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"Demons" • The National (by Ra Ebrahim)

my patron saints of being bad at parties, of clambering onto a fire escape furtively, of sitting  in the cold like the child who plays hide and seek with itself, and who must ultimately  undergo the shame of waiting and not being found. lacerated by this humiliation, i make a  habit of crying on public transport. everyone around me seems to fit perfectly into the  foreground of their lives, and i keep crawling away. only when i’m underwater, in the guts of  this large metallic creature, do i find myself able to summon the tears.  

i listened to a lot of the national the year i lived away from home. i spent almost all my time  fighting against the urge to whittle down my life until it was as narrow as it’d always been. as  a preventative measure, i start believing in god. i carry talismans with me—a red string given to me by my dad which i didn’t understand, golden cards engraved with esoteric language, fragments of poetry by O’Hara (my occasionally sad poet of the city) while i waited for “the  catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.”  

eventually – as they always do – the days got longer, but i couldn’t stop squeezing my heart  in my unforgiving fist. i make the unhelpful gesture of telling myself i am like a dog waiting  to be allowed up into a warm bed, no matter how many times my friends say that of course i  can stay, that i don’t have to sleep on the floor. the doors keep opening and i keep being  surprised that i can pass through them, unharmed.  

the problem with being this down is that it had very little, in reality, to do with actually being  down. mostly i didn’t believe in the up. i kept burning my eyes out squinting at the blurry sun  that was never quite there, and told myself none of this could be trusted. the plague masses  that swarmed me were a product of my own pestilent insistence that every scrap was already  a bounty, and that i’d never get any more than that, so don’t expect it. there is nothing more  terrible than when hope itself becomes a dangerous shard, emitting its own embarrassing  light. it becomes easier to tell yourself, stay down, stay down.

Ra Ebrahim is the editor of the online literary magazine, The Candid Review. Their recent work can be found on Substack, @opengravetheory. They live in Singapore.


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