Kendi Karimi

The Things We Cannot See (2022)

I thank my weight. I thank whoever made me. On a human’s hand I may feel light, but in the drainage systems, I drag along the ground as the light weights are swept by the water. Well, except during the heavy rain seasons. Sometimes, the humans flush down so much water, I am carried in the turmoil of the flow with the pieces of paper, with lost pencils and pieces of clothes. Even shoes. The flow is light right now, and above me pierces rays of light through thin bars. The water is unrushed, and I’m only moved an inch every now and then. A woman in nude heels crosses over. I spot something pink, and lace, as the light momentarily disappears under her skirt. Right behind her, a man in a red Marvin pauses overhead. From his pocket, he takes out a pocketknife. I hear the sharp sound of it coming alive from its enclosure.

More water, more forward movement. I’m half-way between the light and the darker side of the tunnel, and have no arms like the men above me as to break out and knock the man upside his head. I have a mouth on me, but it only engraved, a whole head too; to see and hear, but never to move. Perhaps the human would not be so shy of speaking their hearts out if they became a coin for a day.

In my travels through the water, I have seen a pattern many times. I have seen mugging and murder, animal births and passed out fathers. I have seen lovers making up and saying yes under the neon lights of the city, and also been inside a cow at some point. I have been in shit, literally. I have seen what these human know but never acknowledge. Let me show you.

The silver of the knife meets my silver surface, and we bounce light off each other. I know dear knife, this is our part. As we were. I’m now deeper in the darker side, with only a small part of me left to the light. Then I see the man fall, hit his head on a pole, and remain silently fallen on the ground. The bars have tripped him up, and damn it if I didn’t have something to do with that. These are our parts. Her footsteps fade then suddenly come rushing back. She takes out her phone and dials, the knife slipping through the drainage bars and falling next to me. I’m pulled into another couple of meters of darkness, and soon, the sky will be dark too. Who knows what I’ll come through in this drainage? I’m happy I’m harder to chew through. Animals, even human children, some adults too, have tried to chew through me. But I’m tough, you see. Even stones have tried to break me in half. I’m not a coconut!

Wait and see what happens next. My life is not boring. I’ve never met the same mouse twice, and I have a lot of mouse stories. It’s been days in darkness, and now I’m out in the light. There’s a line of coffee shops on one side, and boutiques on the other. I’m in the light, and I’m dry. Sometimes I sleep for days on end, sometimes weeks. I can’t feel it when I bump into something. I’m tough, so I sleep. I can’t feel it when I’m dropped off a cliff. I sleep. Though I can’t move without an external stimuli, I move around nonetheless. A woman in brown wedges picks me up. She thinks she is lucky because she whispers to herself, “For good luck.” Her lips are moist against my surface. She slides me in to her sling bag and places me inside a jewelry box by her bedside drawer, mixed in with pearls, silver and gold. My new home.

In the weeks that follow, I am troubled by the fact that I can’t talk; I can’t set the record straight for the woman and her husband. That they are both wrong. Their individual affairs are working together to destroy these people’s marriage, yet none can admit that they are having an affair. The woman’s side piece called up the man’s extramarital lover, assuring her that he was leaving behind ‘the evidence’ that day. Their side pieces have a boiling pot of revenge ready to pour on this couple’s heads. They have been cheated out of love, again, and have found out about each other in the most miserable of ways when they found themselves hidden inside the closet after a mistiming issue –a lying issue. Their whispers were very quiet, but their initial gasps were what gave them up. The, “Oh, honey, I thought you left…”

“I thought you did too…” That part was awkward.

The woman’s lover left his tie under the pillow, and her husband found it. The man’s lover anonymously sent screenshots of conversations between her and the married man to the wife. She denied the tie, said she’d bought it for him some time back and that he’s the one who had forgotten about it. He told her that he was sweet-talking this woman to get ahead in a business deal, that nothing in those texts was real.

“This is probably an attack strategy by my competitors. You’re the one I’m married to, and that’s for life, and I like it like that.” They make love.

The man put me in his pocket earlier today. Under his breath, he was saying he needed a reminder of how lucky he is to have found himself such a wife, so understanding, and I was that luck. Then see, he drops me when he is pulling out his wallet because, unlike the rest of his money, I am special, so he slide me inside his cotton pockets where he could ‘feel me when he wants’. Well, he drops me. I hope his samosa is worth the hell he’ll receive when he gets back home. That daily recurrence of ‘did you do this and why are you doing that and why don’t we do this anymore?’ How long until they break up? We coins are not like that; no soul mates or marriages. It’s all temporary. One day I’m with a fifty and tomorrow; gone. Heck, a few minutes later, gone. We’re real travelers us coins, souvenirs too if you’re rare, or, if you mean something to someone. We’re treasured with the treasure humans deny themselves and replace that invaluable treasure on something you can place on a shelf, like myself, for example.

I’m kicked onto the grass. Here goes; a child has picked me up. A boy this time. Into a pocket I go again, with a small hole I can’t fit through just yet, but I am peeking at the side of his feet. With this child, I’m up and about the most. The grownups want to tuck me in a corner they think is safe, they want to preserve, but the child tosses me up and tries to catch me mid-air. Most times, I slip through his fingers, but sometimes, I spark an ineffable kind of joy in him that makes him roll on the grass. He leaves me at the patio when his mother calls, and the next day, chances upon me on the same place he left me. He shares me with his friend, the grownups showed me off instead. I have no trouble at all living in the carefree watch of a tiny hand. Though their grip be small, their joy is grand. I’ll spare you the details of all my travels and tell you of this last one, the one which, well – I am watching the little boy, green eyes glistening past the clear water. His face is folded into a frown. He has learnt what possession means as I sink under. He has learnt that I am his, was his, and now I belong to the sea. A boat ride has turned into a grieving, a holiday has become life-threatening. The winds are gusty, the sea moving in a violent motion. His mother thinks they are dying as their boat rocks back and forth. I see a shark; very large, very sharp teeth, very mean looking, and, in this violent sea, the shark’s attention diverts from the boats to the school of fish. They don’t know about the shark, or the fish. They curse, “Ugh! This sea. Why can’t it just calm down until we get to the shore?” not knowing that if it did, that is when they would really be in for a reckoning, that the real danger is being shielded by the storm they are cursing.

They want to know everything about everything, but they can’t. They want to predict and be right, looking at their compass and wrist watches and going, “The waters shouldn’t be this rough at this time.” The child waves goodbye with a little tear in his eyes. I sink, going further away from the light and into the dark, going and going and going, going with my knowing of the things the humans cannot see, the numerous ways in which life supports living. It’s not just taking and taking, it’s giving. It’s sheltering and loving. I sink and sink and sink.

About this work

The Things We Cannot See is told from the perspective of a coin, explaining to us what he sees which we humans miss. The story highlights the importance of trusting that whatever is happening in our lives, around us, is happening for us, for good, with love. That we cannot know or understand everything, but we can try to look at things with a more positive state of mind.

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