January

Jasmin's Prompt:

Think of a moment when you tried to speak your truth

only to meet ears that refused to listen.

What did it feel like?

What did you want to do with that hurt?

Respond to the prompt in poetry or prose.

Writer: Sushmita

Instagram: @curiosityzines

Sushmita writes from her experiences as a fat SA woman growing up bicultural. She's interested in exploring the connections with the past, current and future selves, and healing through creative expression.

cars hold memories for me

(Content Warning: Abuse)

The plastic container was nestled between us in the backseat. We would share hot chips laden with gravy. Eating so quickly, the back of my throat felt parched, desperate for water, but I never slowed down. I couldn’t ask for water because I wasn’t taught to voice what I needed. If I didn’t fight for my share, then I wouldn’t get it. The short checkered dress defined what I was entitled to, and it was always less than him. My voice was altered from a young age, instead of politely asking for what I wanted, everything had to be coated in tears or dripping with anger. Otherwise there was only silence. I ate the chips and when I got to the house, I would guzzle down water.

 

Cars hold memories for me.

 

On every trip, there was an argument. In my pubescent body, I could still match their shouting. I shouted back when they told me I was too fat, I was not good enough, a child of Satan. I wonder if the car’s walls created an echo chamber, the emotive sounds bouncing off the walls sending energy back to her, filling her up like a battery. And when I couldn’t shout, I would cry, lean against the window and hoping the passersby would see my pain, that someone would intervene. But no one ever did, I was alone in this world.

 

Cars hold memories for me.

 

If I wasn’t the victim, then they would scream amongst themselves. Throwing out accusations and swearing under their breath, tensions rising. He would press down on the accelerator, the car would speed up and I would hold on tightly. Brace, brace, brace like an airplane safety video, but this felt more real. Everyone would go silent, she would try and pacify him, her voice cowered but this threat wouldn’t change her hardened heart for long. Cars hold memories for me. I had told myself a narrative, that no one wanted me. But he sat next to me, in the driver’s seat. He told me I could move to his if I wanted. My bed was still lined with old dusty pink sheets, my white corner bookshelf filled with Buffy DVDs lined up next to an incomplete set of Deltora’s Quest. I went silent for a moment, too frightened to go back but knew that this person wasn’t mine either.

 

Cars hold memories for me.

 

I was weary, I was tired of screaming, tired of fighting, tired of my every move being followed. My skin was bruised, I knew that my voice didn’t matter, but I tried, one more time. I sat in the backseat, he was in the driver’s seat. I’d seen him break down, become blunted like a stone. He was as desperate as me, but it was his house, his car, his duty to take care of me. And he had failed. I tried to confront him, tears welled, voice shaking. He told me he had two children. But I knew the truth behind those words, my assigned sex meant I was the lesser one. Why protect something you never truly saw worth protecting in the first place?

 

Cars hold memories for me.

 

I was in the driver’s seat, the white haired instructor turned to me. He would talk fondly about his experiences in India. Poor children but happier than anyone in the world. He tried to convince me to go, told me how wonderful it was. I rolled my eyes internally, his experience could never match mine. I had never been to India, but the violence and misogyny of generations past had been brandished on my skin. I kept my mouth closed, I had learnt to be quiet in cars with men. He said he’d never seen someone struggle so much with anxiety in a car. He thought it was best I’d saw a hypnotherapist.

 

Cars hold memories for me.

 

I was mesmerized by the narrow roads in the English countryside, effortlessly draped in greenery. My fiancé would drive us to castles, stone circles, markets. We’d have different adventures on the weekend. Almost every Friday night, we’d see a movie, the cinema was a forty minute drive from our apartment. I would slip into the car, as an equal. Although anxiety would pitter patter at the back of my heart, I felt almost safe. Our voices would never rise, I could lean back and smile.