I am brown in Terminal 1 at JFK in December,

shaking to my bones with a fever I didn’t have time to measure.

Two seats away from me are two toddlers screaming in German,

their parents aren’t afraid of their accents slipping through their coffee orders.

Maybe they’re comfortable in their skin.

Coloured ribbons wrap up the airport in festive, in joyous,

In “You’ve had your year of labour, now go on, go home.”

I want to say hello to the kids but I’m afraid I’ll make them sick.

I spent the year learning how to not be afraid but sometimes our bodies forget the basics,

See, sometimes I remember breathing as well as I remember 8th grade math.

Not well.

I’m afraid because I brought a cold in Terminal 1 that I’m desperately trying to cure before someone notices.

I keep sniffling into my Starbucks tissue.

Keep holding onto my poetry book, hoping that it makes me look worldly.

Keep looking at my phone, my phone with its feminist back cover.

I’m afraid because I’m going back to a country fragmenting itself in the headlines,

a country painting itself red, painting itself whatever colour will let you stay alive, throwing out the rest of the palette,

divided, torn, and yet, resilient.

I’m afraid because I’m leaving a country that’s doing the same.

CNN plays on the T.V. over my head and I know something’s wrong at the White House again.

Sometimes I feel like I am never in the right time zone,

never lighting the right fire, never leading a revolution, always on standby.

Neither here, nor there, no use for my voice if

I’m still trying to find it.

But I think back to how many times I’ve been brown at the security check,

questioning the next random secondary search.

For some reason, everyone in the line is brown too, so I blend well.

They walk me through the machines and a nice man swipes my bag for

explosives.

I’m so nervous I’m afraid I’ll say something funny.

My hands in the air, feet bare,

I’m hoping the machines don’t find me questioning if it’s all worth it.

Hoping they won’t sniff out the fear, load it onto a tray with all of the

metal appliances.

Honestly, I do not know how anyone could be afraid of me.

What will I be found carrying in my American Tourister bag?

I guess they’ll find my hope, my yearning, my holding on,

my leaving, my coming back, the love and pain of the back and forth,

they’ll find me tying lose ends on a carpet that’s undoing itself into yarn.

I feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time,

trying to be someone here, trying to be someone anywhere,
when there’s so many others in line.

You see, America is just a faceless hand I cling to in the dark,

But India, she is the dissatisfying lover, the one I keep begging to change,
the one I pull away from in the hope of getting even closer, the one I’m really rooting for.

I wonder if she’s rooting for me too.

But for now, I’ll be brown in this airplane for a good many hours.

In transit, heading home.

Soon, I’ll be brown in my childhood bedroom.
I’ll have courages to speak of, stories to tell, lovers to get over.

Sitting in this economy seat,

I’ll prepare to be afraid,

I’ll prepare to be brave.

Again.

And again.

Swati Sharma is a sophomore majoring in Film at SVA. “I am an international student from India, but New York City is slowly becoming my home.” Swati performed “In Transit” at the SVA Theater on 23rd street on March 22nd, 2019 as part of Kaleidoscope, an annual word and multimedia variety show curated by Davida Singer and Isabelle Deconinck.