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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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.

How lucky they must be!

An ebullient young couple,
Strolling down the street,
Holding hands tightly,
And smiling while they speak.

A blue Cadillac passes them,
In which a “star couple” they could see,
The couple coveted the lavish stars,
“How lucky they must be”

The stars in the Cadillac,
Notice the couple on the street,
Who are holding hands tightly,
And smiling while they speak.

The liberty to roam the streets,
So unbridled and free,
How unrestricted their life is,
“How lucky they must be”