Eyes stormy, body
covered in dirt of time. She
takes a path unknown.
Eyes stormy, body
Eyes stormy, body
covered in dirt of time. She
takes a path unknown.
“Your father is dead” the boy of six said to the girl of four in front of him. His hair unruly, his eyes angry. He hated baby siting her. The back yard was empty now. The desolation had the feel of a circus that just moved on. The women in mourning. The occasional sob. They had just carried away his body. She watched as it happened.
Later she sat under the table. It was where his father wrote. They couldn’t move her. His mother forced him to sit with her. “Poor child. An orphan.” She didn’t think the children knew that much. “Your father died,” he said louder this time. He thought she couldn’t hear. She proved him wrong. She told him a story. Her father went away. He would come back. She just has to believe. “It didn’t happen,” she said.
Her hair grew as he grew taller. She still hid under the table. He still was the son of the town’s run away. His father was a thief. Some said he was a spy. He believed no one. “I will look for him,” he said. Together they played heroes. Together they ran around and played detectives. Together they found adventures in her newfound poverty. The writing table of her father found its way in the storage room.
Time flew. She should get married now. Her mother worried. Her mother’s hair had strands of silver in it now. The smell of her father still enveloped her. The table now eaten away by termites. She dreamt new dreams. Another image entered her vision. It was of the boy whose father was a run away. The boy had worn uniform now. He was away, he was needed at the border. The mothers planned the color of her dress.
It was the death anniversary of her father. She pretended to participate. How these fool knew nothing. Their mothers sat in the dying sun’s rays. The charpai inverted in mourning was now standing upright. Relatives came and ate. She felt time had ran backwards and her height became that of a four year. Her lips said the same thing. “It didn’t happen.”
As I sit in a well lit crowded store, waiting to be picked up. I look around one more time to say goodbye to those closer to me. Placed in shelves, new, and in perfect order are others like myself. They have different shapes such as round, rectangular and square. Before getting wrapped up in a piece of cloth and placed in a case like the soulless creature they think I am. My vision takes in this scene one last time.
Where I live is usually very crowded place as people come every day. At night, when it’s all empty, my friends keep me company. They, just like me are waiting to be chosen and taken away. As there are those that are said goodbye to, every day, others are welcomed back. They are the battered ones due to the negligence of humans.
Look, in the front of the store, the lady comes in and is asking for repair. Asked to wait, she sits down and is now showing the lady next to her, the damage. My friend there is broken in half with one lens taken out while the other, I notice to my utmost horror have a crack. I find those abhorrent who can’t take care of the one thing that is going to help them see. Oh my poor friend, well I hope to be well taken care of.
The door opens again and this time she comes in, one who is supposed to take me away. The humans exchange pleasantries as I gather courage and then off we go. The man on the counter examines me one last time, wraps me off in the case and as it closes, my alert senses listen. Of humans talking, cars passing by, the sound of loud foot steps.
The case opens and I feel excited as my anticipation heightens for what others reaction might be. I do consider myself to be pretty handsome. The shine of my lens fitted inside a black frame gets me quite some looks from people. I am made to make others see the world in a more clearer and better way.
The case opens and a hand lifts, unwraps and wears me. In front of a mirror, I meet for the first time the eyes that will be guided by me. My square body fits the face of the human perfectly, I look fantastic. Wait, what? before I can even admire myself in the mirror she runs outside.
She enters a medium sized square room with a dark brown bookshelf and two beige colored sofas adjacent to one wall. I come face to face with the family as they all sit down to eat. As her head turns I take in all the eyes and the frames covering them. Ofcourse! even after moving out, I have to share space with others like me.
It’s the middle of the night and the world sleeps. The dark and dreary atmosphere and this quietness is scary. I hang upside down suspended by my leg. So disrespectful! I am not used to this treatment. One mistake and …wait… The floor feels so cold.
Mr Banks worked at a Bank. A stingy man who trusted only what he saw. He believed neither in ghosts nor spirits. His eyes could not decipher any being other than what surrounded him. When they all talked about feelings. He said you body only needed organs. The parentless, familyless, friendsless, Mr Banks.
One day he went out to buy snacks, as was his daily routine. On his way to the snack shop, he stopped. “Where is this noise coming from?” he muttered to himself. He looked ahead and caught the sources for the commotion. Two young boys fighting.
Both pale with bloody mouth and one had a bruised eye. For a summer afternoon their clothes were a maddening affair in themselves. One might look at them and wonder, if they were actors. Who pretended to be soldiers fighting in WWI.
“Oh great!a midday brawl! What’s with the youth of today.” You see Mr Banks was of the quiet sorts. He was a banker and his time was money. He minded his own business and enjoyed his own company. He scoffed at the youths and shook his head and kept walking. However, as he passed them by, a voice stopped him. “You can see us right?.”
He looked back and saw one of the boys staring at him. The boy hurried towards him. His hair matted to his forehead. “What do you want?” said the old man. “I have no time for this.” He flailed his hands as if in a play. “See you? Of course I can. I can.” His hands waved from one direction to the other. “They can. Everyone can.” Mr Banks says pointing towards the people passing.
Only he forgot to see that in mid afternoon, the street was empty and the sky full of clouds. There was no one except for an elderly walking his dog. A car parked at the end of the street. The place was almost empty.
The boy who ran towards him had a desperation in his eyes. Looking at him one was reminded of a calm waters. Mr Banks thought of his brother. A boy who died. Suddenly his vision blurred. He blinked three times. It became clearer.
“So you can see me right? Thank God!.” The boy standing near him turned towards his companion. A tall boy with whom he fought. Whose face had a cut and shirt drenched with sweat. On whose eye were glasses thick. A young version of Mr Banks, one would presume. “I told you we will be able to find someone.” The other fellow who had watched without flinching, scoffed. “I am leaving,” then turned and walked away, disappearing halfway into thin air.
Mr Banks grew impatient. He wanted nothing more but to go back. His appetite ruined and so was his mood. The first boy who asked Mr Banks first, now ran after the other boy. He momentarily held Mr Banks’ jacket. “please sir! Can you wait here please.” Sprinting after the other boy, his body too disappeared in thin air. Mr Banks started to walk towards his bank. “What a day,” said Mr Banks. Overhead clouds darkened and it started raining.
From the mountains of war torn village, the night had crept into the room. Two bodies stood against a wall. Her long hair caressed the surface of his face. Their lips touched. His hands traced her back. She felt the hair raising on her neck. It was a new feeling, being touched gently. The goosebumps on her arms made her shiver. She closed her eyes. The roughness of his calloused hands. The feel of his lips against her skin. She opened her eyes.
“Stop,” she said. He stopped. “I can’t,” her voice was barely audible. In that moment of halted intimacy she felt glad that she couldn’t see his face. The nights’ darkness and the absence of a lamp made him almost invisible. He took a step back. She wanted to reel him in. “You’ll leave and I won’t be able to get out of it.” He looked at her as if in a daze.
The sudden silence was broken by a lone gun shot. They both looked instinctively at the door. Any minute now. The army of the enemy liked every door to be opened. Then his eyes locked on her. Her rejection made him feel used. “Do you not like me any more?” He asked. She shook her head. It was not that.
Her eyes looked away. She wanted to run to hide, but couldn’t bring her self up to it. A lone tear garnished her cheek as she looked at him. “I can’t be with you because I like you too much.” she rested her palm on her chest, where her heart was beating, “I won’t be able to piece it back together after you go.”
“Where will I go?” his voice dejected. Shaking his head he walked back to the bed and sat down. His military jacket hung in the back. The smoke from his cigarette blurred her figure standing in the corner. You take after your father, he shook his head. An old memory had popped up. His arms still bore marks of the love of his father
She took at step at him but with her fists clenched moved back. The suitcase in the others room, the deafening silence. His house reeked with the possibility of inevitable separation. She woke up with the white sheets clenched in her hands. The suitcase was gone.
Mrs Park’s scream rang across the living room to the study where her husband was reading the news paper. He looked at his wife and smiled. Oh how he’d fallen in love with her all over again. There she was, all four inches of fur and a pink nose. Her ears stood erect as she held the frying pan in her hands. Her tail swept behind her feet.
“Want happened love?” he asked his wife of four months. “I… I… it’s them. The humans!” She shrieked again. They both braced them selves as the roof over their head rumbled and the sound…oh the sound. It felt like a chorus of skeletons rattling at a funeral. Something was happening and she didn’t like it.
Worried for his wife’s health–she was expecting– Mr Park held he close as the next time it happened. “What is this god forsaken thing?” she exclaimed. What they didn’t know was that it was a form of entertainment. Music it was called by those who lived above… sorry with them.
The humans and the rats have shared space in the big bad city of New York for so long that Mr Park– a native– never bothered. It was his wife whom he’d met one day at the subway station near the Brooklyn bridge, who still couldn’t understand it. He still remembered that day. How her eyes gleamed as she took in the new city. She was from a small farm in Alabama. Far from the fast life style of the Big Apple.
How did they meet? Well it was the trick of this music that she now so readily despises that brought them together. As they locked eyes from a distance– him in the tracks and she on the platform– someone rudely pushed her. How insensitive! She still fumes at it despite being told that it’s normal. “But how can they do this?” she’d often exclaim indignantly. And you don’t want to know what her reaction was when told humans thought rats to be filthy.
“Filthy! us have you looked at them. Half of them can’t see.” She didn’t know that what she thought of as an impairment was just excessively looking at mobile screens while walking, resulting in running into each other.
It grew silent now, both of them heaved a sigh of relief. Mr Park went to his news paper while his wife sat by him knitting. Her mind wandered to the cozy, quietness of back home. While her husband straightened his glasses, sat down and continued reading. Outside of their home, through the window a ship could be seen coming through the ocean. Bringing with it new humans as well as a new crop of rats with their hearts in the right place.
She distinctly remembered the first time she’d first felt it, like a small animal that first stirred but later gaining strength forced to claw itself out of her. The day of her midterm exam, as soon as the Professor shut the door she knew there was no escape. It wasn’t new yet this time was different, her senses heightened and heart palpitated as fast as if she’d ran a marathon all the while sitting in her seat. It wasn’t just the exam she’d run off from that day, it was her fear. So what brought you here today? Her therapist asked as she sat with her father. “I don’t know” she said while trying to hide her inner self. It was an ordinary day when she decided to seek help.
“It feels foreign, being an immigrant in a new country. I had to learn it all again,” she said one day after weeks of talking about things that didn’t matter. The silence in the room began to weigh in on her. Say something! She reminded her self. What? What do I say? She responded to her own inner voice. It has became a habit of sorts, one that she became so accustomed to that even siting in a crowd never felt lonely.
“The last time I left the house on my own was…” She paused mid sentence. Looking down at the paper all she could see were the imperfections. The writing that looked like it’d been written by a toddler holding a pen with their feet. So how’s everything at home? “It’s fine, she said. I can’t sleep, I feel trapped and scared. She looked up and looked around, her thoughts scared her.
As the sound of rain disturbed the absolute silence, she sat in her bed thinking about tomorrow. It was a habit of hers, being a night owl that she was, to talk to herself as everyone slept. As she looked around in the room she shared with her family, the silhouette of three sleeping bodies became apparent. The curtain dividing the bed room from the living room was slightly moved from its place, hence allowing the light from the kitchen to softly peek into the room. She loved this time of the night when it was just her alone with her thoughts. Lately as the different sounds outside made it harder for her to focus, she found peace in knowing that soon night will fall.
“Tomorrow I have to go outside.” She reminded her self again with firm resolute. But it was the pleading sound in her head that deterred her resolve Please not now it’s too soon. How about two days later? But this time she was sure. “It has to happen tomorrow.” As the night passed her eyes became weary from tiredness. Determined not to fall asleep, she started staring at the ceiling. The glow in the dark stickers shaped in the form of stars weakly smiled at her. They were the reminder of those that had lived in this room before her. She remembered stepping her foot for the first time in this room that became her refuge in dark times. The owner before renting the apartment didn’t renovate it hence her family inherited all that came with it. The unhinged door, paint chipping off of the walls and these stickers. “Once I have my own place…” the thought immediately was counter rejected by a second thought, “may be not now a few years later.”
Walking out to the door, she recalled the number of times when she’d walked the same path. It was the same path through which she came in upon arriving in this country. It was also the same path that had seen her father’s drooping shoulders and her mother worried eyes. It had witnessed the hospital trips as well as impromptu visits to the mall. She thought to herself while approaching the door “Why does it feel so new now?” It never felt so foreign now as all of her senses heightened. She felt the cold breeze coming from the slightly open door of her apartment building. Her foot felt slightly uncomfortable in her shoes. “Is this the right fit?” The fear inside her was taking over, she tried to brush it off. “May be now is not the right time.” Her grip on the door handle loosened.
The Mountain of Pink was the best thing this quaint little town of Pinkville had. The whole population consisted of Mr Pink, the founder and Mrs. Pink his wife, for whom this mountain was named. He adored her and she him, as both were childless and the white snowy peak was all they had for them. After a long journey when they saw the giant mountain blocking whatever was behind it –both young and ambitious– the Pink’s stopped their journey, built a hut and decided that one day this mountain would be travelled on by them.
Try they did, Mr Pink a lot more, as he was the man of the house, while his wife stayed at home. She was a charming young lady and had a lot of spark in her; however the mountain looked huge and scary. Mrs Pink tried to accompany her husband but he knew that she would be comfortable in the hut. So together they started but after a while she was asked to return home and wait for her dear husband’s arrival.
She waited home as he went on, the separation was long and both bore their share of misfortune. While climbing the mountain, Mr. Pink fell a lot and his hands and body changed with the climate: they became veiny and his body was covered by scars, yet he braved it all and continued on. Mrs. Pink also was getting tired of the journey that separated them both. She wanted nothing but for him to come home. She also wished desperately for a child, someone to call her own. Her body yearned to carry a small life in her hands and tell it the tales of her life, about her husband’s and her’s journey and of course the mountain: the giant obstacle separating her from her husband and for them to be together.
Soon, as if by magic, her wishes were answered. Mrs Pink, like every night, was finishing up her evening’s chores that suddenly her door was knocked. Bang bang bang. Her heart rate quickened, could it be?, she thought. Before running out, Mrs Pink glanced quickly at her reflection in the mirror: her companion during the long lonely period of separation. In the first few years after their arrival at the town, the oblong reflector was occupied with items she would use to decorate her face and hair. Then slowly after her husband’s departure, her time was spent juggling between cleaning up the house to cooking. As she took care of other things around her and spent time repairing and shining them, her attention from her self drifted. Often times after her house work she used to watch the mountain, which during the cold long winters was covered with fog that further enhanced its mystery.
She had heard somewhere that it was the weather inside that determined one’s outlook. The Pinkville was as always quiet, peaceful with the skies always blue and the moon smiling out of the window every night. However, the mirror now, after going through the wear and tear of time stood barren of any items. As for Mrs Pink, the eight years had rubbed off on her, her face still kind, her eyes still had that warm glow but the years had also left its traces. She now had laugh lines along her eyes, small ones in the middle of her forehead for when she would count the days. The eyes which now had a slight film of tears at the idea of her husband’s return also had bags underneath them, a reminder of the sleepless nights.
Bang, bang, bang the urgent knock on the door happened again. She opened the door and standing before her was a young girl in tattered clothes holding a bag. Her hair were cut short and due to her small stature she appeared to be a boy at first glance. Whereas, her face was crusted with soot and the eyes had the look of a scared, abandoned puppy. “Who are you?” asked Mrs Pink with a hint of anger as the joy of her husband’s return passed. “I am Magenta, sorry to bother you, I’ve come from far, would it be alright if I stayed the night?.” “Of course you can dear,” replied Mrs Pink, such was her nature, she couldn’t say no to a person in need. ”Come on in. Oh dear! What happened to your clothes?”
Both ladies sat in front of the open window with a clear view of the mountain with the moon illuminating the silent night. Magenta now had a clean set of clothes to wear and replied to Mrs. Pink’s query while she sipped on the hot beverage.
“The war destroyed my home. I was forced to leave my mother as she dyin… but it’s okay.” She wiped her tears, “I want to go beyond this mountain. Did you know there are strange plants and fascinating rocks that glow in the dark?.”
“You sure do know a lot about the world.”
“I have read a lot. My books showed me a happy side of the world, one where I would want to be. I am certain that once I tamed that mountain there would be no more pain or suffering.”
“Then we’ll both wait for the day when, the one gone have returned and there would be no more pain.”
After the two met that fateful day, Magenta and Mrs Pink developed the relationship of mother and daughter, one that they both yearned for. The mirror that was once empty held a picture of Mr. Pink and the house was decorated with books Magenta brought with her. Upon being inquired by Mrs Pink about the other stuff she had left behind. “This was all I could salvage” was Magenta’s reply. Together, they shared the next two years until one evening Mr. Pink returned.
As Magenta sat on the wooden bench situated outside the front door reading a book –some of which had become occupants at the house–, she suddenly was brought out of her reverie by the sound of foot steps. The man who stood before her was very different to the one she was introduced to, through pictures. “Mr Pink!” she ran inside and brought back with her Mrs Pink whose graying hairs matched the man. Both, the man and the woman took in each other’s presence silently until a giddy Magenta interrupted.
“Nice meeting you, my self Magenta, her daughter.”
Upon seeing the shock on her husband’s face she quickly shook her head.
“It’s not what you think. Oh dear! she is my daughter but I took her in.”
“Of course I believed you. I felt just a bit tired from the travel,” he said.
A lot of time has passed. I have missed out on lot, he thought.
Even though nothing was wrong apparently, however, she never found a trace of victory or triumph on his tired face. The smile now also brought about a hint of sadness that puzzled her.
“So tell us about your adventures,” Mrs Pink pried out of him one evening after he had the chance to shed the exhaustion of travel. Magenta also sat upright, eager to hear about the mountain, the thought of climbing which had kept her awake many nights. She too, like Mr. Pink, had became excited to uncover the mysteries of the mountain and find out what lay behind it. She listened attentively and her expressions changed from happy to concerned and later sad as she heard of all the hard work Mr Pink had to do. His hands that worked like a machine to carve out a way. His smile became less frequent as he too remembered home and wanted to return.
“The mountain was not what I had thought. I worked many a days and night to discover the ways of the mountain. It was my wish to succeed in reaching the top but…,” he shifted in his chair as his voice cracked, “I failed Pink, I couldn’t reach the peak of this beast of a mountain. After spending all these years and now I am back. The peak still remains undiscovered, the beauty behind it yet to be seen”.
The room was completely quiet except for the silent sobs of the man and sharp intake of breaths by the women. Both had faced the bitter truth today, the mountain with all its glory and promise of new worlds behind it still was a monster. “YOU BROKE OUR FAMILY!” she said. “I waited for you. What did I get out of this? You chased a ghost and left behind a home.” Mrs Pink sobbed bitterly and like tree plucked from it’s roots sat, almost fell forward on the ground. Mr Pink once a cheerful, happy man who always had a reason for making her wife smile actually now had lost that ability too. He got up from his chair, wiped his tears and whispered, “sorry,” as she kept on crying and he walked away.
The house near the mountain reeked with the air of tragedy however there was one individual who wasn’t affected: It was Magenta. After the fight between the couple, the following night in Magenta’s heart a dream was born, or rather flourished, as the seed was always there; she wanted to go to the mountain. Of course Mrs Pink was right! it was all his fault, she’d think. How could she forget the foreign smell of Mr Pink’s clothes? The air around him hinted at the things he’d seen or the stars that he might have counted while laying in the mountain.
All these days when no one had the time or was in the right state of mind to look after Magenta whereas she too, had been in her own world. New dreams were being created in her head as she stayed in bed awake all night. So much was her thirst for exploration that she felt no need for checking up on Mrs Pink, the lady who took care of her like her own mother. She had heard of the mountain even when she was young however, that night leaving it all behind as she knocked on the door of the Pink’s, the mountain stood there with all its promises became the reason for her stay. She wanted the thrill of discovering the new enchanting world behind the mountain.
Snow laid thick as the darkness of night had enveloped the silent town of Pinkville when suddenly the sky lit up with thunder. Magenta was unable to sleep so she picked up the candle –whose flames were making patterns on the wall– from her bedside table and walked outside of her room. The mountain looked scary in the stormy night as the thunder that would often light up the sky made it look alive, menacing. At first the mountain seems alone to tower over the house but looking closely one could make out the silhouette of a man standing in front of it and a girl peeking through the door. In the dark, the mountain took in the smaller being who stood before it. The man’s lip moved and the girl leaned in closer to listen.
The couple sat in their room facing each other. Mrs Pink dabbed at her eyes and asked him “why did you let her go? She wouldn’t survive in the outside world.” Mr Pink held her consolingly “she needs to find her own world.” They both sat quietly as the mountain shined brightly in the sunshine through the window of their room.
It was a dark night in December. Mother had just called in for dinner. She had made pulao. It was made with vegetables cut squarely. The room was lit, all lights were on and mother spoke with father on the telephone. He was in America. The three children, one of whom went to open the door, waited for her to finish. The door was beaten furiously by their neighbor. “What did he say?” Asked father, he sounded worried. Even when so far way, his voice was worried. “Nothing,” replied mother. She was standing near the computer table.
It was just the time when computers were a new invention. The smell wafting from the kitchen, mother crying silently as she picked her clothes. The children stood silent, their uncle passed away. The rain had left the streets shiny, which magnified their blackness. The mother had left, house was empty. No, the three children, were they forgotten? The older one was a girl, she was afraid, the middle one was calm, the younger one she was more energetic. Mother didn’t leave she children, father didn’t abandon them, they were both gone for a while. The older one was hungry before, she couldn’t eat now. The rice were cold.
Door bell rang, they are not alone. It’s the cousins, one boy, one girl, who came to get them. They will all go to the house where her mother has gone. There is a funeral. The older child is still afraid, she looks into the eyes of her male cousin. It’s filled with tears. His eyes mimicked the road. They are walking now. The wind is howling, trees loom over them like giants whose feet are embedded in the ground. Long branches look like their hands protruded out. They are walking. The streets are abandoned, and dark. It’s night time, everyone is sleeping. As they approach the street where his uncle lived, where mother is, it’s lit with street light. The sound of wailing hung in the air. The older one clutches on to the arm of her cousin. She feels her heart beating very fast. The crying scared her, the howling wind scared her, the trees scared her. Fear has seeped into her pores from the falling rain and shook her bones. She didn’t want to walk. They entered the street, they entered the house. The lights were on. People. So many people. The wailing started again. Someone was sitting on the floor. It was the house of the deceased.
It was late in the night and dark in the room. Everyone was sleeping but for those who spoke outside. They said the dead body was coming. The uncle died because of tumor. I prayed so much, she thought. The older child was facing the wall while she tried to speak. Why the wall was so dark, she felt ants running on her body. Her fear crawled over her skin and engulfed her whole. She cried. Night creeped slowly but soon on the darkened wall rays of light battled for space. The outside was filled with people. An empty casket was placed in the back yard. Soon people would pitch a tent to bathe the dead. It was the preparation for his farewell. There was a branch near the casket. They said it helped the dead. Women had Quran in hands. Some read and cried. Some sat and gossiped. She walked around the mourners. The day light made the scene less scary.
“Come beta, read this.” Someone had thrusted the holy book in her hand. She started reading. The words to help the dead. She felt the urge to run. There were too many people. “The ambulance is here.” The morning sun saw her peeking through the window of the room she slept in. The dead, the people, the crying, the pain, all was separated from her. There was another girl with her. She was their neighbor. “Don’t worry,” she smiled, “I don’t like it either.” The mourners mourned, the casket carried out. The sons of his uncle stood out on the door way. Their tall, thin frames and faces like that of their father bore an expression of both fatigue and pain. The eyes were never dry, even when they stood alone, or when shook hands with those who came.
It’s evening. The birds are flying home in group. A month has passed. “I saw him again last night.” She sat with her mother, talking. “Uncle flew to the sky and came back. He gave me ice cream,” she smiled. They were peeling peas in the garden, preparing for night’s meal.The call of prayer sounded nearby. Her mother and she walked inside.