slash the air
and I feel sudden, improbable delight, recognizing in the sound
something I cannot name, but which turns me briefly into

and it slides into me
the way a ray of sunshine slides perfectly, angularly
into the dark patch on a windowpane

that all of London is a dollhouse
and I am a doll in the dollhouse—
a tiny object in the gloved hands
of a woman in a factory, hunched over an assembly line

                                                            [now she wipes away the sweat on her forehead,
                                                            now she imperceptibly stretches, the muscle in
                                                            her back relaxes by a tiny degree
                                                            and the ache recedes for a bit]

she glues me to one of the
miniature sidewalks
and I sit there
forever afterward
            my wristwatch gleaming
            my new Nikes shining
            sipping a cup of tea
            with petite,
            manicured hands.

Aneeqa Mazhar Wattoo is a writer, a translator and a mother based in Lahore, Pakistan. Her writing explores the intersections between gender and the politics of gendered spaces. She is the co-founder of The Creative Room—an online interdisciplinary humanities focused on South Asia, the first of its kind in Pakistan (Ig:creativeroom_co). 
Her writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Meridian, New Ohio Review, Southern Humanities Review, The McNeese Review and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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