The Eternal Youth

Mr. Zigar had seen his wife’s cheeks flush only twice. The day of his wedding and the day their son was born. He still remembers how his wife, seated in the back seat of the Buick, held baby Zafran in her arms. Smiling down at the fragile baby wrapped delicately in a pink towel. At first, he thought her blush was from the towel but later saw that her cheeks had a glow of their own.

As if his memories had leaked into his wife, she was also thinking about the same thing. She remembered his muted yawns and blissful laughs. Each of which contorted his entire body, narrowed his eyes to the point of closing and opened his un-teethed mouth but made no sound. She was smiling now, as she realized how talkative he’d soon become.

She recollected all the times she acted dumb when he had asked her about something. She longed for his naive explanations that followed, some of which were hilariously wrong. Like the time when he stressed that the stars were pixie dust and that Uncle Ben’s belly was full of grape jelly. With laughter dammed behind pursed lips, she would try to act surprised, and it was convincing enough for the boy.

The contemporariness of their recollections now showed chronology, as Mr. Zigar remembered Zafran’s first day of school. The little boy’s excitement while leaving the home, had upended into a nostalgic frenzy as they approached the school. Tears had left behind soot-gray streams that ran along his powdered cheeks. An hour of his mother’s efforts to dress him well went down in vain.

Mr. Zigar, amused by his son’s simple-mindedness, decided to relieve the boy of his nightmare and postponed his first-day to another day. Mrs. Zigar decided to powder him at the school next time. A horde of ‘first-time’ memories now flooded their conscious. His first-time on the bike, how he was quick to learn. His first-time on the roller-coaster, how he feigned bravery and wet his pants. His first-date, and how he was charming, or so he told.

All of these memories fought to stay alive in their heads, each leaving behind a pang of longing, as they were moving along the school lane, watching kids of different ages pass them by. Imagining how their own son had been at that age. It was a routine they’d never be tired of and were too afraid to give up. Their thoughts were mercilessly interrupted by the school’s first bell, and then all the kids rushed-in through the gates.

The silvery-grey Buick turned around the corner, leaving the lane at a leisurely pace. It was an old, retiring car that never managed to grab attention. With a rusting metal body that creaked everytime it hit a bump, the car had a sad, dispirited aura that contrasted with the kids’ lively, buoyant spirits.

The gloomy middle-aged couple inside were held responsible for the decrepit state of the car. It’s engine’s roar had mellowed down to a melody and no possible throttle could restore its lost vigor. It was becoming increasingly difficult for Mr. Zigar to drive the old rack. But it was house to plenty an emotion to be disposed of so easily. It was an epitome of their journey.

Although disheartening, there gleamed around the corner, a silver-lining. The kids flocking to school along that lane were never older than 13. Their son who was doomed to remain eternally young in their memories, would never grow beyond that age. Thus enabling this single bitter-sweet routine to suffice them. For the rest of their lives.

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An Eternal Preparation

She scans every passing stranger, without exception. She frowns as she looks up at them with tired, sorry eyes. Her countenance is an epitome of her struggle for survival.

Lately, she seems absorbed in perpetual angst. Her duties as a mother have been excruciating. With life on the streets and 3 mouths to feed, every last morsel and every sliver of hope counts. She has to find new ways and new places to gather food.

Meanwhile, the kids jump around playfully. Nudging, pushing, shoving. Jovial brawls are commonplace, but they should’ve known better than to piss off their mom with them. They remain oblivious to her struggle and she remains detached from their fun.

It’s way past their bedtime; the streets were crowded today. All the 3 huddle together, tired after their brawls. They push, they nudge, they shove again, in an attempt to get comfortable.

They cuddle during sleep to stay close for warmth and look adorable while doing so. Loads of cuteness cramped into a small space. But only their mother sees, their chest heave to reveal their ribs, announcing the fragility of their bodies.

So she’s watching out for them, hoping that people won’t attack. Safety of her kids supersedes her will to fight. Motherhood has made her more controlled and patient.

It’s an act of eternal preparation. Preparation for a better future. A future that never comes. A preparation that never ends. But it leaves her with no choice. She cannot turn her back on a battle she didn’t pick.

She howls into the night, her sound breaking the silence of the streets. She has to spend yet another sleepless night staying vigilant, as her pups rest assured. Care-free and innocent.

Blink!

Pscyzophenic Hallucinoma (ski·zo·feen·ic | Halu·see·no·mah). That is what the doctor had called it. Agnes very well knew it wasn’t curable and was getting tired of these check-ups. It was Miss Margaret, her orphanage’s housemother, who had insisted she get checked by a professional from the city. But the result, to no one’s surprise, wasn’t any different.

Agnes would occasionally experience hallucinations. Now, these were quite peculiar, given the fact that only her vision gets compromised. She can remain in complete control of her faculties, but her mind concocts visions that often distort reality. Something that’s even more strange, is that her visions alter every time she blinks, almost changing completely. One second she’s seeing the Eifel tower and blink! She’s at a beach.

The visions are usually empty sceneries and Agnes loved few of them. Although it was factually a disease, she marveled at what her brain could create. It was never really cumbersome. In fact, it was her personal get-away. She had the privilege of escaping the crowd, where she could be alone yet not feel lonely.

She was promised a visit to the Lakeview park if she’d agree to go for the check-up. So there they were, sitting on a desolate park bench overlooking the lake. It was a chilly, overcast day which was to Agnes’s liking. It was the perfect setting to be introspective and she felt a mix of emotions swell inside her.

She watched calmly as shriveled leaves fell from the sky in spirals, making a muted soft landing. The lake was eerily placid at first, but soon its turbid waters turned foggy. It looked like it would rain, but not anytime soon. It took a while for Agnes to realize that she’d begun hallucinating.

The mist that had previously engulfed the park now began to recede into the waters. Familiar apparitions silhouetted against the fog, becoming clearer by the second. Soon the haziness faded away and the view was crisp again. So she watched closely, at the silhouettes coming to life. The silhouettes of those she held dearly. The silhouettes of her lost family.

Her family was huddled together. She was standing beside her dad who was looking down at her, smiling. He lifts her up in the air and twirls her around. The whole world spins around her, with only she and her dad remaining static. Her mother was there too, holding her baby brother. She’s had extremely beautiful visions, but this new one topped all.

Tears roll in her eyes, warm and clear. A similar warmth suffuses her heart, soothing swirling emotions. Far away, she sees her dad holding her hand, looking down at her with proud and calm eyes. Her mother gently brushes her hair and kisses on her forehead. Meanwhile, Agnes here was struggling to keep her eyes open.

Agnes had a beatific smile spread across her face as tears well up in her eyes. Her eyelids quaver helplessly, obfuscating vision. They keep narrowing down to a close as she struggles to take one last peek. One last look at the lovely family. One last look at her happy self…One last look before…..

Blink!

The Fat Girl

The perfect night for a walk. He stepped out of the house, looking for solace in the humid gusts of the Indian Monsoon. To anyone else, the roads were eerily quiet and lonely, but to him they were ideal. They were solace.

He gathered his thoughts on life. On his journey till today. These walks helped him come to terms with his regrets and reason out his misgivings. They were also a personal celebration of his nifty achievements.

It was extra windy today and he liked it. The street lamps flickered and sporadically blacked out the road. He didn’t like that. One road at a fork was now blacked out, so he was forced to take, of sorts, the road not taken often.

He moved along, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. After a few strides, he saw an old dilapidated house. It was pleasantly heart-warming indeed. He knew the girl who used to live there pretty well. She was one of a kind.

Years ago, she was the fattest girl in the colony. In innumerable instances, he’d remembered teasing her. She would chase him all around the colony, but it was always in vain. He was too fast and she was too fat.

But he would always reconcile by giving her a chocolate. Her favorite. It was more of a precaution than affection. She knew that too, but she still liked it. They were good friends, inseparable. Silly kids with a heart of gold.

He stood there, looking at her old house in the moonlight. It was derelict, but it still seemed to have life enough to tell another story. And he was happy to listen. He was glad he took the road and with a heart suffused with warmth, he silently walked back home.

One fat joke about her surfaced from the depths of his mind and he wanted to blurt out to his wife over dinner, but refrained. Mocking her again after all these years didn’t seem like a good idea. He was married to her now.

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.”