whoami?

Anish Topiwala

The Boy often walked into school with more things than his back would allow him to lift. His pockets often struggled to hold the immense weight of what he hoped to carry. A long while ago, only a few months for everyone else, but what seemed like a decade for The Boy, he possessed a wallet quite unorthodox. To a simple passerby, they would simply look at him funny and get ideas. “This boy is strange. Why is his wallet so big? What could he possibly hold in there?” A wallet bursting with all sorts of odd little things. IDs dating back years, some were his, others were not. A wide assortment of receipts, cards, and other miscellaneous objects lined the worn leather. To everyone they meant nothing. Just a pile of junk. To The Boy, these objects brought back flashes. Flashes of times he had trouble recalling himself. Flashes of times where he was somewhere else, someone else. But now, all he sees is a pile of worn leather, tucked away in a deep corner of his room. He has a new wallet now. One still pristine and factory fresh. One that resembles many others. Carrying that new rigid slab of leather should have felt weightless. I mean, it barely had anything residing inside of it. But he could still feel the weight of that old wallet. Carrying him down. Reminding him of who he once was. Who he can’t be anymore. He’s 18 now. An adult now. That’s why that new wallet exists anyway; a gift from his parents. Even now though, he still can feel that old familiar leather brick nudging against him.

A pair of sunglasses also always accompanied him. Sometimes he would be wearing them. Other times not. Those sunglasses did more than just make the sun easier to bear. Those sunglasses were part of him. He’s been carrying around that same pair for four years. Both its frame and lenses were bathed in scuffs and scratches. Those miniscule blemishes never bothered him. Instead, he wore them with pride. They were his after all. Those sunglasses were the best parts of him, and the worst. They helped shield those sunken in eyes from all who would judge. He wasn’t sleeping as much as he used to. With those glasses, The Boy never had to share that sleepless gaze. He could keep it all to himself. 

The Boy had plenty of other things to keep him company. You’d always see him walking around wearing jeans and a hoodie. To him, they were his armor. If he kept on wearing both, he would never need to admit to himself how skinny he really was. The same battered shoes remained on his feet, never to leave. His earbuds provided solace. Helped tune out all the things that The Boy didn’t want to hear. The coffee mug, which often leaked, was the only thing keeping his eyes from sinking into an undeserved slumber. A backpack, scattered with papers in no particular order. He never gave those papers a second look after laying them to rest in that oversized folder. Instead, The Boy would leave those papers to the last minute. Until every word in his head was shouting for him to do what he dreaded to do. A journal also often sat at the very bottom. One he wished to have more words in. One he hasn’t written in for weeks. The Boy was too scared to see what he might write down. 

The physical burdens may have seemed like more than The Boy can bear, but he kept on pushing anyway. It could be argued that those physical weights were nothing compared to what he had to bear every day in his head. He carried fractured thoughts of stories he wished to tell. Stories that he had to tell. The Boy wanted to write, more than anything, and these rapidly cycling amalgamations of ideas and emotions desperately tried to leave his head and lay to rest on a page. Most days however, The Boy was too tired to write. Too worn out by the other things he had to bear. So, those ideas, those stories, kept on cycling. Hoping that one day they would fly free onto a piece of paper. Alongside these ambitions, The Boy carried a sense of division. Divided between a life of stability and normalcy, and one of art and expression. You see, to most, art could never amount to a life. To a job. To an individual. For him however, it was everything. Art was the pedals that kept on cycling forward in his life. Words gave the grayest mornings a gleaming sense of color.  A normal path who so many around him demanded he take would simply leave those wheels stagnant, chained motionless to the ground. The Boy carried the lives of his ancestors. Lives he had little knowledge of, as he was part of a different world here. An ocean was only the start of what separated him. There was the language he always hoped he could learn, but never found time for. The culture he found beautiful, the same culture so alien to everything from where he is now. He carried on his back the hopes of himself. Hopes of a young boy fresh to the world. Hopes of the same boy now a man, who wishes he could see things the same way he once did. The Boy carried thoughts he desperately wished not to believe. He carried brutal expectations pushing him deep down into himself. He carried hope. Hope for a day where those thoughts, those expectations would finally lose its weight. For a day where the ink would finally settle on the pages. He carried admiration. For the older brother who always stood tall, for the friends who never ceased to walk alongside him, for the parents who still helped lift some of the load even he could not bear. 

Each and every day, The Boy carried all of this. Some days with strength and valor. Some days with shame and yearning. Other days with all of that and more. But he knew that those memories locked away in the wallet would never leave him. The sunglasses he marched with could always shade him from the harshest days. His clothes would always protect him, both from himself and others. The ideas rotating constantly in his head would one day rest their feet on a surface cool and stable. The division in his heart was only momentary, and his ancestors would always be coursing through him. Those expectations, now heavy and dense, would one day surmise itself into a collection of feathers onto a bright iridescent bird and fly where he could never reach.