The Hardest Thing

June 20, 2012
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In the last few months, I’ve been asked multiple times (for college applications, job interviews, general queries, etc.), “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”

Breathe. And I know that seems to be a strenuous task only for the strife-less and whimsical but there is a hollow in every person. It is a hole of darkness and grunge. A place crafted by the T’s and A’s of DNA, that is barren. It’s where your soul goes to die. The burial ground morphs into a playground where morose swings and slides and silence frolics on black tops. Pity is playing on monkey bars and climbing up your ribs; she is blocking the air to your lungs and now you can’t even breathe. I can’t even breathe.

In situations of death, I know this place well. I visited often when my grandfather died. It is imprinted with the soles of my raw feet and the echoes of my cries have made their fossils in the walls. It is a place where my heartbeats lack consistency and fears are etched into my spine and makes me bend and crouch like a feeble animal. We were called kindred souls because our bind was so native and ancestral. My grandfather bellowed from the hips of his mother 62 years, to the day, before I passed through mine. He died 20 days before my 15th birthday and his 77th. I remember a lot about that day. It was the first time I saw my father cry. It was foreign to him the tears didn’t seem to know how to articulate down his mudded face before they were captured in his beard. When he told me, the words flung themselves into my ears and forced their way into my stomach. And there they sat, rotted and curdled. At the funeral all the brown faces were sodden. It was hot for an October day. The fans in the church were attached to old ladies wrinkled hands, as they added a breeze to their already roaring moans and wails. But the tears and sadness stored inside me had no want to come out. I was too upset to just cry. It took everything, every fiber in my muscle, every cell and glucose my body owned to just breathe. And every time someone asks me about the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, I spiral back to that moment.

Nostalgia is a bitter woman. She leads me to the beautiful moments just so I can remember the dreadful ones. The ones that sit my heart in acid and make me clench my eyes closed. The ones, in my mind, should have never happened. And during those nostalgic moments, I am reduced back to the basics of what I know. And I do the only thing keeping me alive in that moment: I breathe.

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