Jawziya F. Zaman
Flash fiction curated by digital guest editor Mina Malik.
We scrambled through summer. We two, constantly bored and insecure and misunderstood, from an all-girls school far too Catholic and families far too respectable. We were straight-A students, the pride of our parents. We sulked through namaz and cursed under our breaths, and dreamt of college and escape to another life in a country that wasn’t the Islamic Republic, to a future that wasn’t already written. I was paranoid, you were restless, and both of us were horny as hell. We scrambled through summer and stole sweaty kisses when no one was around, fell on each other in empty rooms, and touched furtively under desks. We climbed up the old peepal tree after math tuitions in the blistering heat and crept into each other’s arms in the middle of the night during parent-sanctioned sleepovers, both on hyper alert for their footsteps in the hallway when the electricity went and the generator had to be turned on. How to explain it, us poised on the tip of a knife, terrified of being caught, but then I’m moving against you and you’re telling me not to close my eyes and there’s nothing else, just this. We scrambled through summer wondering if anyone had figured it out. We consumed each other, but outside a door slammed and we sprung apart, eyes wild, hearts hammering. We wanted more. We stumbled on sidewalks, texted each other constantly and wouldn’t look up from our phones until cars screeched to a halt in front of us and drivers shook angry fists. We lied about errands to meet at cafes, before going home afterwards where it was unbearable all over again. We scrambled through summer reckless and exhausted but we didn’t care and we wanted more, always more.
One Saturday in the summer swelter, on an afternoon one might describe as perfectly idle, we checked our emails in our bedrooms two streets away from each other and we stared at words congratulating us on our acceptances. We scrambled through summer getting what we wanted but then we were scared, suddenly so scared, because time was flying and we couldn’t see and the future was just blank paper, reams of it stretching out farther than anything we could imagine. We scrambled through summer celebrations with our families and ate too much chicken tikka at beach barbecues as the sun set in the smog and turned the sky a smoky golden that made us think of each other. We ditched parties to follow each other’s animal scent to a room where clammy limbs tangled and summer never ended, and afterwards, I stared at the ceiling while you rolled a joint and the air was dull with questions neither of us would ask. We scrambled through summer wanting it to be over but whispering go slow, go slow, and we ached inside with something we didn’t have a name for until many years later when we realised it was the knowledge that we wouldn’t be teenagers much longer.
Jawziya F. Zaman writes fiction and non-fiction, and she’s been published in Dissent, Himal, Psychopomp Magazine, and Scribble, among others. Her story Contagion received an honorable mention in 2017 by the Salam Award and her flash fiction piece Closer was shortlisted for Scribble’s Short Fiction Contest for Beginning and Emerging Writers in 2020.
Nidal Sher is an artist and filmmaker. Originally from Noshki, Baluchistan, he moved to Lahore and graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore in 2015 with a degree in film and television. The featured artwork was published in our third volume. He says, “The art I create is just a fluid paradigm of my nomadic soul. I make digital art borrowed from my imagination, while my heart stays rugged and dry like the mountains of Noshki.” His work can be viewed on Instagram: @nidalsher