The Homecoming – 2/2

The train that had dropped him at his hometown was long gone, but Lou was still standing in the station. His emotions were a medley of guilt, regret, longing, and enthusiasm. His fantasy of his return tricked him into believing that it would be a treat. Never once did his restiveness allow him to question the sanctity of it. Had he been more apprehensive, he would’ve been more prepared.

But he mustered the courage to go on. He stepped out of the station and decided to walk home. He wanted to look for familiar faces on the way and surprise them. As he walked more into the city, he noticed that many changes had taken place since he had left, but the town still seemed to carry a dreary, rustic spirit.

He was now keenly looking for anyone familiar, when his watchful gaze fell upon a damp alley towards his right. He only looked for a second, but that was enough to notice 3 hipsters lunging a knife at a terrified, puny man who probably refused to “co-operate”. He was petrified, but he quickly walked along, hoping that they didn’t notice him. Lou was now rambling. Nothing had changed. Mentally, he was taken back 20 years, to that horrible night in the market.

He was desperately trying to shake it off but it had caught him like a leech. He had assumed that he was inured to such atrocities, but how foolish of him to think that fleeing from them was the solution. Although, he was at least handling it better than the last time, given that now he was still in town. He continued on his aimless stroll, and a while later saw the vast corn fields. They only reminded him of how naive he had been. The carelessness, the insouciance, the countless hours spent being chased by the poor old farmer left him feeling ashamed.

He hoped his naivety could be forgiven and moved on. Heavy-hearted, he continued. Pensive and sad. A few lazy strides later, he was standing before Aunt Maira’s store. He entered hesitantly, like he did years ago when he knew he was going to be reprimanded. He walked inside, and greeted the wizened woman behind the counter. Aunt Maira recognized him instantly and was elated to see him return, but sadly, Lou couldn’t reciprocate. The apparent indifference confounded him but he could quickly discern why.

After seeing her, he was pricked by a sense of guilt. The woman had always tried to correct him, but all he ever did was wait for the candy. It gave him a niggling feeling now and he was desperate for some respite. He consoled his teary aunt and promised he would come to visit her again. He stepped outside and took a deep breath. He tried to collect his thoughts and calm his nerves. There was one final stop before he would go home to his mother and that spot was his “Happy Place”. He turned to the alley which was between her aunt’s store and the local grocery store. And once again he was inundated with memories of his past.

He playing with the toys, alone; Role-Playing games in which he was always the brave warrior whom everyone loved; Hiding from all the other boys; Making it his safe haven. He pitied himself. He hated himself for being a coward. For having a “happy” time by living in pretense. For never standing up to anyone. For running away.

It was all too much for him. It was not the welcome he had hoped for. Every dear memory of his had started to turn bitter, and by now he was starting to wonder if trying to relive them was a bad idea. Maybe sealing them away in the depths of his mind, unexplored and pristine, would’ve at least kept him happy. But unfortunately, he didn’t realize that he would then only be using a new pretense to shroud the old one.

He headed back to his home, shaking his head and cursing along the way. He was frustrated that the city hadn’t at all changed. And he was right. Everything was the same, only, he wasn’t.

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The Homecoming – 1/2

Lou was finally coming home. He was returning from an exile which he set out on his own volition 20 years ago. He was coming back to his aging mother and a few friends of his bygone years. They were the only family he had left, for everyone else had effaced him from their memories.

Yet, Lou’s evocation of them was still lucid and crisp, like he had never left. He also remembered his hometown really well. The soot-covered walls of burnt brick. The fields of corn that spread across for miles. And the market lane that was always cramped. He remembered the market lane better than anything else, and for good reasons. He had spent many a good childhood memories in that lane, including his last one in that town.

Slowly, each of his fond memories was surfacing to suffuse his heart with warmth. And he let them, as he ensconced himself in the train’s berth. He imagined little kids frolicking in the gaps of corn fields. Once, long ago, he was one of them. Always being chased by the farm owner for stealing his corn. The poor guy wouldn’t have minded a few kids relishing his corn, but they feeding it to raccoons that invaded his fields was preposterous.

His thoughts slowly gave way to his memory of the “grown-ups”. He imagined how happy they would be for seeing him return, especially one Aunty Maira. She had once saved him and his friends from the harangue of an enraged farmer who, given Lou’s shenanigans, had every reason to be so. She later took them to her store and although she delivered a moralizing homily, she offered them candies after finishing which gave it a bitter-sweet ending. He adored her cordial smile and heart-warming personality and he couldn’t wait to meet her again.

A wistful smile spread across his face as a surge of memories overwhelmed him. He was longing to go to what he called his “happy place”. It was a narrow alley between Aunt Maira’s store and the local grocery store. He would visit the place whenever he was happy and proudly smirk at his ensemble of toys carefully hidden in a cardboard box he found in the alley. He would play make-believe games with them in isolation, as his friends would never approve of a boy interested in role-playing games with toys.

The absurdity of it all seems funny to him now. But by now, 20 years later, he was starting to feel restless and he longed to relive them again. So he hopped on the first train he could catch and set out on his homecoming.

An Unletterd’s Letter

She woke up way before the alarm. At this age, she was getting used to it. The sole purpose of the alarm was to provide her respite from aimless wallowing in the bed on nights she’s afflicted with insomnia.

Things had gotten really tough for her after her husband had passed away about a month ago. Ever since the house seemed too empty, the front-yard looked unkempt, the television set turned rusty and the backyard grass had overgrown. She was a lonely inhabitant of a decrepit house whose existence seemed next to insignificant in the well-to-do neighborhood.

Yet still, she isn’t on her own in this world. She has a beautiful daughter and a 5-year-old grand-daughter. But she hasn’t heard from them in over a year, specifically from when her husband had a spat with her son-in-law. Her husband had turned callous after the feud and had built an invisible barrier for her too. She didn’t have the courage to transgress it by herself, even after he’d passed away. She submitted to that sickly feeling long ago and now vainly hopes for the ice to break from the other side.

It’s just another day in Brookside Avenue, and she withdraws from her bed to do her usual chores. Her feeble limbs barely support her senescent frame. Her once vivacious spirit lately seems to have no impetus to be so. The pedestrian tasks of the day drain her both physically and mentally, yet she wills herself to live on.

She steps out the door, looks at the unkempt front-yard and sighs. The front-yard, like herself, either had no one to take care of or had no one who had cared enough. She walks to the mailbox, as she does every day, with a tiny flicker of hope. She opens the rusty lid and half expects to find it empty. But it isn’t.

She finds some junk advertising mails about a world tour that she’s least bothered about. She almost throws them away in the garbage can when a lavender envelope catches her eye. She halts, holds it cautiously making sure she doesn’t crumble it and walks inside as fast as she can.

She forgets about the chores and even forgets about her morning coffee. She hasn’t missed one in the last five years. She sits on the sofa down the hall and carefully opens the envelope. It has small lavender hearts embossed on it and smells like sweet perfume and baby powder. She pulls out the letter inside and starts to read it.

Dear Grandma,

Its me!! I am dieing to see you. Mom says we’ll all come and tell sorry to grandpa next week. Then we will go have fluffy candy you promised me in the exhibition last time. Can you pleese get me the pony too?

And guess what grandma?? I can right write! I don’t need mum to call you now…we can talk ourselves. We can share…umm…what did you call it? Seacrets? Yeah! Seacrets!

I can tell you about school, my new english teecher. But she’s always scollding me for no reeson. I don’t like her.

You can tell me your seacret recipeas recipies and I won’t tell anyone, not even my Barbie. She told me she likes boys now…..ewwww! So I want a new Barbie too!

I miss your pickles grandma. I miss grandpa. I miss you.

Do you miss me????

Okay mum’s calling me….Sea you soon!!!

Love,

Your Marshmallow.

She pushes the paper away from her face to keep it from getting wet. Tears stream down her face uncontrollably. She doesn’t contain herself anymore, she doesn’t feel the need to. She knows a crisis is about to befall, but that seems the least bit troublesome. She thinks of an innocent 6-year-old who looks up to her, and she would face the storm for her.

It may be tumultuous. But like any other storm, this will pass too. She kisses the letter in her hand and thinks of her marshmallow. Her tiny glinting eyes and her slyly playful smile. She curses herself for being so craven. She never stood up for herself. It wasn’t fair what happened to her, but she felt like she had no choice. No one to help her.

But she was wrong.

She’s had a month to ponder over it by herself. Only now, she is sure. She has a newfound meaning for life. She hopes to present her life as a lesson to her grandchild. She knows she may have nothing to inspire the little kid. But she does have a lot to teach her. She may not be able to tell her what to do, but she can tell her what not to.

She’ll keep her strong. She’ll make her brave. She’ll teach her to be independent. And when she says, “When I grow up I want to be like you grandma!”. She’ll say, “You will child. You will be as wise as I am today, but without having to face the troubles I went through yesterday.

And I will be here to hold your hand and guide you for as long as I can.”

Hope for Convalescence

Candace woke up early and sat upright. She never was a morning person, but as the due date came closer, she couldn’t help insomnia. Today was ‘The Day’, but she didn’t feel ready for it. “Nobody ever does“, the doctor had told her and after deep thought, she had acquiesced to his suggestion of getting the operation done.

 

It would’ve been a usual Tuesday for anybody else, but it seemed extra gloomy to Candace. Lately, her pensive demeanor had been apparent to anyone who had cared to notice. From people around her, sympathy was plenty but empathy was scarce. Having been a loner all her life, Candace didn’t feel the need to have someone to share her melancholy with, but having a shoulder to cry on, once in a while, would’ve been nice. Her pet dog ‘Chase’, with its heart-melting eyes, and intoned whimpers and whines, provided her with occasional solace.

 

Her appointment was due 3 hours from now, but she decided to get out of the house early and get some fresh air. After a quick shower, she took a look at herself in the mirror. Her neatly shaven head accentuated her once plump face which was now gaunt from all the chemotherapy. Dark circles draped her eyes but she still, somehow, managed to look good. She was quite the show-stopper back when she was in high school, but all that seemed superficial now.

 

She stepped out of the house in an attire that was dull and insipid on a day which was bright and vibrant. A prickling sense of inequity impinged on her but by now she had learned to parry it. In a meek attempt to take the most circuitous route to the hospital, she decided to walk across the park and then take a bus.

 

She entered the park and found it scarcely populated. “Perfect!”, she mused for it was in perfect harmony with her mood. She chose to sit on an empty park bench overlooking the pool. This way she wouldn’t have to face the happy strangers who gave her hapless looks as they passed by. She didn’t need their sympathy. She didn’t need another reminder of her life. She didn’t need their ephemeral concern. She was fine by herself.

 

When she finally finished wallowing in contemplation, she realized that a little girl had come to sit beside her a while ago. She was probably only 5 years old and had her hair tied in adorable pigtails. She was completely immersed in relishing a cone of strawberry ice-cream, smiling after every lick, and swaying her legs in excitement. Now it took her a while to notice that Candace was watching her. And then instinctively, with her outstretched elfin arms, she offered Candace what little was left of her strawberry ice-cream. And as she giggled, a mischievous pleasure was radiant in her eyes and she wanted Candace too to experience it.

 

The innocence and naivety of the little girl bemused Candace and eventually suffused with a heartwarming feeling. She refused politely and patted her on the head tenderly as she watched her finish the cone. The little girl’s cheeks were now flushed pink from all the ice-cream she had smeared on her face. She gave a satiated giggle after completion and waved Candace goodbye.

 

After she left, Candace couldn’t fathom why the place suddenly felt so empty. “Wasn’t this what I had hoped for?”. She was already missing the little girl she had known from minutes ago. The question puzzled her, but there was no mental turmoil. It felt happy. It felt right. Her reclusive lifestyle has robbed her of experiencing the little nuances of life that made it interesting. Although, now she was reminded of her own childhood. The friends she had. Her family.

 

But she wasn’t nostalgic and neither did she crave for something new. She had reached a vantage point in her life which made her see things differently. All her life she had taught herself to be independent. To be strong and ready to face tides. And today is just a test of time. She only needed someone to jerk the negativity off of her cluttered brain. And the little girl’s naivety had hit it out of the stadium.

 

Candace walked across the park with her head held high. A palpable smile arching on her lips. She boarded the bus, took a seat by the window, and was humming all along the journey. She closed her eyes and could still picture the little girl, with her ice-cream smeared cheeks, giggling at her mischievously. And then she smiled too. For the first time in a long time, she felt happy. She was finally ready.

 

 

 

 

A change of place, a change of heart

I don’t like change. I feel reluctant to accept it. Changes I bring about by myself are okay, but those inflicted on me aren’t.

 
The mental turmoil I’m forced to endure to adjust to it is tiresome. I find it hard to believe. As if I’d just woken up from a pretentious dream in which everything’s static.

 
It takes me a while before I eventually give in. Not like I have a choice. I never find myself welcoming it with open arms. Maybe I’m not versatile. And I thought I’ll never be.

 
Recently, I began to differ. I just see it in a different perspective now. I don’t try to fight it anymore. The initial reluctance still persists, but it doesn’t eat up my mind.
I slowly learnt that it’s easier if I kept my mind off of it. Well, I knew that before too, we all do. But what’s fascinating is that I had come across situations that had helped me do that.

 
College took up most of the burden of distracting me. With so many people around, the thought about the change just slips my mind.

 
But the one I found most helpful was to talk to someone new. Or Someone I hadn’t talked to in a while, for a change. Ironic isn’t it. One change to cover up another. It probably masks the other one. Temporarily.

 
The only change I’m open to, is a change of place. In me it brings, a change of heart. Different emotions rush in me and I’m piqued by curiosity. I immerse myself in engorging the surroundings and take comfort in the beauty of nature.