Anagha Khandelwal

ain’t no rest

Outside the window
there is the low rustle of the air conditioning unit,
the one that does nothing to lessen the throbbing
heat that is encompassing us. The doorframe bothers.
She is pacing and I am trying to finalize the
onboarding documents by Wednesday. She is pacing,
only this irritating hum that she produces
is the only thing that I can think about and it worms
its way into the back of my brain. It distracts –
I have lost my earbuds again.
I think I must have left it on the early morning bus,
in between the leathery blue seats or on the floor
next to a piece of gum my neighbor
chewed and spit and left two years ago. But no, yesterday
I took the old Honda instead. I drove further
away than I should have with your low rumble
echoing in my skull. It matched the rain pounding
on the roof of the car, echoed like the marching drum
that my friend played in middle school,
no tune or melody or beat, just a racketing
sound that could not find the right moment
to insert itself into. I almost drove the
car off the road, I couldn’t stand the sound.
My skin is stretched out like thin taffy
over this aching body that you have left,
it is so damn uncomfortable. You
leave me uncomfortable. You are present in the room,
no matter where I look,
examining all my organs that hang bare
off my body before I wrench it closed.
And what have you learned from standing here
for so long observing this? You stride across the room
and flick the switch underneath the window
whose purpose I had never worked out – up, down, up –
you leave it. It’s no longer facing the right direction,
though I had never cared about it before.
It is now yours. Just like that carpet you have
stepped on, just like that book you had flicked
through before closing. This heat is closing in around
my throat, down my esophagus, up and through.
I don’t know how to put space
between you and me. I spend all my time
figuring out how to fling this rocket out of orbit,
how to untie this Gordian knot,
how exactly, I want to scream, do I escape you?

Anagha Khandelwal is a college freshman from Jericho, NY. Several of her creative pieces have been published in the online literary magazines, Rigorous and Versification. She has also written for her school’s literary journals, Pegasus and Exit 33, and a local environmental blog. She is an environmental activist and researcher. You can find her at @anagha__k.