The pain spreads through my body like dye coiling through water. It would be easy to imagine that my insides are colored red right now, but instead I picture them to be a deep, furious blue, the color of soreness, of pain after it has wrecked you. The color of aftermath. I try and will my body to stay in one position, stomach angled away from my legs, my torso twisted. Somehow, I believe this will dull the pain. Or maybe, at least, I will have manufactured another kind of hurting, so the real one will pang less. I don’t know.


On the T back home, I watch a young boy with something red clutched in his hand. I can’t tell exactly what it is from where I am. I’m wedged between two strangers and I’ve hunched my back so that I’m leaning away from them, doubled up over my uterus. My stomach feels soft to my skin, as if it were a large tuft of hair or a sack of tender oranges. All the way through the city, I am aware of my abdomen, this globething in my lap, spinning. Suddenly, the bus lurches forward, and the boy has lost control so that he skids across the grey floor and his arm is in my face, his hand waving something crimson at me. Playdough. I look at the boy’s fingers curled so tightly around the ball of dough as though they will never uncurl. His whole world a scarlet orb in his palm.


M takes a look at the bruise on my leg, its green veins, its purple heart, then laughs. “That’s a whole universe right there.” Then softly, more seriously: “That’s not what your period should do.


When I go to throw the trash out at night, I almost don’t see the rat at first, its guts splayed across the road, flesh cleaved from bone, its eye a silver opening. The eye reminds me of a tiny bead of caviar, the way it’s glistening from yesterday’s rain. There’s something gurgling in the dumpster and I can’t stand the sight of this death, as though someone has scooped up strawberry jam and mixed it into cement and grey skin and asphalt. The rat doesn’t look alive at all, but almost looks as though it has stepped outside of its own body to inspect itself. I move away from it, my legs extended away from me, my skin suddenly awake and bristled. I think of playdough and rat meat and this liquid, gelatinous night and my own wobbly body and how nothing in this dark feels real, except maybe the deep, aching blue of my torso. In the dark, I stand, recoiling from the day’s softness.

Manal Ahmed

Manal Ahmed is a writer from Karachi, Pakistan and a current intern at Brink Literacy Project. She recently graduated from Clark University, where she studied English.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.