Wednesday, June 13

Storm Under the Calm River

This story is not in whole my work. The basic skeleton, characterization and plot were mine, but the writing is my sisters’. However, I have changed the names as most of them were close to her. So go ahead and enjoy – I hope this makes an interesting read.

As I sit by ‘my river’ this evening, I think of all the happy times that I have spent by its side. ‘My river’ with whom I have shared all my secrets, who knows me in and out. Over the years, I have poured my soul into this river, and now this river is me.

The giggling river brings back memories of my first picnic with my best friends, the walk with my first crush, the lazy evenings that I had just wasted away staring at the majestic mountains and the unmoving rocks.

Everything still looks the same. Nothing has changed. I can still hear the bees buzzing near the flowerbed. The fireflies are starting to show up. The deep orange of the setting sun is reflected in the water.

The only difference this time is that, today, I am sinking along with the sun. Could my river, my companion of so many years, know that I am thinking about ending my life?

The water glitters and snakes its way through the vast riverbed.  Each ripple holds back a secret of mine. I ask for advice, but my confidant just gushes away, my questions lost in its currents. As always, I slide forward and try to catch the ripples in my hands. And as always, the answers evade me as my hand closes upon nothing but a smooth wetness.

Before I realize it, the orange glow disappears and is replaced by the pearly sheen of the moonlight. It is one of those unusual nights. The fog, the stars, and the bright moon play curious light tricks and I feel the night has already come to an end. I close my eyes and I can still see the brightness. One of those nights, I smile. I breathe in the heavy scent of the green grass, the brown earth, the Blue Mountains and the white lilies, all of which are watered with a dazzling silvery radiance.

The loud reverberation of temple bells from across the river breaks my reverie. Concurrently my phone rings. Even before I take it out of my bag, I already know who it is.

“Why does she worry so much?” I mumble while hunting for the phone, though I already know the reason. She knows. I sigh once and answer the call.

“What time is it?” She is trying hard to sound angry and harsh, but she can never really fool me. Her concern for me always shows, even overcomes the anger.
“I know it is late Ma. I am by the river and I am leaving now. Don’t worry.”

I get up and head towards the place called home, which is just a five minutes’ walk. I can see the house now. Light filters through the window of my parents’ bedroom. They have not lit up my room, the room I shared with my sisters. Neither of them is here now. Studies and work made all of us go our separate ways. But whenever I enter the room, I miss them and wish they were here with me. Every single time.

I slide open the wrought-iron gate, which groans and creaks. I must remember to remind Papa about oiling it. Before I turn back to the house, a long, green vine snake passes over my feet. I bend down and pick it up. I marvel at the coldness and smoothness of its skin. This one is harmless. Actually all of them are. This house is teeming with snakes. Cat snakes, kraits, vipers, even cobras. They are all over the place, in my bedroom, dining hall, and the garden. All of them scurry around minding their own business. I see them all the time. But it is only me. They are all my friends. They go into hiding as soon as anyone else comes. My parents can never spot them and amusingly, they try to persuade me that the snakes are not there.

“What are you doing over there?”

“Ma.” I almost drop the snake, startled. Leaving the snake on the low branch of a tree, I turn to her. I can see her silhouette against the light in the veranda. She is almost the same height as me, slightly taller perhaps. I walk up to the house, a few feet away from the gate, and hug her. I have not hugged her all day and I know she expects it from me. We both need these little hints and physical reassurances, like hugs and kisses, to believe that someone loves and needs us.

Of her three daughters, I am the one who resembles her the most, both in physical appearance and behavior. Though I do not have even half her flawless beauty, everyone thinks we look the same. Though she would never accept it, I know I am her favorite daughter. The others know it too.

She is mumbling something. Trying to talk to me again. Some words just fly by, some I choose to ignore, and some land on my ears. I hear words and phrases here and there.

“So lost these days”…. “Can talk to us, you know”…. “It is not healthy”…. “Don’t eat properly too”

I ho hum along with her and try to look apologetic. This would finish the whole sermon fast. I know I will be forgiven by tomorrow or maybe even tonight.

She forces me to look at her, into her eyes. I notice the drastic change in her for the first time since I came home after two years. Her eyes look tired and there are more wrinkles than the last time. But they vanish as soon as her face lifts up with a smile. However, the eye bags worry me. I wish to touch her face and make every little blemish and spot fade away, like they do it in the movies.

She has cut her hair. It now reaches her neck. I can taste the bitter disappointment again, which had passed through me as soon as I had seen her short hair. Her straight long tresses, which were her pride once, and mine, were gone.

“Since you are anyway not listening to me, I think you should go and have dinner and sleep.” Her voice intensifies and brings me back to the veranda where I realize we are still standing.

As usual, I skip dinner and crawl into bed. Sleep is the only solace these days. I lie in bed all day hoping that unconsciousness will take over the dark cloud of depression that threatens to engulf my every waking moment.

Oh! There is Papa knocking on the door. No doubt, Ma persuaded him to come and talk to me. He is not good at it, so he is reluctant. The only resemblance between us is our inability to talk about our emotions. He chooses not to talk about whatever he is feeling, but it is obvious that he cares a lot. Maybe it makes him uncomfortable.

When it comes to me, I am impenetrable. I have built a bubble around myself and nothing succeeds in infiltrating it. Apart from my river, no one knows my secrets; no one knows what I am going through. No one cares to find out and I am sure no one will understand. There was only one person who was close to me. Now even he is dead…

He knocks again. I feign sleep. Same reason. I want to avoid the sermon. They are both wonderful parents, but they simply do not understand.