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Self-Sketched By Aastha Mishra

– 1975 I wake up to the sound of the salty ocean breeze hitting the rocks. I can feel the damp coolness of the sand underneath my skin. I open my eyes as the sunrises from under the water and sets fire to the sky. A bleeding sky in flames or orange and red as the sun slowly detaches itself from the ocean to tear apart the night sky as the dawn breaks and the sky bleeds. And so does my heart. I can feel the wave wash over me and I taste the familiar salty taste on my lips, on my face. The saltiness of the tears and the sea brings with it the comfortable numbness. I turn 30 today Agnes. Remember that promise we made? That we would get married if we were both alone at 30. Well here I am 30 and alone but Agnes, my rose, where did you go?

I force myself to get up and as I get up I realize how lightheaded I feel. Agnes, is it possible to feel so lightheaded and so heavy at the same time? I can feel the heaviness of my heart dissolving into the sand beneath my feet as the cold leads way to hollow emptiness. As the rays of the sun touch my skin I can feel your gentle warmth, Agnes. I see the emerald white shell again.

It was you wasn’t it? You saved me, again. The first time I met Agnes was on this very beach, the day she brought me back to life. Before I met Agnes, my soul was tired, my body was tired and so I decided to go rest inside the water and let the waves wash over and consume the numbness inside of me, to let it consume me. And so I let go. I closed my eyes and let the cool waves put off the black fire inside of me.

That was when I heard a muffling sound and someone carrying me into the beach. The first thing I noticed was her beautiful hazel eyes as they worryingly bore into mine, asking the same thing over and over again. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” A sigh escaped from my lips and I saw her bewildered eyes searching for something in my face. “Thank you, but I was just trying to sleep.” She just sat there awestruck as I got up and started to walk away.

I could feel her running behind me to catch up with me as she grabbed my hand and those hazel eyes bore into mine again. “Hey, are you okay? You almost died. Where are you going? Let me drop you home please.” “You have beautiful eyes”, I said as I walked towards the house on top of the rocks where I lived. That night, I saw her again, she was on the beach running with a brown Labrador. I walked towards her auburn hair, shining and dancing in the moonlight running behind her. She saw me walking towards her and her hazel eyes spread warmth inside me, one that I had not felt in a long time. “Hi.” “Hi. What’s his name?” I asked petting the small brown pup. “He’s called Kafka and he loves hugs” “As in Kafka on the shore?” “Something like that”, she said as she laughed, her laughter echoing the sound of the crashing waves.

Agnes was a writer who had shifted into a beach house recently “in order to get closer to water and away from humans”, as she put it. The first night I held her in my arms her hazel eyes reflected the moonlight in the sky. “I want your naked soul. I want your chocolate eyes to smile that smile like pearls shining in the moonlight”, she said as she removed an emerald white shell from my hair. “Please be naked with me, I want your soul to touch mine.” You said as we drowned in our ocean, our bodies intertwined, the saltiness of our tears and the sea until we became whole. The sea, Agnes and me. We talked of the world, of everything and nothing.

Agnes completed me, she my shining emerald and she made me whole. Every night we would drown into the ocean of our love and discover the secrets of our universe. Our mornings would start every day with the sound of Leo’s bark, the smell of the ocean breeze and warm coffee, the warm sun on our skin, and the sound of her turning pages. I bared my soul to her. “Please be naked,” she said, but what about you Agnes, where were you hiding? Where was your naked soul? After 3 months, Agnes had to move out of her house on the beach and go back to the city to publish her book. I didn’t see Agnes for another 5 months after that. The last letter she sent me was attached to her book, “The Emerald Rose”. “To my muse, my emerald, to the girl sleeping in the ocean. You taught me how to drown and to float, you taught me how to sink and to fly. I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. I miss your naked soul and your chocolate eyes, your skin like the warm sunshine and your smile like the green emerald in the damp sand.”

They found her in her room, in a rose in her hair, and next to the rose was the gunshot wound. Her lips and dress the color of the flower in her hair. As I rushed to her house I could see her pale body surrounded by the ruby-red blood the color of the rose. Were you so scared of the ocean Agnes? Wasn’t it where we went to wash our wounds away. Why did you drown then Agnes? Like the bleeding sun that sets into the ocean, you sank in your rose-colored dress and your bleeding chest.

When I think of her now, I don’t know which memories are real and which ones I made up, the ones I wish happened but actually did not. I am starting to forget the sound of your laughter Agnes, and so I stand here knee-deep in the ocean hoping to remember the sound of your laughter like the waves crashing against the rocks, your smile crashing against my skin, but Agnes, I don’t know what that sounded like anymore. It takes me longer than it did to picture your face, but your picture is engraved in my heart in rosy red ink. Rose, like your favorite flower, like the ones between your fingers when they buried you. Rose, like the color of your lips, rose like the color of the dress that you were wearing when I last saw you. Isn’t rose supposed to be the color of love Agnes? And all that love you gave everyone around you, you couldn’t save up enough to give to yourself. The thorns were too much for you to bear and you succumbed to the choking of the thorny roses and the love you could not give yourself. How did you hide it, Agnes?

How did you disguise your thorns? But I guess, that’s how it goes, the petals of a rose are blindingly beautiful, so much so that you don’t see and completely forget about the thorns. “I want to go back and be reborn as a rose. Hold me like I’m yours my love” The last letter you ever wrote to me is still in my wallet Agnes. You taught me the meaning of life, you were the first and the last woman I’ve ever loved Agnes, your love saved me, and yet I could do nothing to save you. You’re gone but you’re in every part of my soul and body. I’m lost and I don’t know why I cry every single time I see a rose, every time Agnes. I’m lost and I don’t know why Agnes, I don’t know why. You were my sunshine Agnes; you were my warmth.

I saw you as the yellow bright ray of light but you were the bleeding sun that burned in the flames of orange and red. Every bleeding fire gets washed away and the bleeding sun too eventually has to go back underwater and rest among the waves. The rose-colored dusk smells like you, my love. You never let me drown but how could you sink Agnes? Was your soul tired too? As I stand here today Agnes, where you and I became one with the sea looking out into the sinking sun my eyes still long for you. Each ebbing wave slowly drains me out. And so I lay down to rest my tired soul, lay my body and my mind to rest inside the water and let the waves wash over and consume the numbness inside of me, to let it consume me. And so I let go. I closed my eyes and the first thing I see is your hazel eyes.

— Aastha Mishra


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