Riding Pillion

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Posted by Snigdha Popuri

Artwork by Neha Upadhyay
i keep nervous-glancing
at the unattended
brake and clutch levers
as we head to the bus stop.
finally, i ask him
to keep a steady finger on things.
i immediately catch his indifference
in the side view mirror.
my brother’s pride be damned,
aren’t our lives more important?
rabiya would agree.
ra-bi-ya.
i stretch her name slowly,
careful not to condemn it
to the ill fate of hasty pronunciation.
rabiya, and my breath hitches.
red tints my cheeks, tip of ears.
my heart, it is ready
to swallow the sky.
rabiya, and i am myself again.
with her, love
is a prayer for rebellion.
with her, happiness
isn’t a collectible.
it’s in the rain, it’s in the flowers,
it’s in me, it’s everywhere.
rabiya, she advises me
to hold back with fist clench
any instinct to help
each time he fumbles to fix
tires, brakes, engines, himself.
rabiya, she assures me,
he doesn’t need to know
of our secrets,
of the countless afternoons
spent riding her bike on club road,
with her warmth rolling into me,
of her teaching me how to
rev up engines,
slide through moving cars,
overtake.

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