Monthly Archives: October 2014

Little Window.

It was a merciless winter’s night, somewhere in late December I think. I can’t say for sure actually; time has drowned my memories ever so quietly. We must have walked down that lonely, desolate lane to Block D at least a hundred nights now. I’m sure he has done that at least twice as much. Nothing has changed; and yet strangely, everything has.

You see, me and him, we’ve walked these streets so many times that we’ve discovered its most minute intricacies. For instance, I know that seven minutes into our walk, I would hear the sound of gravel crunch beneath my size 9 Woodland shoes, breaking the effortless silence of the night, but not the uneasy one between us two.
The pale, dim yellow streetlights would dully light up the grey tar roads, the bright green benches with paint scraping off along its sides, the only witness to this pilgrimage of sorts.

And yet, in the midst of this monotony, things have changed. Sometimes, a gentle breeze would tug at my baggy shorts and the comfortable, loose fabric of my tee shirt during summers. And at times, the winter wind howled incessantly, a waft of ice cold breath from the Gods would bite at knuckles tightly clasped around my leather jacket. So much change, and yet so familiar.

Anyway, 15 minutes into our walk, I could see the familiar outline of Block D swarm in front of my eyes. The same rundown building that no one bothered to maintain. It looked like something you would find straight out of an archaeology magazine; chipped walls lined with dark green moss, missing bricks and faded paint making it seem like a page from a forgotten memory.

‘I like this place’ he looked at me and whispered in a rough, sombre voice. It was the first time ever that he had spoken to me during our walks. We always talked before or after it, but in those hundred days I walked with him, we never spoke when we were face to face.

‘This building is my reflection, it is what I am, you know? Weathered, broken down, forgotten. But I like it, because despite its shortcomings, it makes no attempt to hide. It still stands.’

I could see he was struggling to speak, but I didn’t ask him why. This was a change from our usually accepted pact of silence, I decided it would be wiser to let destiny do the needful.

We slowly trudged to the side of the building. The low balcony of the first floor stood right in front of us. It was low enough for me to jump and touch, in fact I could climb it if the drainpipe next to it wasn’t ancient. We stopped. Same place, for the umpteenth time. I’ve lost count. He put his hand inside his pocket and pulled out the same old bar of chocolate. I liked this part, and I made a conscious effort not to blink. He looked up at the open window next to the balcony; these were the only few seconds of the day when I saw glimpses of life flood back into his eyes. That made me happy; knowing he hadn’t completely forced himself into emotional exile.

He carefully held the bar of chocolate in his right hand, and arched his back. With the expert precision of someone used to doing something every single day, he threw the chocolate perfectly inside the open window. It was dark and empty inside, yet he stood there transfixed; staring at the open window for at least 5 minutes. It was a simple yet powerfully serene picture that I wish I could paint with words; hope looking up at expectations, in static and unsettling silence.

After 5 minutes of holding his breath, he let out a deep, pained sigh. He looked at me, which was his way of telling me that it was time to walk back.

‘Once every 20, maybe 25 days, when she’s strong enough to stay awake, you can hear the gentle rustle of the wrapper being torn open, I swear. She doesn’t go out much because the chemotherapies have left blotches on her skin, and she has little left of those gleaming strands of silky hair she had before. She says that it all makes her look ugly, but I disagree. What could possibly be more beautiful than someone learning to smile through adversity? Once every one and a half months, when the medicines don’t drain her soul, you can see the faint orange light come on in her room. She puts her head at the window, one of the rare times she ever lets anyone see her. When that little study lamp lights up the side of her face and she holds up the chocolate I threw and she smiles at me? It is all I ever needed.’

I just looked at him and nodded as if I understood. I clearly did not, and imagining the courage it took made me wish I would never have the chance to find out.

‘I told you, I like Block D. The place reminds me of what I have become. All I have left is a little window; but that does not stop me from standing in front of it every night in desperate hope. Everything around me is slowly crumbling, but something inside gives me so much to believe in. I like this monotony. It gives me faith. So I keep coming back, even if it means confronting my worst fears.’

‘And what are those fears?’ I asked him.

He looked at me, and gave me a tired, almost resigned smile.

‘Sometimes, I fear my chocolate will hit a closed window. Sometimes, I fear it’ll drop on an empty bed, and the hollow thump I hear will be nothing compared to the reverberations in my heart. I dread these possibilities. But when I started off doing this, she used to look through the window every 3-4 days. That number has slowly gone on increasing. Now I consider myself fortunate if she manages to hoist her limp, drugged body to the windowsill even once a month. I fear I’m living my darkest fears. Maybe it’s her way of preparing me for the worst, I don’t know. Perhaps I do know, but I do not care. I do what I have to, and nothing less.’

As we talked, we reached Block T, where I stay. We embraced, and he thanked me for coming. Although we did this every night I walked with him, it never felt out of place or cliched. I walked up the stairs to my house, and then into my room, slowly taking in what I had just seen and heard. I had a hard time sleeping that night.

The very next morning, I got a phone call. She had passed away in her sleep.

Even though in one hundred nights I never saw anything beyond the little window, I felt empty, I felt hollow. I could only imagine how standing in his shoes would be, let alone walking in them.

That night, I got no text message from him asking me to come for a walk. But I did see a lonely shadow, dragging a soulless existence through the empty street on the way to Block D. I saw all of it through my balcony. Seven minutes later, I could hear the sound of gravel in my head, heavier and deeper than I had ever heard before. Tonight, hope wouldn’t look up to expectations; expectations would look down upon broken hope. Tonight, there would be no warm embrace, no thank you’s. Perhaps there never will be.

It has been almost a year since her death. I have always wanted to walk to Block D one night and pay my respects. But I can’t. I can’t find the strength to look at him staring at that little window again. I can’t. I can’t imagine his chocolate bouncing off a closed window, I just can’t. I still watch him every night, just walking. I realize now why monotony isn’t redundant; it is beautiful, almost overwhelming. But for it to exist, nothing must change. Which is why I think we all fear change. Maybe that little window will slam shut or what lies inside it will fade. But whatever happens, it is important to keep walking.

Advertisements

The Perfect Way.

For years
I searched my soul to find,
Ways
to reveal the undefined.

For years
these feelings pounded,
For an eternity
the pain compounded,

Till silence came along one day,
and the perfect way,
I found it.


Happy Birthday, Mom.

I remember the birthday we spent together three years ago. It must have been a few weeks into your chemo; but the scars of your struggle were now starting to show. For the first time in so many years, you and I didn’t stay up late. For the first time in so many years, there was no childish, excited wait. For the first time in so many years, there was no birthday cake because no matter what you ate at that point in time, your head would spin and nauseate. It felt sad, having to celebrate your liveliness so quietly.

The next morning, I overslept. So when I woke up, the first thing I did was sprint up the steps to your bedroom door. I imagined you would be sleeping so I quietly pushed it open; hoping that I’d be the first face you’d see as you woke up on your special day. But as I stepped into your room, I felt this quiet, impending feeling of gloom. One experienced in the countless hospital trips that conditioned you and I to feel nothing but doom. I saw an empty bed, and a rush of blood to my head said- something’s wrong. I knew you couldn’t even walk straight without me by your side to take your weight. I could feel my hands shake; I could feel the insides of my head ache and throb and about to break. I called out your name, again and again and again and then suddenly, I heard mine in return. A sigh of relief as I immediately turned to where it came from.

As I pushed open the bathroom door, I saw you slouched against the wall, sitting calmly on the floor. Trying to maintain a fine line between livid worrying and escalating dread, I just stood there with a million thoughts inside my head, and you, you just looked at me, and you smiled. Typical of you, you know? Everytime you knew there was tension you couldn’t dilute, you just flashed a smile so adorably cute hoping I would forget. I almost did. But I asked again.

You smiled once more. And then you spoke. In words I wish I remembered, so I could put them in quotes and show the entire world how you saw it with so much hope. You told me how it hurt to be a burden. How on days that hovered between bad and worse you felt like an absolute curse that just refused to go away. You told me how it felt, when you needed me to walk two metres or less, and how it made you feel absolutely helpless, every single day. So on your birthday, you decided to be different.

It hurts my heart to imagine how you swayed across the room to where you fell, but for that one day living in hell made you feel a little more at ease, even if it meant falling to your knees, at least you did it all by yourself. I didn’t know whether to smile or to cry; but these things you said were like invisible forces pulling me from both sides. I heaved you up, and I walked you back to your bed. You were smiling, but your eyes were wet. I tried to give you the warm hug that you’d mastered over the years, one that had so often given my tears a reason to change into something else. If only you knew how much I live that memory, even today.

Three years later, I celebrate your birthday the same way you and I did back then. There is silence, and a quiet birthday wish in this letter; and an empty realization that things could have been so much better. What I miss far outweighs what I have found; but that balance would tilt so drastically if you were around today. Today, I wish I could borrow your shoulders to keep my head; I wish I could kiss your cheeks and tell you everything I never said, instead of writing things you will never read, unless heaven has a speed post service (which it desperately needs.) What I would give, to have you live, not in memories but somewhere real. Every second spent wondering how that would feel suddenly, be worth the time, and the energy.

Anyway, this isn’t about my wishes, its about how hard it is loving you from afar. I only wish I could find the words to define these feelings of mine with a beauty that was half as perfect as you are. I hope you have fun there (for heaven’s sake) and that God employs the best bakery to make your cake. Stay as lively as you’ve always been, remember to lick the icing from the bottom of the cake tin, just how you’ve always liked it.

Down here, Dad will raise a drink and we all will keep you in our prayers and think about the countless reasons you gave us to call happiness our own. We’ll keep missing you, even if we are three parts of a broken mess; and we will love you, alwaysthemore, nevertheless.

I miss you. I love you.

Happy Birthday.

Love,
Shamir.