The First Time I Gave Up

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The air is so humid that I can barely breathe. Sweat pours down my body like a river down a mountain. The electricity has been gone for the past five hours and according to our neighbors, a generator  exploded and it’ll take forever to repair. We’ve been without electricity before but not for this long. There’s no running water in our house. The only form of water we have is in a small plastic tub in the bathroom and in our cooler in the kitchen. And in an hour that’ll run out too.

Mama and all my siblings have drenched themselves in mosquito repellent. I haven’t. Mosquitos and other bugs don’t really bother me. My grandma says it’s because I have bitter blood. I honestly don’t mind.

We live in the upper portion in this house and it’s like we’re being roasted. Everyone is sitting outside on their terrace or garden or in the wrecked park in front of our house. I’m sitting inside, by the table beneath the gas lamp that’s hanging on the wall. That’s the only form of light I have, and it’s slowly dimming.

I have a math exam in a few days.I have to give in my math notebook tomorrow to the teacher so she could check it, but I haven’t done any of the questions because I had to study for my Urdu exam. I’m not good in Urdu. Being dyslexic and learning another language don’t go together. All the letters seem the same. 

I sit on the floor with my legs crossed. The floor is the only thing that isn’t burning like hell. It’s cold and I’m glad my butt isn’t on fire.

Mamas calling me outside, saying that it’s better if I wake up before sunrise and complete my homework but we both know I won’t wake up.

If the electricity doesn’t come on we’ll probably sleep outside, on the cots, beneath the stars like we do in our Pind (village).

Give up. For a moment the thought brushes through my mind, but I fight against it. I’ve never given up, so why should I now?

Sweat trickles down my arms and legs. I can feel my clothes cling to my body. I fill the notebook with math equations, questions and answers. We aren’t allowed to use calculators and finding the square root of 34 on paper isn’t easy.

In school we aren’t allowed to use pencils or ballpoint pens. All we can use are old fashioned ink pens and it gets annoying when the pen runs out of ink. I’m almost done and a wave of peace subsides in my stomach, but when I look back at my notes they’re all smudged. The sweat from my arms smeared all my notes.  

I blink rapidly trying to hold back my tears but they escape and fall on my notebook, worsening my notes. I’m mad at our school for making us use ink pens. At this point I don’t care. The temperature is above 37-degrees Celsius and if I stay in here another minute I’ll suffocate.

I curse Zardari for being a horrible president and my dad for sending us to Pakistan… but I give up and go out to the balcony like everyone else around me.

That was the first time I gave up on anything in life. The first time I said “screw  it.”

I don’t remember if I got yelled at by the teacher or if she called my mother. But I remember feeling helpless and hopeless… It’s been more than thirteen years but that memory is stuck in my brain like gum on a shoe.

Aisha graduated from Hunter College with a bachelors in biochemistry and a minor in creative writing. She has written a poetry book and is working on a sci-fi novel. Aisha writes under the name Rinum. You can get to know more about her on her website:

1 Comment

  1. Those Pakistani power outages can make anyone give up. It was nice to read your expression of the experience.

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