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LIVED IN by Arisha Channa

Watching my person grow up has been the best and worst thing I have experienced. I am there to feel her tears seep through my blue sheets and there to absorb her screams of excitement. I can't bear to see my little person sad. I'd rather feel the happy punches I get when she reads her texts than feel her body sulk into me, making me bear her heavy sighs. I don't know much about my person. She has a bestfriend who calls her “Channa” and others that call her “Arisha”? This must be her name, although I will only ever call her my person, for that is what she is. She is Pakistani, I know by the music I hear her blast and the dramas she watches on her laptop, the thing overheating my blue blanket skin.

She is staring pointedly down at my sky themed covers, seemingly so angry at the grey thread pillows. She has an outfit spread out over me, Pakistani silks and sparkles, a blue ensemble that I know could make jaws drop. She is chewing her lip with so much ferocity I am worried it will split right in half. I know this face, the face of anxiety, the fear of sticking out like a sore thumb. Although me and her love this culture in private, I know she fears the way people will perceive her when she leaves this room. She calls the friend, the one who calls her by her last name and she worries and worries, twisting up my sheets so much that it hurts me, picking at my grey seams, untying and re-tying my skin. She is blabbering on, something about models and something about getting looks. I wish she knew the way I looked at her, my person. I could never understand anyone who didn’t look at her and her silk and sparkles like they weren’t the most beautiful things in the world. A deadly combination. But I also know how people are, people around her. I have heard too many nasty phone calls, heard too many repetitions of the things people have said to my person. I have bore the weight of her sadness, feeling like we were sinking, drowning in this society where embracing your culture is considered embarrassing, but turning away from it makes you “whitewashed”.

I am angry at the world for categorizing brown girls into such tight boxes, and stereotyping beautiful caramel skin as something to cover in bleaching creams and to wax away imperfections that I always thought looked perfect on my person. I have watched her worry time and time again over things that don't make any sense to me. I might just be a couple of piles of wood hammered together, but I know the growing pains of my growing girl.

And although I love her and have only ever known her to love, I am disappointed. She dims the lights and turns her phone off. The ensemble is still spread over my covers but the sparkles do not shine as bright when her face isn’t lit up with joy. The Bollywood soundtrack that means “This moment might not be here tomorrow” Kal Ho Na Ho plays on her laptop and burns it's lyrics into my silk skin. When will my girl realize that she can embrace the culture personally if not socially, that she does not have to be a Pakistani model or an actress on tv, she can be Arisha.

I know her enough to know that she will conquer the stereotype one day, that she won't have to feel in between and that she can find peace both with her people, but also within herself. Because beauty is subjective but she is the only subject I have known. She is the only beauty I know. To her I am the wood that holds her aching back, the pillow that bleeds with her tears, the most lived in part of her world. But to me, she is the world.

Girls like this deserve everything. The ones she’s friends with, the ones that bleed the same green and white blood as her, the unappreciated beauties of the world. Even as she closes the door on me, leaving behind weeping silks and dimmed sparkles, I take pride in my person and all that she will become. The bed she might move into years later that will turn into the new Lived in spot, I know for sure, will feel the exact same way about her.

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