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The Sharpness of Grass Blades

Forget about Pakistan for a while. You are on King Street, Newtown, Sydney, and here, you don’t see the moon-swallowing powdered horseshit and the smoke of two-stroke auto-rickshaws that choke the sky above Lahore. The winter sky is clear and vast, the stars glowing. The Friday night crowd of merry Sydneysiders is around you. Gay and straight couples slosh around bars and clubs as drumbeats thump the air. It is an important night of your life, and you are here to mark the occasion. You take off your watch and hold it across your right palm. It is an ersatz digital, with its logo already peeled off. Mostly black plastic with a rectangular greyish display panel. You bought it from Zero Point, Islamabad, four years ago. The Pahari vendor had a taut, leathery face and a goitre that reminded you all you had heard about the Potohar plateau. That the region lacked iodine. That there was a mosque in Khewra mines wholly carved out of salt. You wondered if prayers offered there were different somehow or if the ablution water could wash away the foundations one day. Did the salt miners ask for something specific from Allah? When the man announced the price, you haggled a bit, just out of habit or necessity. From sixty rupees to forty.

        Theek hay, babu jee.

        Not bad. So far, you have only had to change the battery once. It tells accurate time. 11:57:19 p.m. In two minutes and forty-one seconds, the date will change. And with it also your legal status in Australia. Today is the last day of your visa, and very soon, from an international student, you will become an illegal non-citizen. You have to be careful, Muhammad Aslam, son of Abdul Jamal, permanent resident of nowhere, because your passport from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a piece of evidence against you. You wait for the date to change.