1/5 Yasmeen Cracks


Adrift, she was adrift, bodiless, formless, belonging to no one, unanchored, with no future, no past, no roots, aimless, utterly alone & utterly free.

Image Credit: Kris Trappeniers
Image Credit: Kris Trappeniers

She awoke with a start.

Yasmeen keeps her eyes closed, watching the play of shadows beneath her eyelids. It was always the same dream, sometimes with a slight variation but ultimately the same. She’d try to cling on to that feeling of being adrift, and it was only when she closed her eyes and remained completely still that she could regain a hint of it. Already she could hear the first call to prayer.

Pressing her palms to her eyelids, she slowly rises out of bed, feeling with the tip of her toes for her flip flops. Sliding them on, she gets up with her eyes still closed, breathing steadily, knowing her way without feeling with outstretched hands because this has been her habit since she could remember.

She doesn’t turn on the lights to the bathroom but turns on the faucet, fills her cupped hands and lets the water run down her face.

All she can feel are cracks.

Finally opening her eyes in the dim darkness, through the droplets hanging onto her eyelashes, wide eyes stare back at her.

Unremarkable, typical eyes she thinks as she begins her ablution for prayer. She takes her time, making sure her hands, elbows, the back of her ears are rinsed properly, murmuring to herself as she deftly washes between her toes. Swinging her foot down from the sink, she makes her way across the room to unceremoniously wrap herself in a toub. Pausing for a moment, again she rests her palms to her eyes, trying to steady herself at the end of the prayer rug. She waits like this till the second call to prayer ends, sliding her palms to the side of her face to begin.

She paces herself as she goes through the motions, bending then kneeling, finally ending with a long sigh. Loosening the toub from around her face, she grabs for her prayer beads. Out of habit she is about to rest her palm against her eyes but then pauses, leaving her hand suspended midair.

She stares.

Weak sunlight filters through her window, it’s rays lazily stretching across the prayer rug, to her lap, up to her still hand that she continues to examine.

Eyes widening she stares harder.

Tilting her hand gently, seamless fissures run along her hand, wrist and arm, thin yet translucent enough that she could see the sunlight through them. She rubs her forefingers together, the sensation oddly like her fingertips had been coated in fine sugar.

Screwing her eyes shut she slowly brings her palm to rest against her chest, her heartbeat oddly calm. She begins to recite a prayer that she’d taught herself long ago.

Because every morning it was like this.

Every morning she’d wake from that same dream. See those same cracks that seem to grow crazed each day, and although she tries to blame it on a vivid imagination or the resounding effects of anxiety at feeling so stuck, she taught herself from a very young age to slow her gait, move unhurriedly, and always breath delicately. Her persona was shallow, flat, unassuming and generic for the purpose of fulfilling one specific goal.

Stop the cracks from spreading.

Silently undressed and measured, each guest scrutinizes Yasmeen while she walks with an extended tray, muttering quietly to themselves as they sip; a bit tall, a bit slim, a bit dark, a bit dull, a bit sweet, a bit pretty, a bit old, a bit enough to possibly make my little boy happy. She wears a docile expression, even if a majority of the remarks were thinly veiled darts at her or her family. Still, as she places the empty tray a bit forcefully on the countertop, she pauses and tries to recollect herself. It didn’t matter what goals or degrees she achieved, what mattered was her apparently empty ring finger and the consequence of such a catastrophe. She realizes with a start that this whole time she’d been grinding her teeth, another habit she’d had from a young age. Only it was recently that she began to notice that each time it happened, it felt like she’d been caught in a sandstorm.

Because in the back of her teeth were lodged grains of sand.

Image Credit: Nyambi Sun Goddess by Sara Golish
Image Credit: Nyambi Sun Goddess by Sara Golish

Growing grimmer with each serving of shai, she recedes deep into her mind where all the vapid chatter disappears & morphs into her imagining the length of gold covered arms of those same women as a xylophone, and after playing them to her heart’s content, she’d use their toubs as the longest and most colorful hammock. An uncharacteristic smile manages to slip on Yasmeens face where an over eager guest is more than ready to catch it. Even if you don’t get a husband, at least you’ll still have your parents, she says. After a slight pause she adds; but no one lives forever. She pairs it with the most pitying, patronizing smile.

With effort, Yasmeen turns away to place her tray at a nearby table. Languidly she makes her way out till she finds herself standing outside on a deserted side of the house, blindly watching the beginning of a sunset. She wasn’t really upset because she’d grown accustomed to the slights and comments. But if she could be honest with herself, her heart was smoldering. She wondered for how long she would have to remain so poised. Untouched by her growing disenchantment with what was expected of her.

An age old restlessness shifts in her chest, and she knew without looking that the fissures were now flowering in earnest across her skin. Wearily she reaches to touch her palm to her eyelids but instead is startled to find tears. She tries to wipe them away.

Her fingertips graze her cheek & it’s like sand paper.

Closing her eyes she sees cracks, and fractures across her eyelids, and through them the sunset. Her breath catching she should be terrified, but instead she exhales in relief. In answer a resounding crack peels through her chest, widening the jagged edges that now engulf her entire body. Holding up her hand, new cracks run along her wrist and arm, growing in detail and through them she could see the light of the sunset.

This was no hallucination, and had nothing to do with her vivid imagination.

Yasmeen was cracked & realized, she had a choice to fall into pieces. She briefly glances behind her, then fully smiles for the first time & feels the creases and wrinkle lines splinter and shatter along her jaw line, down to her throat, across her collarbone, down to her sternum then rib cage, dizzyingly zigzagging her hips, down to her knees then calves, ankles & toes. With her arm still extended, now crazed with cracks, she rubs together her forefingers and sees particles of herself fill the air.

A chain reaction blossoms from her chest & outward, sweeping each limb, tendon, organ, follicle, and cell. She trembles, not out of fear, but joy, and then finally collapses into herself, transforming into fine dust. It hangs in the air, as if unsure, shape shifting a hazy version of Yasmeen to a cloud of particles that needed a direction to billow.

But Yasmeen knew.

She knew she could be anything, be anywhere, fit & morph into anything she wanted.

But it, she, wanted only one thing.

To drift bodiless, formless, belonging to no one, unanchored, with no future, no past, no roots, aimless, utterly alone & utterly free.

Image Credit: Antonio Mora
Image Credit: Antonio Mora

This post is also available in: Arabic