new endings.

Poem by Saffah Ibrahimi

Art by Haley Cheng

She’s sitting across from me, making paper

planes out of old homework sheets. She tells

me to join her, delicate fingers pressing

against the ink of her last sociology final.

Did you know we make our first

impressions within one-tenth of a second?

Did you know I only needed half of that to

fall? I never speak the words out loud,

because that would make it real. I don’t

think I know how to love without tearing

myself apart. Mother, you’ve raised a

fool—a monster who thinks she’s worthy of

love, to be loved. My hands are big enough

to hold another woman’s but too small for a

tasbih, mother I’m sorry this is what became

of me. My greatest violence was loving a

woman, I close my eyes and pray for Allah

to look away, just for a moment. Please, you

should not see me like this, it is unbecoming.

She looks at me, smiling. There are shreds

of paper in her hair and smudged ink on her

fingers and this is when I learn how

beginnings are made. I don’t know how to

be gentle with myself, I pick the skin off my

lips and wait for the blood to seep into my

gums. I ignored the last girl I loved because

losing her seemed easier than mourning

myself. You see, I only know how to end

things. I skip to the end of movies and read the

last page of books because I don’t know

how to sit through the beginning. I told my

mother no when she asked if I still loved her

and I tell myself it’s because she no longer

knows who I am but in truth, leaving her

behind is easier than rebuilding what we

destroyed. Because I have learned that

beginnings are not made for people like

me—a rotting soul in a hollow

vessel—maybe I was left behind in the

debris. Maybe my ending was lost

somewhere in translation. Maybe this is why

I keep searching for it in potential friends

and lovers. She tells me to hurry up, she still

has another stack of papers to get through.

When we finish, let’s fly them off the roof,

she says with laughter in her eyes and ink

pressed into her thumbs. It’ll be the perfect

end to our day, she mutters—more to herself

than to me. I don’t respond to her, I don’t

think I know how to. I think I need to end

this—another love burned to the ground, lost

to the debris. I need to end this. I don’t know

how to.