Manahil Bandukwala

Sometimes I colour my palms
with red ink,
smear handprints on white office walls.
I wear a red skirt.
She asks me over morning coffee,
“Are you two in love?”

I sit in my cubicle, freckled

face burned into
my mind. His mouth teases
a smile in the elevator,
fingers brush
against my thigh
as I microwave my lunch.

I spend the hour scrubbing
the spot below my neck
where he flicked his tongue
before a meeting. The redness
of raw skin comes before
I feel clean.

Sometimes I want to tell her,
but she asks me about
our first kiss. (The blind spot
between the washroom
and the water fountain).
I leave out the part
where he pulls my hair,
“Don’t cause a fuss now,
no one will listen.”

She says over morning coffee,
“I saw his lips yesterday, reddened
from your lipstick.”
then she asks,
“Where did you get that colour?”
I don’t tell her about digging
a red pen into soft skin of my lips
until ink bleeds
over teeth
and tongue.

Manahil Bandukwala lives and creates in Ottawa. An artist and writer, her work has appeared in In/Words Magazine, Bywords, ottawater, and Existere, among others. She has work forthcoming in Room Magazine and Ricepaper Magazine. She is currently completing her undergrad in English at Carleton University. You can find her work online at