I began to forget myself at birth. I lost sight of my fingers and the aorta in my chest. I forgot my hot beating blood and my nails. I forgot my lips last, my teeth and tongue at the very end. But they were soon gone too.
I blame my burnt sugar skin. It murmured to me, told me to minimize my place in the world. I tried to curl my toes, to pluck out my ribs and coil my body into a dot. In the Bay Area, I saw brown with every breath and yet I was still larger than life.
I was reborn at 16. The contour of my chin, the hollows beneath my eyes-I began to remember. I force-fed myself feminism and stretched my legs in the luxurious rebellion of existence. While I remembered the shapes of my elbows, my country began to forget.
The slaves whose backs were walked on, the Chinese who built the railroad, the Irish who flirted with death, the Hispanic, the Indian-I do not know who was forgotten first. We elected a man with holes in his brain. America forgot its ancestry.
“Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” This was my battle cry as I marched. I painted it on a sign, tattooed it across my forehead, felt the words beat with my blood. Once more, I felt larger than life-I celebrated. I stood with brothers and sisters and mothers and cousins and I screamed. I stood with women and men and I screamed. I stood with my mother and my aunt and I screamed.
I have used the word empowering before. I used it when I read the words of Kamala Das and when I saw Malala Yousafzhai accept the Nobel Prize. I use it again now to express my experience marching- empowering. For a few hours, I sewed my ears shut to racism, bigotry, sexism and homophobia. I stood, chewing silence between my lips in the moments before we walked, and let the sky swallow me. I heard the screams from above, felt fists thrust into the air, and I thought, just for a second-we are starting to remember.
Bindhu Swaminathan is a high school senior in Fremont. She took part in the Women’s March last Saturday in San Jose.