Two Works of Creative Nonfiction

Hangama Ahmadzai

You Stink

This new school sucks. So many reasons, so little time to tell you all, but it sucks, like majorly. We moved this summer and left my only friends behind. I hate moving. Why do we move so much? Do I look like a nomad? Well do I? Fine, they can be rhetorical questions, but still, do I? No, I do not. I look almost normal. I could be whiter, with blonder hair and bluer eyes. Ugghhh I have brown skin, brown hair, and brown eyes. How boring is that? But I digress. This school, yeah, this school sucks.

Three years in this cold country and still no friends... When I do make a friend, my parents decide to MOVE. This school seems different though. No one — and I mean no one — looks like me, eats like me, talks like me or even thinks like me.

Yesterday, during gym, Mandy, the blonde girl with braces and a fake smile that lights up everyone’s eyes told me I stink.

Wait, what?

Yeah, you stink?

I stink?

Is she deaf or something? Put on some deodorant, skunk.

What is a skunk?

OMG! She is too much. Can you believe her, guys? No deodorant and doesn't even know what a skunk is.

What is a deodorant?

Hahahaha, you are so damn stupid!

As the whole class of girls laughed at my stinky situation and my inability to understand their dribbling dialect of useless words, I made a mental note, 'Do not think out loud, you dumbass!' Grade 8 is not fun at all. Now how do I find out what a 'skunk' and 'deodorant' are? Mom might know.

A deodorant?

Yes mom, they said I need a deodorant.

Oo cheest? What is that?

If I knew I wouldn’t ask you?

Watch your tone, fameedee? Understood?

Yes, sorry mom.

It's ok, I will ask the girls I work with and we will find out what a deodorant is.

Okay and what is a skunk?

A chee? A what?

A skunk, mom?

Okay, write all these down on a notepad for me bachaim, and I will ask.

Don’t say bachaim, mom, you know I feel like you are saying my son. I am your daughter, your dukhtar.

Ghool! Bachaim means child ok, not just son.

Fine and don’t call me ghool, I am not stupid either.

The ladies at my mom’s workplace came through and the deodorant was finally revealed. This little thing will take the skunk out of me. I still had no idea what a skunk was, but apparently they were known for their strong and unpleasant odour. How embarrassing to be compared to it. Before all this, I had felt so confident, so elated, so full of myself that when Mandy pricked my inflated sense of self with her sharp words, I heard the balloon of my confidence burst so loudly that its echo could be heard for years to come.

Three days later, armed with the scent of rain, I arrive at my school with a smile on my face and deodorant smeared very generously all over my armpits. Go on, smell me. Nothing huh? Go on, don’t be shy. Do you smell anything? No, right?! My mom got me the strongest strength that exists at the drugstore. The lady said nothing is stronger. It even has pictures of two huge biceps on it, plus it is supposed to smell like rain. Why do people want to smell like rain? Anyway, I had it on and nothing was going to faze me. My plan was to rub my armpit in Mandy’s face, but I know that would not be possible. Is it? Hmmm, what if it could be? No, no stop it! Be civilised, be patient, be... okay, I lost my train of thought. I settled for invading her personal space instead. I hurried towards Mandy’s locker with a permanent smile plastered on my face. She was laughing about something, eating a chocolate bar, and whispering to Samantha when she noticed me walking toward her.

What now, skunk?

Not anymore! Go on smell.

Why are you in my face? Move back, skunk.

But do you smell me? It’s gone. I found your deodorant and now I smell just like you.

I turned around, moved my arms up and down, did a little dance and turned back to face her, real close.

I smell like rain. I have never smelled a skunk before, but I am sure they don’t smell like rain, huh?

I eagerly awaited her judgement and looked at the faces of other girls around me. They were all intently looking at Mandy. The seconds felt like hours, and the hours felt like days. The whole world had stopped moving just to hear the sounds out of Mandy’s mouth. But something was wrong. Mandy’s face had turned red, and her neck seemed larger than before. Do you see it? Look! Do you see? What is going on? Say something Mandy! My head was about to burst when she finally opened her mouth to say something. We all leaned over to listen just as her eyes rolled back and she dropped to the floor — there was nothing but dead silence, and then Samantha yelled,

You killed her!

What? No!

Yes, you killed her!

The girls began screaming and crying as I contemplated what it would be like to sit in a jail cell somewhere with no deodorant on and no one to make fun of you. Ha! Not so bad after all.

Behind the Red Couch

We hadn’t lived in our house for very long. It was new, shiny, modern, and big. For two little girls, there were plenty of places to hide and plenty of places to play. My sister must have been two years old at the time when we first moved into what was to be our last home in Shaaraynaw, Kabul. Our one treat back in those days was always a piece of fruit. For, Freshta, my sister, it was always a deliciously crunchy, juicy, red apple — the kind you try to put in your mouth but half of its juices spill over. If during the day she did not get an apple, then she would steal one from the fridge and go to the living room to hide behind our red couch to devour it, in what seemed like a single breath. I could hear her crunching away trying to hide but doing a lousy job at it. One day, my parents decided to visit my grandparents, Bibi jan and Baba jan, and started calling us to get ready to leave. I hesitated because I knew that Freshta had just started to feast on her apple behind the red couch.

When we didn’t go downstairs, my father came up looking for us. He started calling our names. I answered, but Freshta didn’t. She was still too busy taking mouthful bites out of the never-ending, red apple. My mouth watered just thinking about her feast. My father having seen me asked me if I had seen Freshta. Lying, I replied no. Feeling scared of my lie to my father but also not wanting my sister to get in trouble, I pretended to look for her as well.

By this time, both my parents were actively searching for Freshta, but only I knew where she was. I went behind the couch, and with a mouth full of apple, in between her bites, she managed a smile, but she was not even halfway done. She appeared to not have a care in the world. I told her that mom and dad were looking for her, but she just shrugged and asked me not to tell them where she was hiding. Meanwhile, I could hear the rise of alarm in my parents' voices. I left Freshta to look for my parents. My mom saw me and immediately asked if I had searched the living room. Regretting my decision to find my parents, I added another layer to my lie and answered that she was not in the living room. Having searched our floor they decided to go to our garden to look for her, but by this time their search had a frantic appeal to it. This gave me a chance to get her cleaned up and presentable. She was still sitting in the same spot. Outside, I could hear my neighbours getting involved and helping my parents.

I took the half-eaten apple from her. She protested and started to scream, I told her that I would give it back to her if she came out and showed herself to our parents. I washed her hands and face and gave the apple back to her. She looked happy but wanted to hide again. I told her that she would not be in trouble, but our parents were worried, and we had to go to Bibi jan’s house. Thankfully, she didn’t hide again, and I called my parents from the bathroom window. They were still searching for her in our big garden that was full of fruit trees. The look of relief on their faces will never leave me. They came back upstairs, grabbed Freshta, and hugged her tightly. I became a hero for finding her, and she was always given her apples whenever she wanted, but her favourite place to eat them was still behind the red couch.

Hangama has been writing since she was ten years old. She is a published writer dabbling in poetry and short stories based on her adventures in life. Her influences are many, including the great Mawlana Jalaludeen Balkhi (Rumi), Rabia al Basri, Hafiz, Attar, and Gibran.

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