Crisscrossing Red Lines

I looked past the worn out crosswalk at the little bicycle shop. It was still there! The black bicycle with the crisscrossing red lines. It shone in the blazing summer sun, contrasting the rural scenery of my town around it; the goats feasting in the grass, the man sleeping on the edge of the still canal.

A sudden jerk from a man clad in shawlar-kameez, asking for money, any change, for blessings in return, brought me back. I politely declined and dashed across the street, smoothly yielding the motorcycles and the occasional chicken. I’d crossed this street daily, coming to check on the bicycle as if the price could’ve been reduced to a few rupees: enough for me to buy it. 

I grinned at the shopkeeper hopefully, but he just shook his head. My grin disappeared as I sighed and made my walk of defeat towards the bicycle. Maybe tomorrow. I ran my hand over its smooth body and over the small chip it had near its seat, its tires still covered in bubble wrap. It was two sizes too big for me, but that was good because I’d be able to use it for a long time. And since the shopkeeper wasn’t looking, I quickly pressed the bell and ran before the shopkeeper could get a chance to scold me. My stomach was at ease now; no one had bought my bicycle. Yet.

It had been strange the first few times I came here on the way home from the chai stall without my father. It had been weird working there without him too. The boss-uncle yelled at me way more.

My father had randomly went missing, and I was hoping that by the time he’s back, I’d have a new shiny cycle to show to him. He’d tell me how proud he was that I’d saved enough money to buy it, and maybe I would even be able to convince him to ride it and test it out. Mother said he wouldn’t be back and kept crying. But that was a lie because sometimes he did leave unexpectedly to go to the city, and would bring me back a candy.

I whistled as I skipped back home. Today had been a decent day at the chai stall. A pretty lady with big sunglasses came in a car, wearing a really short shalwar and a kameez with no sleeves and gave me a big tip. I had quickly put it in my pocket. She even gave me a hug that made me blush and the boss-uncle jealous.

The wooden door to my house was open— the lock on the ground beside it. I furrowed my brows. That was strange: my mother always locked the door. I picked it up and went inside. My aunt Yasemin was sitting on the charpai with a bunch of other aunties, one that I recognized as my friend, Adil’s, mother. Why were they crying?

Later, I had learned my mother committed suicide, overcome by her husband’s death. Yes, he was dead, and yes, she was frustrated with me not accepting his death. Sometimes I think she thought it would be better to die instead of trying to explain it to me. I was not angry with either of them, they had raised me to the best of their abilities, even if it was for only nine years.

I stood there, eleven years later, on the curb of the crowded New York sidewalk, looking past the bright white crosswalk at the antique store. As the traffic rushed past, I waited patiently for their light to turn red, and mine green.

It was a soothing day to be outside. A bustling Friday afternoon. On my first day of work, I had gotten off at a subway station too early and found a little antique shop. I bought some stuff for my new apartment with the shopkeeper’s suggestions. Then I saw it: a black bicycle with crisscrossing red lines. Could it be…? Yes. She told me her son had gone traveling and brought back some old and some new items for her shop. I had quietly run my hands over its smooth body and over the small chip it had near its seat, its tires no longer covered in bubble wrap. Though I had the money, I politely declined, telling her I’d be back for it.

Now, as men and women pushed past me onto the crosswalk, I too stepped on the road, smoothly crossing the street, dodging the many bodies around me, making my way to the antique sidewalk with my first paycheque sitting perfectly in my pocket. Waiting to be used. 

Crosswalk NYC by Jaspreet Monga

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3 thoughts on “Crisscrossing Red Lines

  1. Dear Ayisha,

    That was outstandingly well done. It began so innocent, then suddenly the truth was undeniable- the childhood unsalvageable. And the reoccurrence of the bicycle was a reminder to embrace our past, but remember the choice we have in our future.

    The only advice I would offer for next time, is to adjust the structure slightly when introducing the mothers death, it mildly impacted the flow of the piece. Maybe try blending it into the second aspect of the piece (the present day), just to increase its effectiveness in the post. Otherwise, it was insightful and noteworthy, one of my favourites I have read so far.

    I was just wondering, did your trip to Pakistan this summer influence this piece? If so, do you enjoy incorporating that aspect into your work? What else influences your writing? Once again a beautiful piece- it truly came full circle.


  2. Dear Emily,

    Firstly, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read my piece!
    I will certainly take the time to focus on my structure more next time and your suggestion is a good idea that I will consider.
    Also, yes. My trip to Pakistan exposed me to so many lifestyles and contrasts and stories that I have trouble keeping them all to myself. I see myself constantly going back to the memories and pulling out pieces that I stitch together with my own creativity into stories.
    Otherwise, I tend to write about concepts that I can personally relate to because it allows me to add more feeling into it.

    Thanks again,

  3. Dear Ayisha,

    You’ve managed to create a beautiful, overarching symbolism with this piece by using the bicycle. It served as some sort of a transition of childish naivety and innocence, to the maturity of adult lifestyle. Not only that, but the detail added to the bike also seemed to elevate the entire piece; the way the tires used to bubble-wrapped, as though it were protection from the ground – from reality. Yet, as we reach the end of the piece, the reader is once more reintroduced to the bike, this time without bubble-wrap. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but to me, it represented the fact that he no longer needed that bike to metaphorically travel or cross any more roads, because he is able to do so “smoothly” now. Without the jarring rhythm of riding on a bike, he walks. The protection, and therefore the innocence, is gone.

    Let me say this again – the beauty of of how you manipulated the bicycle blew. Me. Away.

    The only improvement I can think of isn’t even a big deal, but perhaps you could allow short syntax and longer syntax intertwine more. For example, with the death of the mother, the emotion of the scene could be conveyed more strikingly if you had added in some simple sentences that reflect the protagonist’s thought structure.

    But again, your piece is already outstanding as it is.

    I would like to ask, however, if there was any purposeful significance behind the crisscrossing red lines on the bike?



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