by Raiha Rizvi, Age 14, Pakistan
Artwork by Katie King
The prompt of the month for August was “sand.”
Time is Sand
“What is the problem, May? Really, I am unable to understand you!” my mother shouted in exasperation, throwing up her hands in protest.
“Well, that is probably because you won’t get it. You know what? I can’t see what problem you can have if I am unwilling to celebrate my fifteenth birthday. Really, I can pen a couple of advantages for you. How can you be so frustrated about this?” I replied, equally frustrated.
Before she could utter a word, I ran up to the front door, shutting it behind me and heading for the park.
They won’t understand, I thought as I headed towards the rusted gate. This was the place where I could find peace, where time seemed to stop. The light breeze was just perfect. I sighed in satisfaction as the breeze blew my hair out of my face. But the peaceful moment was short lived as my thoughts forced their way into my head.
I really did not get how not wanting to celebrate my birthday could be such a big issue. Since I was twelve, I had tried to delay my birthday, tossing and turning every year the night before my birthday.
“What happened, dearie?” A middle-aged lady with a kind smile and concerned look interrupted my thoughts.
“Nothing,” I said sulkily.
“Oh really?” she said, seating herself beside me.
“Do not be fooled by the white streak in my hair. I very well remember what teenage years are like, and, really, with that frown anyone can see how ‘nothing’ is a problem.”
In spite of myself, I smiled. I have no idea why I decided to confide in a stranger. Maybe it was the way those kind green eyes coaxed me into pouring out my heart.
“I do not want to celebrate my birthday. I do not like this day and it’s just––you won’t get it.”
She seemed confused for a second but then smiled. “Ah, but that is not the real problem, is it? What exactly is the problem? The reason you do not like your birthday?”
I stayed quiet for a moment. “You might think of me as shallow. But do you not see? I do not want to die. I am in an hourglass and the sand is trickling through the space too fast. I am trapped in the bottom, and the more the sand comes through, the more I wonder how much is left. My birthday is a reminder that one more year has passed. I cannot stop the sand from coming through because, well, it is sand. The time is sand. I need more of it. I cannot let it pass. I do not know which moment will be the last one. If only I knew…” I trailed off as a lump formed in my throat.
Now that I had said it, I realized how shallow I sounded. That was not the way to make a good first impression.
“Look, you should really focus on the present and not worry about the future because––”
“Oh please, I am really tired of listening to all that positive stuff. Really, it makes me puke.”
Before she could say anything in reply, a young frail girl rushed up in the stranger’s arms. She had beautiful eyes and a kind, toothy smile.
“My daughter,” the stranger said.
“My name is April, and you are…?” she asked in a polite manner.
“Oh, I am so sorry. I forgot to introduce myself to your mother too. I am May. What is your name?”
“Miranda,” the lady said.
“You seem sad,” April said.
“Whoa, you are too smart for your age. You can grow up to be a great psychiatrist,” I joked with her.
“But I will not grow up,” she said in her serious manner.
“She has cancer.” Miranda sighed, noticing my confused expression.
“It was wonderful to meet you, May, but I have to go play now,” April said.
As soon as she left, I turned to Miranda. Then I noticed April. She was playing like she did not even have cancer. She was happy. Smiling. Laughing. She was not crying. An emotion of guilt reverberated through me as I realized how self-centred I was.
I turned to Miranda with a sorrowful expression, but before I could say anything, she said, “I won’t give you that positive stuff that you can’t swallow, but let me tell you this. When you are stuck inside an hourglass with sand falling on top of you every second, either you can think of ways to stop it or try to make some sand castles and have fun with all the time to have. We all are dying, May. It doesn’t matter how fast. All that matters is that you make your life worth it. You don’t want to worry about your future and then when you are fifty, or so, reflect on a life you regret. Think about it.” With that, she got up and walked away.
The words hit home. I only wished I could have discussed the topic more with her, but I guessed that was all I would get for being rude.
I reflected on her words for a long time, and soon the park started to get empty as time passed on. For the first time in my fifteen useless years, I finally noticed my surroundings, my blessings, and the fact that I did not have cancer.
The sight was indeed beautiful. The sun was just about to leave the world for the night, and the sky revealed a golden light as if a yellow torch was hidden beneath it. As I sat for a few minutes in peace, I noticed how orange light crept from the half-hidden sun and slowly spread all over the sky, and as it tilted, as if to hide from my glance, it disappeared completely, taking the light with it.
I realized how much I was missing out on. As I closed my eyes in peace, I remembered the pending chores at home for my birthday party. Time was sand, and I was going to make sandcastles.
Raiha says, “I am from Pakistan, and I strive to be a good writer so that one day I can show the world the beauty of my country with my words and writing style.”