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 Good Boy

“Come here Dmitri! Come here quick!”

Dmitri responds to his calling and moves sluggishly towards its origin. In the dining room adjacent to the hallway, he sees his mom struggling to hold his dad from falling.

His dad is clutching tightly at his chest. Teeth-gritted and eyes-closed. The white walls seem extra yellow today. Smoke from the barbecue seems to blur vision and induce tears, for his mom seems to be crying. She’s calling for him from behind his dad, asking for some more support.

“I think he’s having a heart-attack Dmitri! Help me hold him.”

“What are you doing you lazy boy? Can’t you hear me?”

Dmitri stood erect. His mouth half-open, with drool wetting it’s corners. The autistic kid’s eyes shuttled between his mom and dad. He had lost feeling in his legs and his upper body felt imbalanced. An expression of worry dawns on his face, as if to say,

“Don’t be mad mommy. I’m being a good boy.”

His mother’s struggles to keep his dad up continue. She teeters under his weight. But heavier was the certainty of her husband’s impending death. As his dad slowly slips away into the realms of the unconscious, his mom’s anxiety escalates. She screams at the top of her lungs now,

“Call 911 Dmitri! Just do this one thing, you dumb boy! What are you looking at me for?”

“Go call Dmitri!”

He still doesn’t budge. His dad is completely unconscious now, with no visible signs of breathing. She feels her own heart skip a beat as her husband, limp and lifeless, slowly sinks to the ground. Like water in a dam, tears freeze in her eyes, ready to flood through the gates. Her mouth flies open with incredulity, the futility of her attempts not yet registering. She shoots a stunned look at her son who still seemed befuddled.

“He could’ve been alive Dmitri. He could’ve been alive!! Oh, how do I explain it to you, you dimwit! How? How?? “, she sobs.

Dmitri plays a silent witness to her trauma. His countenance still imbued with poignance. The pathetic expression on his face, which maternal instincts usually cause her to interpret as stark innocence, infuriated her. Feelings of sadness and pity had been replaced with fear and disgust.

He remained oblivious to her ephemeral change of heart. His unsuspecting, petulant nature forever craving for her affection. He finally mustered the courage to speak to his, so obviously upset, mother.

“But I’ve been a good-boy all week mommy. A good-boy all week!”

He says, sobbing, unintelligible. He runs back into his room, still not getting why his mommy is so mad at him and why his daddy is having difficulty sleeping on the floor.

The Dilemma

He was pacing around the terrace like a madman. Grave indecision had taken him over and he was running out of time. Festive spirit was in the air and he found it invigorating. Fireworks exploded in the night sky, causing commotion all around.

The atmosphere was analogous to his turmoil. For a minute he was excited and for the next, he was tensed. He was happy he’d meet her but was afraid he’d intrude. He knew this was an opportunity but he also wished he didn’t have it.

It was all very new to him. In fact, to them both. Neither knew how to handle it, so they tried to play it cool. This foolish charade kept him wondering if she didn’t want to invite him or if she was hesitant as well.

She did give him subtle hints but it only seemed like she was kidding around. He never received an official invite and he was struggling to come to terms with it. But after pacing for about a mile, he finally decided to take the matter into his own hands. To show her its okay. To take the leap forward. To finally break the ice.

He marched towards her house, pretending to be cool to mask his tension. And when he got there, after what seemed like an eternity, he saw her in a new light, literally. Her face, basking in the glow of fireworks, seemed to have a soft golden radiance. It was a sight he wouldn’t forget and it’s still etched on his heart.

There wasn’t any tension. There was only anxiety, the good kind.

And maybe he would’ve felt better had he known she felt the same.

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 Psychotic Love

He crawled backward on both hands. His back scrubbing against concrete, chest splattered with blood, and eyes looking skyward; fixated on his towering hunter and desperately pleading for mercy.

His heart pounded harder by the second and he had never felt more alive. He was deep in regret and fear was the only other emotion. Hopes of Cod forgiving him had deafened by now.

Meanwhile, a roadside tramp, infamous for her psychotic conduct and erratic realism, came running towards Cod. The gathered crowd watching her run assumed that that would be her end, for good.

The blade glimmered in sunlight as Cod’s hand rose high. A flash almost blinded his prey’s vision which he feared would be his last. He closed his eyes and waited for the blow; A blow that would never come.

The tramp had embraced Cod from behind, just before he could bring down his wrath. She started claiming Cod to be her long-lost son and started screaming in joy. The crowd burst into laughter after witnessing the frenzy.

The dread in the atmosphere dissipated. This infuriated Cod further, and he decided to get rid of her. He’d almost swung his blade in her direction when he froze to interpret what she’d just said.

“I Love you, my son. Please let’s go home. I’m tired.”

He’d been bereaved and alone lately, and she’d hit the right note. The words didn’t make logical sense, but their essence was satisfying. He turned around to hug her, much to the shock of the crowd.

Cod got arrested shortly after and the crazy lady lost her “son”, again. The victim was grateful and so was Cod. The lady finally stopped her search and had mentally adopted Cod. The psychotic lady had saved a life and she didn’t even know it.

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.

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.