Sunshine and Movement by Nadya Agrawal

Things begin in the morning before we wake up. The sky has already turned, and by the time we open our eyes the flowers have already opened to the sun. And every morning before school I have an existential crisis.

You see, it’s a hassle pushing off the covers. It’s a hassle sitting up. It’s a hassle going to school where I get hassled every fucking day by the idiots who sit in the back of the classroom and throw random shit at the back of my head. So, I lay in bed a few minutes longer every morning, pushing back the whole day, further and further. Eventually, I have to get up. I know I do. But I can count down from 240 and revel in the sunlight coming through the blinds or roll over the lumpy bits of my mattress, feeling like I’m rolling over lumpy bits of cloud. And all of that is better than having a few more minutes to trudge to school.

This morning is especially hard. Right now I’m laying half-buried in my blankets and I can hear my mother downstairs banging pans extra loud, her subtle way of waking me up. My dad tells her to let me be, to let me sleep in a few minutes longer, but she comes from India where the cure for depression is sunlight and movement. So she clatters in the kitchen when she thinks I’ve slept long enough. I groan loudly and make sure I stomp slightly as I walk across the hall to the bathroom. She stops dropping spoons in the sink.
I don’t like having to look at myself when I brush my teeth, so I do it quick with my face near the tap. You can snatch more moments throughout your day like this – with my eyes shut, with the water hitting the porcelain, with the sharp spearmint flavor in my mouth I can put myself somewhere else. Today I’m thinking of a stream in Ireland and I’m reclining in the grass and putting my feet up on a tree stump. Yesterday I was in the Shire. Tomorrow I’m thinking Hawaii.

Breakfast is quiet. My mother talks, my dad wrinkles his brow, more things clatter but it’s pretty quiet where I’m sitting. I can move my spoon back and forth in my cereal and make small waves. It’s a clean white world in my bowl with tiny O-shaped islands. I cradle each loop with my spoon, holding it in a suspended ocean before putting it in my mouth. When I put the bowl away, I set it down slowly, carefully in the sink so it doesn’t make a sound. Then I pick up my stuff and leave for school.

School is school. It’s the place at the end of my walk, and it feels like the reeds part to see it, some sort of backwards Zion settled on the bank of a cement Nile. I don’t like school, but I think I said that before. I have to stop at the edge of the buildings and take a very deep breath before I go on to class. I do that now. Maybe it’s a bit dramatic but I think it helps. I give myself a minute or two to recount all my moments so far then I walk on. I open the door to my English class and sit down in my assigned seat in the middle row and think really hard about sunlight filtering through tree leaves. Green and golden. Sometimes shutting my eyes helps but there are other people around me now and I don’t want them to think that I’m freaking out again.
The teacher has started talking, the chatting settles slowly, everyone pulls out their books. We all turn to 736 and I stare at the words on the page. I’m thinking now about clouds that move quickly across the sky.

…on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once…

They move urgently across my mind, like they’re being pulled by strings. They descend then float up again. I’m thinking of a field of yellow flowers. They’re filling up with sunlight. I can see them bending in a wind and the grass ripples.

The waves beside them danced, but they out-did the sparkling…

The stream to my left glints at the edge of my peripheral vision. My shoulder blades pull together slightly and my fingers flex on the desk. There is a draft in this room. Crap. It’s gone.

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought…

I can’t pull that moment back. I stare at my teacher’s face while he reads aloud. The boys are shifting at the back of the room.

I breathe in deeply and quietly and look down at the page.

6 thoughts on “Sunshine and Movement by Nadya Agrawal

  1. I love the beginning of this! You’ve described perfectly how I feel in the morning.
    I really like the comparisons you use throughout the story. It really gives the story character and makes it easy to relate to.

  2. I love the character’s way of coping with her dilemma. It’s easy to forget how little power young people have over their own lives. This story was effective at reminding the reader of that.

  3. “I don’t like school, but I think I said that before.”
    I’m pretty sure I said that before too, lol.

    As Debb mentioned, lots of mini-landscapes and nice flow given all that. It’s easy for such a piece to read a little episodic (if that’s the correct word) but you’ve nicely avoided that.

  4. “…but she comes from India where the cure for depression is sunlight and movement. So she clatters in the kitchen when she thinks I’ve slept long enough.”

    Arggg so beautiful! Love your writing Nadya.

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