Old and New

by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

Old and New

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“Old and New” was originally published in Sea Foam Mag.

Old fashion is the malong Yasmin’s mother keeps tucked away in her closet. It smells like the soil after rain visits–petrichor, her mother tells her, the land blessed after a dry spell–and there are little spiders making homes in the edges, little bridges connecting the fabric to the wood. She tells Yasmin she will wear it on her wedding day. Yasmin thinks I do not want to be buried alive.
Old fashion is Yasmin’s father telling her what to wear and what not to wear. No crop tops, men turn away from the eyes of God to flashes of flesh; no shorts, the flesh is the Devil’s work; no mini skirts, the Devil and his army have led men to their damnation through the flesh for centuries. Yasmin takes to hiding the shorts and the skirts (she didn’t think she could pull off crop tops) amidst her dresses and pants and jeans and hijabs.

Old fashion is one of Yasmin’s babus repeating what the Christians say about men loving men and women loving women: Our Lord the Most Merciful did not create man and man to grow the land, nor did He make woman and woman to name the beasts in the Garden. Family dinners get awkward each night the conversation circles around to it. Yasmin can feel herself shrinking to the size of a pea. She always finishes first, excuses herself, locks herself in her room, and asks the Most Merciful if He really hates people like her.
New fashion is the new girl in her class. Her name is Tala–my parents thought I was born from a star, you know–and Yasmin can feel herself falling into somewhere with a light that warms the cages of her heart. Tala and Yasmin become friends as soon as they meet. Tala is a sun on a cloudy day, her laugh echoing with the air all around them.

Tala meets Yasmin’s parents. They like her. Neither Yasmin nor Tala speak of the flowers blooming on Yasmin’s chest, or the nearly-there clutches of touch shared under the dining table. Yasmin stares too long at Tala as the darkness of the night surrounds her; her parents think she’s worried about the bad men roaming around, Yasmin thinks what if they steal her shine?, and that fear—coming face-to-face with a Tala desaturated and dim-haunts her dreams.

New fashion is Tala knocking on Yasmin’s window around the hour when everyone’s asleep. This Tala is not the Tala of her nightmares nor the Tala of her everyday life. The Tala before her is all moonlight and stardust. She touches Yasmin’s face. I didn’t think I’d fall for someone like you slithers inside Yasmin’s head, and the smile on Tala’s face is sad, as if this confession is also a finality.
I love you, Yasmin whispers to the pale hand on her cheek. I always will. Tala shakes her head, removes her hand. The smile never leaves her face, but Yasmin sees an eternity of melancholy etched skin-deep: from the lines on her face, to the shapes framing her hands, to what passes as a heartbeat echoing in a ribcage that’s not there. Always, Tala says, but even forever doesn’t last. Yasmin wonders if there are choirs in the heavens; Tala sounds like she’d be a part of them.
New fashion is an old god forgotten, supposedly sinking into the waters of memory, but sun-warm and a blinding beacon—alive in a way that her heartbeat joins in the chorus of other, pulsing songs.
New fashion is… an old god finding someone brighter than herself, and a young girl learning to take love’s hand in flight.

Saquina Karla C. Guiam is a Best of the Net nominee from Mindanao, Philippines. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review, Philippine Speculative Fiction (Volume 11), Outlook Springs, and others. She is currently taking up a Master’s degree in English. She’s also an editor for Rambutan Literary (Roots nonfiction), Umbel & Panicle, and the Cotabato Literary Journal.