Here’s the thing. I’m always walking on this road. On this road, it’s a straight line and there are strong gushes of wind that come about unexpectedly. I am dressed in a black hoodie and I huddle in closer into my zipped hoodie for any form of warmth to emulate a womb-like safety I can barely even remember. The backdrop is pitch darkness, matching the pavement below with only streaks of white indicating it’s a road.
Sometimes there are flashes of light. Then, thunder. So in my mind, as I walk, I worry about the onset of rain and no, I do not have an umbrella with me.
I have a look of quiet exasperation as I continuously trudge on the road. Sometimes I hear a murmur of some sort, of something that doesn’t even feel real anymore. The smell? Putrid. I don’t look back to find out.
Then I wake up.
I wake up to the cold, dinginess of my room. I have the blinds in my room shut. Surely letting in sunlight into the room could do me some good, my mom would say. However, there is an odd feeling of familiarity with the cold and the darkness in my room even as dawn breaks. I drag myself out of bed with slumped shoulders, feeling defeated from tirelessly walking in a bleak alternate reality.
It’s funny how I am now awake and I don’t want to let go of this feeling. I feel it’s easier to submerge myself in this feeling than to catch hypothetical happiness like butterflies with a net for it to look beautiful for some minutes and then to have them die from being touched, from being felt.
I get into the shower and I feel the waves of depression oscillate in my mind. I need my water hotter than the depths of hell, I thought. The shower head provided for my needs generously. Enough for my hair to fall into a mesh of black covering my eyes as my body prepares for the coldness of reality to hit my transiently warmed skin. A house spider watches me as I simply stand there fully drenched in water and let out a slow, long sigh.
As I put on my clothes laid out from yesterday, I thought of the honeyed voice my mother has. She would fuss over me at this time, pushing me out of the door and most definitely not without breakfast. It wasn’t only the whiff of toast she prepares for breakfast with the coffee I like only in a colour I would drily say to her, matches my soul, it was also how she understood the song in me, the melancholia in me. Intensity of feelings I would daresay use to fight God with, to have her here with me to argue with in the morning.
Sometimes I would play her favourite songs or remember the way she hums in the kitchen. My father fell in love with her eyes first and then her voice second. When I first heard her sing to me so I would fall asleep as a child, I stared at her in awe before finally feeling some heaviness on my eyelids. Nowadays the only song playing within is one of the highest orchestrations of sorrow.
She isn’t there to place an assuring palm on my shoulder or to give me a kiss on my forehead…because she received the kiss of death.
I am a rebel. I would wear the brightest shade of permissible office colours and have the biggest hypocritical smile on my face on my way to work. My coffee mug has a yellow smiley face on it. My workmates see me as a young, chipper guy with lots of potential. They don’t know about the shadows that accompany me as I watch reruns of TV shows I used to watch with my mother, growing up. They don’t know how sometimes I smell her famous currypuffs from the kitchen or how I hear phantom calls of my name, Arjuna, only to find there is nobody around. Just two men in the living room, mustering grunts at best to acknowledge one another’s presence with the only light coming from the TV in the room.
They don’t know how I keep walking down this road at night in my dreams or why.
I like this cocoon of mystery I enshroud myself in. I feel like it gives me a sense of safety for me to immerse myself in the dark. The darkness that is laced with the loss of my mother, how I don’t know how to cope with it or whom to speak to about it or if calling Gina, Mary and doe-eyed Angel for the night makes me forget. Gold liquid in my glass keeps me company and so do the shadows. Sometimes I smell my mother’s cooking. Men don’t speak about feelings, I think to myself.
The cigarettes I light are sometimes the only sparks I allow in my life as I grieve. Sometimes I find them in Mary’s.
The cubicle I occupy at work has got cards lined up from colleagues and friends sending me their condolences. Sometimes my eyes give way at work, I blame it on the wind or the computer screen. Men don’t show our feelings, I think to myself, and especially not feelings of weakness. The receptionist asks me if I am feeling okay as my sunken eyelids give way from troubled nights and daunting days. I told her, it’s just the football highlights I have been catching on the television at night and I say it with a well-timed smile. Inside I say, fuck off.
I am walking down the straight road again. This time I find out my hoodie is Adidas. Three stripes down each sleeve. Past, present and future? The air feels dense, cold and still this time around. I need to keep walking. I meet a pair of eyes I recognise. This has never happened before. There is no turbulent wind this time around, just Mary in a red dress at the side of road. Next to her, a lit streetlamp. “Mary, what are you doing here? This is not your scene, this is mine.” Mary gives me an apologetic look, her lips curl in grim satisfaction, giving me a contradictory expression.
“Mary, Mary…aren’t you quite the contrary?”
The Mary I know wouldn’t be found in red, she thinks it doesn’t bring out the brown in her skin. I think she looks fantastic even with neon lights upon her amidst the pitch darkness. She raises her perfectly polished fingernail of her index finger in matching red towards me…
I wake up. It’s another night of waking up with weakened spirits. I have bottles of aspirin around if the pain worsens. I approach the bathroom sink, knowing my breath smells of cigarettes and agony even Mary’s kisses cannot drown out. I stare at my appearance and look at dishevelled hair, dark circles and lips darkened from nicotine. My body isn’t as full and fleshed out from mom’s cooking. I don’t allow anyone else to feel like they can help with that either. Aunt Ardya’s cooking sometimes goes down the trash, but don’t tell her I shared that with you.
My father calls me from downstairs. He sits on the sofa with his face buried in his hands. He noticed the patch of red on the carpet. Last night, I drew a pen knife from my pocket. The pain in my chest was too much, my head spun in never ending circles on how I could have prevented my mother’s passing. I felt like God was making fun of me by taking her away from me. It was much too soon. I have never introduced a girl to her and if I have, I would say, “Ma you’d love her, she’s just like you.” I held the pen knife close to the branch of veins on my wrist and then I cut through the skin, pearls of red dropped to the carpet and I felt a euphoric sense of relief with the pain.
The wound on my left wrist remains afresh. I look like half the man I used to be, who used to be loved and assured by a selflessly loving mother I had. My father knows his son hasn’t been coping well and neither has he as he chooses to isolate himself, preferring the company of the television and wine. The patch of dried blood on the carpet was the cut off point for my father. He told me he would need to check me into a professional. My face wore an expression of ambivalence. My father pushes back tears as he punches in the number of a hospital on the cordless phone.
Here I am, a 25 year old, watching a 65 year old man do his best to not crumble into a mess of water and mass as his son further sinks into depression.
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