Aashna Belenje


--a prose poem--

Two years ago, while I shopped with friends, we visited their favorite store in the most fashionable mall of Silicon Valley. I had never gone inside before but liked the style my friends wore and thought it would become my favorite too. The boutique’s fragrance reminded me of roses and honey, soon drawing the three of us to neat piles and natty racks of casual clothes. We filled our arms with a treasure trove of them and headed to checkout, my friends leading the way.

A pretty blonde woman worked the register and sweetly bagged their items; they headed for the sunshine to wait for me. Next, it was my turn, but the saleswoman scrunched up her face, looking like she tasted the salt of my skin. To my surprise, she informed me her shift had ended and disappeared, even though I had just seen her come on duty. Dumbfounded, I just stood at the counter with my stack of clothes.

Soon, another employee arrived and explained, “Sorry, Ma’am, we can’t check out your clothes; we only serve people who look innocent.” Like a shot, he took the clothes from my trembling hands.

For me at that moment, the store flashed into a world of silence. The truth hit me like a bomb: they thought I was a terrorist. After all, my friends were all Caucasian; but my chocolate skin compared to their ivory finish just didn’t cut it. In a near trance, I walked out of that darkness and into the sunlight.

When Elle and Ana asked me why I didn’t have my clothes, the shadow of humiliation forced me to lie. I just answered, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I like that store very much. Next time we go shopping, I’ll just wait outside.” And I never told anyone what happened to me that day but prepared myself to cope with prejudice in the future.


About the author: Aashna Belenje, a third year student in Poetry Power, a private poetry institute in Campbell, CA, dedicated to professional training in the ancient art of poetry, has learned more about writing in a couple years than all her years in public school. Already, she has had her poems published in the renowned Chautauqua Literary Journal in New York, Song of the San Joaquin in California, WestWard Quarterly in Illinois, The Avocet in Arizona, and in a number of other states. Also, she has had another of her poems win Third Place in the National League of American Pen Women's prestigious Soulmaking-Keats Literary Competition and a Silver Key in Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She has also appeared in two televised readings with other winners at the Koret Auditorium in San Francisco.