On The Flipside
Written by
Saera Ismail

The morning smelled like freshly cut grass, the sunlight gave the garden an illumination which felt Godlike. I knew today was going to be different, as I felt the strength to take on the day with vigour and gusto. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and French toast were a work of art. I was glad to be in the house alone, for my enthusiasm towards life would have certainly annoyed any cynical and level headed person.

“What do you mean, he just hung up on you? What a prick!” I comforted a friend who was having a meltdown with her less than sincere boyfriend, a guy who has been in her life for five minutes, yet he holds such immense power over her, it suffocates any sense of reasoning. To feel pain is to be human, yet to drown in it is wasting your life away. It’s a fine line between an epiphany and a mental breakdown. “Don’t worry, he will call you.” He will, but he will keep pulling this shit over and over again, somebody has got to accompany her on the straddling line.

The gloom from consoling my friend didn’t hinder my energy. I was still ready to moonwalk into a supermarket and grab my groceries, fruits, grains and I most definitely needed soya sauce. I walk up the road with a wide, full smile, I get nothing, but it just might be one of those days for them. Beep! I’m in! I take my time selecting fresh vegetables; everything looks more succulent and lush than usual. I go to each isle and carefully look through all the items, I pretend a film crew is behind me as if I were a celebrity chef casing through the sauce section. I grin to the absurdity of it, however, nobody notices.

Checkout and I’m bopping my way on home with the weight of the groceries inflicting my bop. Cab drivers query on whether I need a ride, I simply wonder why they can’t see how much I’m enjoying this fine walk. I encounter the bread stand, the lady gestures to me asking if I would like some bread while holding a freshly baked loaf up with her bare hands, I humbly decline; my finicky mind can’t stop thinking about where those hands have been.

The neighbours on my street look concerned as I walk up to my house, by now the fatigue in my arms are settling in, just a few more steps and presto! I wash all my vegetables and store them in the fridge. What now? I decide to watch some news, the second the picture comes into focus, I know the latest buffoonery stunt pulled off by the most notorious world leader, I know the disparities being reported, the bombs going off, the hungry children, the displaced families, faces of colour coming together, and I finally see everyone killing each other. One side pitted against the other.

The splattering pan is ready for my lovely, carefully selected vegetables, they cook perfectly and for once my salt is on point. My fish is just about to get done, as I take it out of its foil tent, the vapour surrounds me and I was so pleased with its turn out. I slap my hands together like Gordan Ramsay does, as if I have mastered the culinary arts. A perfectly cut fish, served with vegetables, bread, wedges of lime and a glass of white wine for splendour, I create my first balanced bite, I take it in with all its glory and then I start to perspire.

I put my fork and knife down as the shaking won’t stop; the convulsions take over my body, Oh god! I poisoned myself with my own home cooked food! No, it wasn’t poison, it was something else, it was coming from within my bones, and the sweating won’t stop, the tears won’t stop, the end is nigh. I reach for my phone as I feel it ringing, I’m mistaken, it’s not ringing, no one has called me, and no one is around. I’m alone, we are all alone. I haven’t seen any of my loved ones for over two months. Absolute pandemonium has erupted amidst this dark time.

I consume an entire glass of water as if it were a tonic to cure the intense anxiety. I slowly start to feel my heart rate begin to calm down. Was it a panic attack? I open my picture gallery on my phone and search for my cornerstone, we are there together. We will be together again one day once this nightmare passes. I can hold on for a while longer till then. I pack up to refrigerate my food while scoffing at my upbeat persona, which I feel has taken a back seat to allow the scepticism to take control.

The following morning, I stand in the middle of my neglected garden, where the weeds, money plants and wild flowers grow incessantly. I barely drink my caustic coffee and miserably eat my stale toast. My mind should be reeling from the stark contrast in personality, but it doesn’t. I switch on the TV, the one constant is the news, and the expected fluctuations are the soaring case numbers and death tolls. You’re just getting started and you don’t plan on going anywhere! I notice my friend calling me, What bull shit did that bastard pull now? I think to myself while pressing the silent button, I’m tapped out. I throw my phone to the side of the sofa which in turn topples over the remote control to the ground; I suddenly hear Bill Withers singular voice and start to tap my foot to ‘Just the two of us.’


Written by Saera Ismail
Illustration by DRG


Next Up...