उड़ान (Before I Leave)
Madiha Khan


This happened when I was inside the end of may before the sun started to become too hot and before the air became clogged with mosquitos. There was something tantalizingly slow and hazy about the empty days in the cold basement with the leaky floors and the intricate web designs of thin suicidal spiders. I slept each day until 4 in the late afternoon and then woke up in time to wash the breakfast dishes before mama got home from work.

There was always cold water in the basement and over the cold water in the kitchen I would go over my dreams again and again so that pieces and fragments drifted and slipped farther and farther away from me so that by the time I turned off the water I had forgotten what I was trying to remember.

I moved slowly with an old baby blanket wrapped around me and I was tired all the time except for sometimes before dawn when I would bolt out of bed and type out useless strings of words together on my laptop.

I dreamed about food and a thin bronzed body and men all the men that I dreamed about daily in a daze there was an endless cacophony of men and boys behind my eyes in my dreams i would shape them into my lover my husband my saviour and I would live off these fantasies and I would use them to lull me back to sleep but sometimes the strategy failed and I accidentally caught a glimpse of the reality of it and it would make me feel not that good so i would try to stop but before I could catch a proper hold of myself the fantasies would seep back slowly back into my thoughts and now I was too full of them and it made me panicked to think about what I would be left with if I purged them completely from my mind.

Here is what I think would be left behind: nothing.

There would be nothing in my brain in my body behind my eyes because I could not think of anything that would be worth the space it would take to exist there. Sometimes I tried really hard to feel for something behind myself behind the rockiness of my skull maybe underneath the soft flesh of the heart bone that place where nanni said the sufis told her the soul slept. But I never felt anything could not remotely detect any presence at all and I somehow knew that it was useless trying to pretend there was. I was a bag of fluids and crumbling sticks and my brain sometimes tricked me into thinking that I was feeling things when in reality it was just firing calculated portions and carrying out systematic tasks and I got swept along into thinking that I was a feeling being and it made it worthwhile lugging the bag of fluids and crumbling sticks around for a little bit longer but the whole pageantry of it the entire amount of self-delusion and denial of common sense contained in the whole notion of the concept sometimes made me sick.

I would eat when I wasn’t hungry and I would force myself to sleep for days and days because sometimes I felt bored and angry at my body and the trap it had laid out for me to live in until it gave out. I was tired and bored and over fed and i felt like I moved with great distress wherever I went that summer.

It was in may that I broke off all connections with the friends I had made during my thrid of university. It happened accidentally but it happened and then it was done and I was alone and I was trying to distract myself half the time and the other half I would slowly try to show myself the stupidity and self-arrogance of thinking that anything that I felt at any give moment in my life made a any fucking difference to anything.


In the land of the whiteman monsters there was a pink thief that was posing as a panther and she liked to hunt me when I was trying to fall asleep. I didn’t know what was good for me when I looked her in the eyes and let her bite my ear. Now when I wake up there is a sharp ringing in both my ears and everything sounds muffled like when people talk in a movie and I’m sitting in the back.

My life isn’t hard my life isn’t hard my life isn’t hard I tell myself that three times every morning after I wake up and three times before I lie down and try to close my eyes but somehow there’s always flashes behind my closed eyelids and they make me feel like I have Parkinson’s so I try to ignore them away.

And it’s true. My life is not hard. It’s not hard in the way that it is for people in selby’s head and it isn’t the grueling hardness of my parent’s life but sometimes I think it’s the fucking hardest thing to bite me in the basement sticky with humidity and the echoing of a writhing flailing four year and the sounds of slaps coming from him and there is always a foul taste in my mouth and I like being outside because sometimes I can’t breathe in the basement.

I write about the cottage I’m going to buy where I can live above the ground all my life and I’ll never hit a baby or a child or anyone younger than me I’ll try my hardest not to and now I feel really bad about the words that are trickling out from me now but if it hurts than it must means that it’s working.

You can still love someone and you can still hurt them but maybe that’s fucked up because there is no such thing as love or hurt and everything just falls on a socially constructed continuum that starts off from skinny white girl angels and ends up at threatening black people and the whiteman constructed this continuum but he metastasized it over the oceans so much that it’s now ingrained in everyone else’s brains and that’s why whiteness is the easiest shade to be because you created and breathed the fucking scale while me and my parents and my brothers and everyone else just has to learn it off tv and movies and books and then play by until we all die.

I can’t drive and I don’t think I ever will. I have never kissed anybody and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve never sucked a dick or held a boy’s hand or breathed on a pretty girls neck and had her smile back at me and I don’t think I ever will. Sometimes I think I’m okay with all of this and sometimes it makes me want to sit there and stare at my reflection on the laptop screen until I feel empty enough to want to smash the screen and make my hands bleed.

My best friend is somalian and she hasn’t left her room in a week because she started having panic attacks in her politics class and sometimes I want to laugh/cry when she tells me and I hear the panic building up behind her words I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter and I’m graduating tomorrow with her older sister and it still doesn’t matter and it won’t matter because me and her will always be the same.

My father won’t come to my graduation because he hasn’t talked to me in two years even though we have lived in the same basements and apartments and I’m a professional at not thinking too deeply about that because it sometimes makes my skin crawl.

I know that stars and moons are supposed to be connected to me somehow and this is supposed to prevent me from killing myself but I read this book where this convicted sex offender said that the way you kill yourself tells everyone about the most vital part of your true personality and I know exactly what he was talking about so I’m now too intimidated to die. Not that I would have done it anyways. Anyways.

In three months I will be living alone and sometimes i want to believe that everything will be better and lighter and sometimes I feel like I’ll just end up sitting in front of an empty computer screen again wanting to make my hands bleed.

I haven’t smoked weed in weeks or had a tattoo needle pierce my skin in months and sometimes maybe I think without other external actions or substances I wouldn’t exist because there is nothing underneath my skin other than rotten blood and clots of cells that move sluggishly dully.

I make no sense to me and the music sounds really good right now so I’m going to go away and listen to it properly now.


I am a faithful believer of substances that can make me forget the feeling of knowing that I exist in the place and time and space that I exist in. There was a mind in me once but that seems to have disappeared because the mind left is not much good at anything at all but being sad and lonely and letting other people down.

I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I don’t know why I am the way I am. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know how to change me. I want to be in grade 8 in edmonton again. I want to be in grade 6 in our lady of the prairies again. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here. I don’t’ want to be here. I can’t put my mind over time I can’t seem to get my mind over time I can’t seem to get anything over anything.

It will pass (thank you kind sir vonnegut now fuck off please).


I was 20 when I was waiting to cut off the cords that bound me to my parents and the basement and the cries and screams and sweat plastered hair of my brothers. In my mother’s eyes I saw a disappointment so deep that I took her hand for the first time in years and she pulled it away because I was someone that she had not raised. I smoked dark weed from broken pen and aluminum foil in the boiler room of the basement and I wanted to coat my skin with incense to make myself holy and pure but I it would not light up.

Sometimes when I walk there is something stuck to my steps that pulls me back and it makes me sit down and never move again because moving has never gotten me anywhere but back where I started.

There is a golden thrum in july windsor evenings. The sun sets at 10pm and my eyes flutter awake until it rises again. I eat benadryl pills by the handful to remind myself that I can find an escape however murky pink lethargic it may be.

I am thankful to my mother for my bones and I cannot write about my father yet because it makes my eyes ache and my hands shake and I cannot talk about my mother either because she makes me want to give it all up and bow my head down in a mosque. I do not talk about myself because I have nothing to say I think.

I think I once had soul but it got lost while I was growing up Somewhere between the winter of edmonton and summers of windsor I lost it because now i can’t feel anything holding up my ribs and I think they will crumble away one day when I’m sleeping on my stomach.

I am afraid of men. I am afraid of their hands and touch and eyes.

I am afraid that I’ll never find my soul again. I am afraid that someone will see that I have no soul and they will turn away and they will talk to me without looking into my eyes.

I am afraid I will be like my father.

There was a no one around when I lost myself yesterday.

I bike for hours everyday along the detroit river. I let the sun cook and ravage my skin because I want to be darker I want to be browner I want to revel in my brownness. I want to show everyone that I am not them but it is hard to show other people that you are not them when you don’t know what you are yet.

I am afraid of my family.

In july my skin drove me mad it rustled and tinged with electricity and it told me that I was missing something and that something was not with me and it made me smoke until there were throbbing sores in my mouth and throat because I could no longer stand my skin’s disobedience everyday.

NW tells me I must write myself before I can write anyone else. But it only makes me sad and my hands freeze when I try because sad girls are only acceptable when they’re skinny pretty white (am I right?).

I am brown ugly and I find it hard to contain the knives in my mouth somedays.

My mother tells me I’m too selfish has told me this from the very first days I can remember. That time in the boat in the sea in pakistan when I slapped her in the face when I was 7 I will never forgive myself for that.

That time rehan locked me in his room and he wouldn’t let me leave and I was sobbing and crying and trying not to fade away fuck him how could he do that to a little girl fuck all men that make little girls cry because they see that little girls are the strongest trees and the darkness in their throats makes them want to hurt them.

There are some people that are built to last and I acknowledge now that I am not one of those people.

I am one of those people for whom everything is just a little bit harder. I stutter when I talk to the cashier and I scream when I can’t get my equations right I faint when my hands get tangled I have trouble with it all you see.

I read a book about a painter i read a book about a french canadian boxer i read and read and still I have no soul.


My bones are made of blood and the blood was coated with steel and the steel was burnt with iron and the iron flowed inside the blood. There was so much irony in my skin and there was nothing to do but let my hand hang down and I stared and stared at the very tall darkness encapsulated in the trees that always remind me of a miyazaki movie. The trees were where it all started.

The next morning after I had given my bones enough time to hollow out and had shaved my head I stood under the cypress tree and I prayed to allah because I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about him her it and even though I don’t believe in him her it most of the time there are sometimes moments where the arabic scripts float around in my head and I want to open my mouth and be closer to allah I want to strip off my clothes and bow my shaved head down so that he she it can enter through the notch at the base of my neck where I once tried to cut out my spine.

I can go off in my head sometimes and cypress trees make me think murky thoughts they make me think about being 100 feet tall no one would be able to see my face and oh oh oh the bliss I would feel and my head has gotten so good at making movies in my mind that sometimes I can feel something good.

Anyways I was standing under the tree and I didn’t know why so I was surprised when the red corvette pulled up and I did not question my feet as they stepped into the car. But there was never a corvette there was never a car none of that actually happened I just though it did for a second because I was so bored and feeling lonely so I made up a movie about a red corvette that would drive me all the way to the mountains in pakistan just before the afghanistan border because the mountains in that area are the saddest most beautiful mountains in the world. It’s because they have to watch men and boys and little babies shoot guns and wear tunics of war and train their teeth to rip out shrapnel from their hearts. Sad boys men babies in the mountains in the pakistani mist that lingers just before the afghani border and even the mist can’t handle that much sadness.

What happened was that I was convinced that there was a small arrow in my back and I was convinced that there was a small hole in my arm and I was convinced that there was a small vacuum in my bones that was sucking all the rest of me away into myself.

Do you know how it feels to devour yourself?

Do you know what it feels like to become so small on the inside that it takes hours for you thoughts to reach your brain because there is too much darkness left behind in the deadened flesh?

Do you know the bitterness of a canadian morning just before the winter settles in and lake ontario is growling and moaning with lust and the windmills are frenzied and wild with longing?

I do and I don’t and by next week I will be living alone for the first time my mother won’t be there to fix my scattered mistakes with her calloused chapped hand and my dad will no longer hurl his silence at me like the blade of a angry windmill and my brothers will no longer there and I’m glad because I hate being the reason that the glitter sometimes leaves their eyes. Children’s eyes have the most glitter and it trickles out little by little until there eyes are just as empty and flat as the soil in medicine hat alberta.

I spent the summer with a beautiful girl with blond braids and a body that flowed like water in its ease and she told me about leaving ethiopia at 13 for the grey purple white smog of toronto. She was made of lightness she played her music on the speakers in her basket as we rode our bikes and she sat with me on the rocks as I dangled my feet in the detroit river and she lifted her shirt and showed a passing boat full of white people her breasts and her nipples were studded with steel rings and I watched her and I was in awe and I wanted my body to flow that way so that i could lay such knowledgeable claim to it like she did to hers.


But now it is bleeding into the end of august and now I am waiting at the train station with three joints in my pocket and a brain buzzing with anxiety and and I suddenly come to the blinding realization that even though I may leave the detroit river and windsor julys and the prairie dreams I can still never leave myself.

And it makes me want to crawl into the train tracks and never come outside.


Madiha Khan is a confused student in southern Ontario. She likes bikes, books, and sometimes she writes.