The kindergarten classroom’s door of St. Mary’s church creaked open to present a sorry figure of five in soiled white top, partly tucked in blue knickers emanating two skinny legs plunged into a pair of dusty black shoes through once white shocks. The appearance beckoned every glance present; synthesizing moments of absolute silence. After an unaccounted caesura in otherwise solemn symphony, a soft voice struggling to break the void, emerged;
“May I come in Miss?”
“Come in. where you were for past two days? O! Jesus. What a mess you have done with yourselves? Look at your dress and your hair. Don’t you have anyone to look after?”
‘Look after’, the phrase pierced into the figure, still sorry for his chaotic presentation, but unable to vomit out the language of his eyes through his lips. A gentle but careful tread brought him to the sister’s desk. Her soft glaze turned into an artificial frosty nose stare and her eye piece travelled down her nose line enquiring.
“Gentleman, have I asked you something?”
A squeaking reply came,
Generally such a ‘sorry’ would have enraged the sister, but here the vent from which it came out, spoke something more, something unheard. Sister was lulled by the intricacy of the enigmatic numbness.
Eyes down; the boy walked between the benches to reach the last one. Alone, He sat there looking past his broken collar button into something abstruse.
The sister was puzzled. Two hours had passed without a word or a look from his side. He appeared to be in some sort of day dream that was but jolly. His fixed glaze beheld every glance, his dumb voice screamed loud enough to allure attention… The morose meditation and utter silence were both broken by a bell that declared the arrival of lunch hours.
Soon every other was out in the church garden with colourful lunch boxes, cartoon bottles and joyful eyes, leaving behind two persons in the room, the sister and the boy. The boy still appeared rock-stiff but the sister could see there was no lunch box on his desk. Emotionally dragged to him she softly asked,
“Son! What has happened to you? I see you are not well? You have not even brought your lunch.”
The answer was a quiet nothing. She was again to repeat but she got the answer. Two drops of water from a pair of fixed eyes rolled down his cheeks. Sister was perturbed.
“My momma is ill.”
She brought her own box and gave it to the boy. He gobbled a few pieces and stopped. Sister was engaged doing her chores. He felt like eating no more.
“My momma is ill.”
He knew he had lied. His momma was not just ill but she was very very ill. She had vomited blood. He saw it with his own eyes. He was on the table waiting for breakfast when he heard the gargoyles. She had crumbled to the ground; her mouth still leaking foam and blood. He could hear his own shrieks. Neighbours had rushed her to the hospital. She had not opened her eyes until yesterday. He saw the tears that she had shed on seeing him there, but she had insisted on his going to school. Head promise … that’s why he was here.
The eyes were dry again, the gaze stiffened and time passed by. The bell rang once again and declared it over. The birds flew out of the cage but a small figure waded to the core of it where a small church stood. He sat in the second row of a prayer room in front of Jesus and candles. Here, he had always waited for his Dadoo(grandpa), then for his momma and now for he didn’t know whom. The Father was kindling the flames. He tried to recall his father. He could not. He had once asked his momma about him. She gave no reply but wept at night. Her sobs had made him feel guilty and he never asked the question again… Head promise .
He fixed his gaze on the burning candles. He didn’t like them getting smaller. He wanted to whoosh them off as he had done on his birthday and preserve them. He had got a Doctor’s suit that day. Momma wanted him to become a doctor. White apron, stethoscope… The picture soon altered into something he did not want to recall- the doctors injecting liquids into his momma’s veins and she twitching with pain. He hated those doctors. He would never become a doctor he decided.
A knock on the door woke him up. His aunty lay there calling him. His momma was alright. He felt his breath renewed. They climbed into taxi and headed to the hospital. Yesterday night, he had heard the fellows talking that she would die. He wondered, “How could she?” Death for him meant that, “one went on a long journey and we will meet after that very very long time.” How true he was indeed! He had seen death. His Dadoo had died. He had sulked that day because no one brought him balloons. He asked his mother if it was so urgent for Dadoo to go. He could not recall her answer but he remembered that Dadoo went when he was asleep. He felt guilty... if he had got up early he could have stopped his Dadoo. He never slept till late again. Now he had decided ‘He would not sleep.’ If he slept, how could he stop momma from going away. He won’t sleep… Head promise .
He sat on a stool beside the wall in front of the bed. They had placed something on her nose. The room was choked with foul smell. He wished he had that thing on his nose as well. In one corner there was a screen on which one line was jumping around another line smoothly.
The night was dawning into the room. The play of lines had turned irregular and the movement inside the room had increased. He looked at the clock…7.35. Momma had taught him how to read time. Soon a doctor came with an injection. He pierced momma’s arm and two bodies winced at once. He closed his eyes.
It appeared that the busy world had forgotten him. The play of lines was on their original track once again. He liked that. A faint smile passed his face. He looked up to the clock 8:40… He felt hungry, but decided not to leave for the mess downstairs. He liked the apples they gave, but if momma sneaked out during that then… the thought terrified him. He fixed his eyes on the lines and their play…up and down…up and down.
The clock read 10:10. He felt dizzy and stiffening emerged in his back. He stood up and rambled for a while in the room. Suddenly he saw on the screen. The lines were not playing well now. They had started to jump and straighten. His momma was having low hiccups; he knew she was in severe pain. The boys and nurses were walking hurriedly. They started taking his momma to another room with red and green bulbs over its door and something written beneath them. They didn’t let him inside saying, “your momma would be disturbed.” He sat on the bench outside. The doctors had changed their night dress into a green one similar to the one he had with Mickey Mouse smeared over it. He felt they appeared funny in green gowns, a round cap and a silly flap over the mouth. He would have laughed if it were some other time.
The door was shut. He fixed his eyes on momma and time passed by… The sun had dawned. He could see his momma smiling on the bed saying she would be perfect in two days. They had breakfast and shared the apples. He was feeling on the seventh heaven when he was shaken by someone from behind. It was aunty…weeping? He realized he had been sleeping all night long. The sun appeared to be mocking at him. A certain fear crept into his mind. He looked towards the door that lay there flung open showing a vacant bed inside.
He realized...momma went away when he was asleep. He could not stop her. He felt anguished. “Why in the hell did I sleep?” he lurked all curses he knew unto himself. Suddenly he freed himself from the grip of his weeping aunty. “How far she might have gone? I would stop her.” He ran downstairs. The whole crowd of mourners ran behind him. He was the swiftest today… Soon he crossed the main gate and headed towards the main road. Sprinting on the footpath he came a long way ahead the bunch behind him. He was the swiftest today…on the other side of the road, he saw his momma strolling towards him-
“Aha! There she is!”
He cruised towards her but it was not his momma. Someone touched him from behind. He turned to see his momma standing there. She was as pink and radiant as ever. She kissed him everywhere. He gave a side glance to the road. The traffic had stalled there. The people were huddled around something. He thought it was a Tamasha or so. He wanted to watch but the time was too big for that. After all he was meeting his momma after such a long time.
Amidst the huddle, there lay a ‘sorry figure of five’ all drenched in blood, no signs of life in it. It had been run over by a car. Away from the huddle, away from the blaring ambulance sirens, away from all the pains and miseries, the silhouette had a mother and a son strolling forward on a journey that has… no end!
NO END (picture courtesy: http://hersilent-thoughts.blogspot.com/2010/11/st-10-footprints-in-sand.html)