Winner of the TMS@LLF 2015 Short Story Contest
Earlier this year, The Missing Slate held a short story competition for those attending the Lahore Literary Festival. We received many, many entries written by writers with a lot of talent. From these, we shortlisted two as winners, both of whom were from Lahore — Sahar Rehan and Yusra Amjad.
In the video above, Yusra Amjad reads out her winning entry, ‘Big, Little’. The short story follows the story of a young relationship and a young woman’s perspective on it, turning the tables on the ‘traditional’ perspectives by interjecting a strong female narrator into the proceedings, awakening to her sexuality and her needs, which are often at odds with her partner’s. Written by a fresh voice with confidence about a subject – unmarried relations – not typically seen in Pakistan, Yusra’s work is both matter-of-fact and courageous in its ability to be so.
Her reading is followed by an interview with The Missing Slate’s Editor-in-Chief, Maryam Piracha, in which she discusses writing inspirations, the current literary scene in Pakistan, writing honestly about subjects considered “taboo” in the country – sex and religion, and what life is really like in Pakistan.[box title=”Big, Little” style=”default” box_color=”#000000″]By Yusra Amjad hen you’re sharing a close space with someone, they can sense your discomfort intuitively. When a friend leans their head on your shoulder and you shift one too many times they know you’re not comfortable. Intimate touch is easy to negotiate between people; we have a sense for these things. We do. But he is big and his extremities are numb. Jerking a limb being crushed under one of his gets no response. Flinching when his elbow pokes me at a sharp angle only results in him looking at me with curiously. Attempting to shift my hips beneath his gets no co-operation from this ever-cooperative boy. Glaring at him as his feet begin their pointless wagging, jerking me awake yet again, produces a confused stare. He says he doesn’t know his feet are moving at all. And when he starts to sweat profusely against me, I have to move the blankets off him because he takes no notice of his rising body temperature.
We don’t work together. What can he do? His arm across my waist squeezes my organs – liver, stomach, kidneys squished together. His head is heavy on my shoulder. His hugs compress my lungs. His kisses suffocate me. He is big, I am little.
He is never angry. My temper is like getting an injection: dreaded, painful, but over pretty fast. My anger could be described with all the clichéd hyperbole: the fire of a thousand suns and all that. I have to say, though, sometimes I have to be angry on his behalf as well.
He isn’t jealous, ever. Not of celebrities I stalk, not of men I admire, not of boys who admire me. He trusts me. He is the most loyal boy I’ve ever known, but I’m constantly annoyed by the butterflies he socialises with. Their empty chatter is dull no matter how bored one might be, so I can be sure it’s not their conversational skills that attract him.
He loves me, he smiles when I smile. He’s happy when he holds me. But if he can’t he’s content to talk, and if we can’t talk he’s content to message me, and if we can’t then he’s content with silence. When I can’t be with him this yearning builds up inside me. I want to rage against everyone keeping us apart. I can’t make peace with a world where we can’t be together. Every winter morning I wake up without him there is a physical ache in my chest to be sleeping beside him.
He’d marry me if I so choose. He would be good to me. He’d like me in his future, he tells me all the things we could do together. He would marry me if circumstances allow. I live for the day that the world is ours. Everything is shaken but the promise of happiness with him remains. The colour of our bedroom rug, the shape of our bathtub, and the view from our honeymoon balcony are impregnable in the corners of my mind.
I don’t like fighting, I really don’t. But it doesn’t scare me. I know everything will be worked out eventually. I know we’ll get through it. In the end we’ll make it.
He never fights.
I am big and he is little. What can we do?[/box]