Unique but Delightful Universe

Invisible

Life appeared to be vastly calm as they started the train ride. Toby loves the sway of cars on the tracks, the blur of trees and towns on the other side of the window. Lillian glances at her four-year old son; wide smile and bright eyes. Suddenly happiness bubbles inside her. Toby will love her friend’s farmhouse. The train arrives at Albarracin , a small town. They descend from the train. Outside her friend Jenna is waiting with a big stuffed bear.

“Welcome! How was the ride?” She asks as she takes the bag from Lillian’s hand.

“Wonderful! Toby loved the ride.” Lillian replies.

“Come, let’s get in to the car.It’s little bit of a ride.” They walked towards the car. Inside the car Lillian settles herself with her son in the back seat while her friend drives.  Toby insists Lillian to honk the horn.

“We don’t need to but I will do it for you.”Lillian smiles and honks softly. Toby claps his hands. “It sounds like the SeSame street blue monster bobbing its nose. Right mom?” He asks leaning towards her mother.

“Yes, it is.”

The house sits at the edge of an expanse of water, clear and blue like the robbin’s nest. Toby jumps out from the car as Lillian opens the car door. Lillian follows her son. Toby stands there mesmerized. His eyes follow the beautiful yellow ducklings as they waltz on the muddy shore. Toby sits there at the edge of the water, sticking smooth stones. He seems quite contented. Lillian chats with her friend as her son stacks the stones and stacks them again and his posture relaxed, at ease. Jenna watches Toby and looks back at her friend. “So how is it going with Toby?”

Lillian sighs. “ Well, you never know. Sometimes he is so calm and other times he turns everything upside down.”

“Did you check with the doctor?”

“Yes, last friday he had an appointment with dr. Robertson.” Lillian smiles. “It is funny when Dr asked him to draw a road runner from a picture book. Then he said “Beep, beep.” Lillian tries to remember the funny picture. “ Toby did. He is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His roadrunner looked like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. But I liked it because he gave it a try.”

“ Does he have any friend?”

“ There are two boys of his age group. Sometimes they come to play with Toby.” Lillian glances at Toby. He has made a tall shape with the  wet rocks. Toby looks at her mother. “Mom, look they look like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers! Looks delicious! Can I lick to taste it?”

Lillian laughs. “ No, Toby. Don’t lick the rocks. They don’t have any taste but we will have a real wafer.” Lillian walks towards Toby. “Let’s go inside.”

 

In the living room Lillian sits with her friend on a couch. Two cups of green tea sits on a tray in front of them on the small table. Toby quickly gathers up all his cars, brings them to the couch. He begins lining them up in rows. But the rows are different than usual, the colors all mismatched . Yellow meets red meets green. He is trying to express something, he doesn’t know how to. Lillian leans over towards him. “Toby, would you like me to play with you?” She puts her hand softly on his shoulder. He ignores her and becomes more anxious. He rearranges the cars without any order and move them frantically so they are crashing into one another, tiny toy accidents.

“ Let’s go and play outside on the trampoline.” Lillian says with concern.Toby puts his thumb in his mouth and walks outside with her mother. A bright smile flashes in Toby’s small face. He bounces on the trampoline like an elephant crashing from side to side. Lillian laughs and giggles  with her son.

            

 

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Fabric

Fabric

Bright and early Anna wakes up on her bed. She is determined to buy the book with her stored fortune. So, she brings her glass jar stuffed with dollar bills and coins, her saved money and spills them out onto the off white carpet.She is in the middle of counting when her father knocks at the door and before she answers, the door opens in a soft click. He glances at her counting the coins piled high.

“ Good morning Anna! How much have you got there?” he asks sitting at the edge of the bed.

“ Fifteen dollars and ninety two cents.” she keeps her smile tight to hold back her pride and sticks all her fingers between her toes for the low pull of pleasure. Her father takes his glasses off to polish them on the bottom of his gray shirt, the held them up for inspection. Still dirty- he never manages to get them completely clear. “What do you want to do with your money?” he rests his glasses on his face, pushing them up snug against his nose.

“ A book fair is going on in our school and I want to buy Winnie the Pooh, The story of Babar and books on Amelia Bedelia.”

“Wonderful! Wait, wait.” he disappears. Anna sits with her high spirit on hold. Her father reappears with two dollar bills and hands her. “ Go ahead and add this to your savings.Last week you helped me in walking the dog.” he says.

Next day after school Alina returns home from school and runs to see her father. In the living room, her father reads a newspaper on his favorite couch. Alina settles herself close to her father. He returns his gaze from the newspaper to Anna’s face.

“How was the school today” Did you buy the books?” he asks.

Anna opens her backpack and shows him the books. Then she holds her hands out, palms up. “ I spent all the money. Only a quarter left.”

His father laughs. “ Start saving again.” he says folding the newspaper.

“ I meant to say that there is another book fair coming before the school closes for summer.” She says with a candy filled smile. She opens her fingers and shows two fingers to her father. “In two months.”

“Well, we can always get books from the library.”

“But dad.” she protests. “ It’s not same as collecting books. I want to have my library like you have yours.”

“ Well, I understand that.” He thinks for a moment. “ You can help me in watering the plants in every week and I will help you in buying the books that you want.”

“Sure.” Anna claps with both hands with excitement.

Her mother’s room has a wooden multi tiered riser holding all her spools of threads, organized by hue, cotton, metallic and silk threads. The drawer is full of various notions: needle, thimbles, tapes, glue, yards of elastics and velcros. And fabrics! Big square wicker baskets lined up on deep wall shelves and full of solids or printed cottons, silks- you name it, she has some. Her mother loves quilting.Anna enters to her mother’s room. On her table there is a cobalt blue fabric with peacock prints at the edge,- standing still, some with their wings thrillingly outstretched.Her mother cuts the fabric, it sounds like symphony. It conjures an image of a head bent over a machine, the feel of fabric slipping through the fingers.

“Hi, mom! Look what I bought today.”

“What?” Her mother sits straight and glances at Anna’s face. Anna shows her three books.

“ Exciting!” she smiles leafing through the pages.

A huge smile flashes on Anna’s face.“Yes mom. Today I think my world is a beautiful Fabric!”  She says.

 

Funny but memorable

Conversation

You must be Clara,” a woman says when she approaches the main desk in the middle of the library. She has wispy salt and pepper bangs and a lined face, very thin.

Clara nods her head in response.

“ Welcome to our library,” She shakes her hands. “ I’m Jennifer, director of this library. I am glad that now you will be an important part of our library. “ Come, I will show you everything. Clara follows ms. Jennifer.

“You will be in charge of the circulation desk, but usually you also collect late fees, take care of the frisky printer, check in the books. Remember, always assist our patrons with a big smile.”

“Thank You, I will.” Clara steps in behind the desk and grabs the edge of the mental cart for support. Today is her first day in this job. At the end of the day, the director says, “Don’t forget to wear a Halloween costume tomorrow. It is storytime for the children.”

Next day, Clara finds a long white gown in her mom’s closet and decides to wear that. Instead of a tight bun, she keeps her hair loose. She glances herself in the mirror one last time. It is perfect, she resembles Emily Dickinson.

When she walks into the library, Jennifer looks at her. “Oh dear, did you wake up late?”

“ No, Clara says. “ Usually, I wake up very early.”

Jennifer frowns. “Why are you wearing a nightgown? Did you forget to wear a costume?”

“ This is my costume.” Clara replies and glances at her own white dress to check if anything wrong with that.

“Are you the pop singer Lady Gaga?”

“ No, no, she smiles. “I’m Emily Dickinson.”

“The poet!” Jennifer adjusts her eye-glass on her small nose and tries to check the costume again.

“Yeah.” She still tries to figure it out.

“Towards the end of her life, Dickinson was kind of hermit and only wore white.”

“Huh.” Jennifer turns her attention to the paperwork.

Around one fifteen, Jennifer comes running to Clara’s desk.

“Ian isn’t coming in today.” She gasps for air. “You’ll have to do the storytime for the kids.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“But, I’ve never done this before, Clara says,her head spinning.

Jennifer frowns. “ It is easy, just pick up a few Halloween story books for the children, read the stories, sing one or two songs and at the end give them the candies. It will be over is thirty minutes.”

“Sing songs?” This is getting worse by the second.

Clara grabs the story books from the book rack, a special Halloween display, picks up the big  ceramic candy bowl and runs to the kid’s section.

Clara steps in to the overly decorated children’s room and smiles at the kids. Her heart stops to gallop.

One small girl in a Medieval princess costume stares at her.

“Did you forget to comb your hair this morning?”

“She is the girl from a TV serial.” Her mother says to her daughter.

“She’s not, her daughter says, rolling her eyes. “She’s lady Gaga.”

Clara shakes her head. “No..I..” Her cheeks flares up.

“Lady Gaga doesn’t wears pajamas,” a tiny voice says, cutting her off. “ I think it is the pirate.” A boy in Star War Yoda costume comes forward.

Another boy in a Spiderman costume walks towards Clara. “She is the ghost of  Christmas past?”

All the sixteen kids turn back to stare at Clara. Clara shifts herself in a small chair. This is much worse than she anticipated. She takes a deep breath and claps her hands together.

“ Let me sing a beautiful song before I proceed to a wonderful ghost story.” She offers them her friendliest smile. The kids lean forward on their seats. Parents take a deep breath.

“Hope- Hope is the thing with feathers.

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without words..” The poem hangs in the air and the kids just stare, silent.

“Are you a ..bird?”

“Hush,one of the parent asks the boy to be silent.

Clara glances around at the tiny faces. She guesses they’re a little young for this type of poem. “Okay let’s get started. I will read you the story of White dog.” She holds up the book.

The air erupts in cheers and shouts.

A few lovely things in Life

Almost

Can you believe this! Anne leans closer to the cold window and looks at the front yard. All the trees, mailbox, lawn are covered with snow and it is almost seven-foot of snow.

“ I am telling you it is global warming. It may be a fake news or not a science after all for our president but it is the reality.” The nature suddenly has awaken form its torpor and unleashes the worst snowstorm in living memory. O’my! She is cursing the cold in her small,old,one story brick house. They get snow every winter but not type of Siberian winter which has struck Erie, Pennsylvania in error. Snow is always pristine from distance. Her basement, largely below street level and has poor heating. Snow is alway a nightmare. But Anne loves to do her morning yoga and meditation there. The frost-covered glass impedes light from entering through the small window and the inside gloom is hardly dispelled by the naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling. The basement has only the essentials; one long beige colored sofa, a thick oriental rug to cover the floor and a small wooden table with two chairs on both sides. Anne has her yoga mat, exercise balls and barbels in one corner of the room. She loves the quietness of the room.

The storm begins on Wednesday with a heavy snowfall followed by a fierce squall that lashes the streets. The forces of wind causes trees to bend and freezing weather kill many birds who has forgotten to migrate, fooled by the previous month’s warmth. A state of emergency is declared. Most of the offices, library and a few department stores are closed, although it would have been an adventure to visit the stores for Christmas shopping or to buy something special for the New Year’s eve party. Anne does not have to go to the university, so she takes the advantage of unexpected freedom to decorate her house elaborately for the upcoming New year’s eve party. She has arranged all her beautiful collection of clocks on the mantel as a countdown decor, has folded colored paper cubes to make decorative strings of lights, has taped giant confetti to her bare stone wall in the front living room.

“ Hopefully, all our family members and friends will make to the party.” She opens the thick wooden blinds from the window and glances outside. It is still snowing. The two tall red pine trees in the front yard of her neighbor’s house are almost covered in snow. She spots their puddle running around in the snow wagging her small black tail.Anne hears her husband Richard’s footsteps in the kitchen.

“ Good morning! You have already started baking!Let me know if you need any help.” he turns round and opens the back door to let the dog out. “Wow! Look at the snow! And it is still snowing! It is like the North Pole in here.” The bitterly cold wind fills the kitchen. He comes back into the kitchen closing the door. “ For the love of God, turn the heating up, don’t be so stingy.” Richard increases the thermostat and returns to the kitchen . “ A hot cup of strong coffee will do miracle.”  Richard makes coffee and takes a sip. “ This is wonderful! He walks towards the kitchen window and glances outside towards the snow.

“ I am not sure if guests will be able to drive here. Look at the snow fall.”

“ Let’s keep our finger crossed.”

“ I have an idea. We should prepare some healthy stuff for this party. Like sautéed Brussels sprout,avocado salad roll ups, Stuffed mushroom with feta cheese, garlic.”

“ We have most of the items and let’s go through the list first before adding up more items. I have already made green pea soup with carrot and celery, Mexican spicy corn bread and zucchini chips.”

“ That sounds wonderful. Hey, do you remember that tonight is Nora’s performance in  Warner?”

“ Yes, I do and we will try to make, it but we have to check if the theater will open tonight.”

Anne leaves the room to get her cell phone and confirms that it will open just one hour before the play starts.

Nora is Anne’s adopted daughter. She was five years old when they adopted her.She is the best gift in Anne’s life. Anne had all the fun with Nora helping her in homework, making school projects, playing Barbie, building legos, riding bicycle. Nora has given her the happiness that she will never find anywhere else in life. Nora is always gets lost in the maze of a feverish imagination and boundless curiosity, constantly wearing her heart on her sleeve, weeping for suffering humanity and mistreated animals. Anne has helped Nora several times in rescuing animals. And Nora always love to act. She has worked in school dramas, college plays. Theater arts is her favorite subject. Tonight, seventeen years old Nora plays the role of Mary and Nick her best friend, plays the role of gorgeous George of the story “It is a wonderful life”- a Christmas comedy-drama  based on the short story ‘The Greatest Gift’. “ In the story,they are both optimistic,innocent idealistic. George dreams big and is driven by a thirst of adventure. But he sometimes misses the truth what is right in front of him that Mary, the prettiest girl in town, is destined to be the great love of his life. Nora loves the story because it teaches loyalty and devotion. George Bailey is the poster boy for loyalty. He is epical loyal to his family, his business and to Bedford Falls. While they are practicing in the back stage Nora suddenly stops.

“Come on bring the words to life and give them more emotion.”

“Fancy talk. I don’t know how to.”

“Imagine that you are telling a story to a friend and he wants to know every detail of the story.  You should tell with some emotion, more details.”

Nick nods.

Richard gets out of the house and shovels and tries his best to clear the snow from their driveway. Around five in the evening they set off in their Lexus, travelling twelve miles until they reach downtown theater district.The road is slippery and hard to drive. The car headlights reveals a desolate cityscape as Richard drives cautiously, peering out through the semicircle free of frost on the windshield.The streets seems like those of an unknown city; for a minute her thinks he is lost,even though he has taken the route so many times before. Time seems at a standstill. The hum of the heating blower and the relentless back and forth motion of the windshield wipers give the impression that the car is suspended in a heavy fog. Anne from the passenger sit sighs.

“It is so dark! Drive slowly. The roads are so slippery!” Anne turns her face towards Richard.  “  It is only for Nora’s sake that we are coming. We can not see her sad.”

“ I understand. Don’t worry.” He concentrates in driving.

It is almost six thirty when they reach at the theatre. The parking lot is full.

“It is surprising to see all these cars!”

The decoration inside the building is mesmerizing! The room is full, instead of roadblocks and snow storm. The whole family took the front row straight across.The show is a huge hit. Anne hugs Nora after her performance. Nora looks very pretty with broad shoulders, a long neck and sparkling, spinach colored eyes. Her strapless blue chiffon dress with narrow chiffon ruffle neckline is breathtaking.

“ Both of you did  such a wonderful job! We loved your acting!”

“Thank you mom. I am glad that everybody came to see the play in this severe weather.”

“ This is your first performance on stage and we could not miss that. I can say confidently that It will be a promising new year for you.” Anne laughs hugging Nora.

 

 

 

 

Turning World

Prefer

Last two days it has been raining cats and dogs.The thunder and lightening lasted for long rumbling low and long. It was not normal to have this type of rain at the end of October.It is hard to tell where water ends and where the sky begins. Today the sky is clear and the bright sun is washing over the door steps. It seems like today colors wants to take on their old vividness; things have points, edges and have outlines.

But Isaac leaps into thought, stretching his tired legs, pushing the chair back against the wall. He is in touch of grief just like his whole family. Sometimes you try to hold on to something so tight but it somehow it slips away! His laughter has a desolate edge. He somehow feels a need to pray, he wants to fall on his knees and pray, but what would he pray for? To bring back his mother? The reality of life does not work that way! He sits upright, legs drawn in. Isaac glances at his watch.

“Where is she? It is getting late.”

He watches from the small window at the maple tree, the branches holding two slightly yellow leaves with apologetic gentleness and how have they held on until the end of October? Right behind it is the light, generously the color from the setting sun sprays upward over the open sky. Issac puts his large hand to the side of his face and thinks about his sister who is almost fifty, but because of brain injury sometimes it is difficult for her to understand the simple things of life. A soft knock comes on his door.

“ Hello, brother.” Sheba, her sister appears at the door in a long pale green dress, a little dusty at the corner. She smiles, her eyes warm as she walks past him into the room holding a few shiny rocks on her right hand and a small chips pack on the other. She moves to the couch and sits down. Sheba arranges all her rocks in a circle on the small  the coffee table and the shiniest one in the middle. Issac sits slowly in the  armchair in the corner and watches her.

“I have not seen you the whole day? Where did you go?” Isaac asks carefully clearing his throat. He does not want to upset her.

Sheba scoots her feet under her, leaning down to push aside her black sandal. “ Today I met one of mom’s friend. Remember Diana?”

“ Wow, you saw her. How is she. I have not seen her for ages.”

“So I was sitting under a big tree and watching the children playing soccer. I wanted to play with them but then I changed my mind. They are too young and I bet they do not play by the rules. So I decided to just sit and watch.” She giggles covering her mouth.

“ It was so funny that me and the tree looked the same; still and quiet.” She giggles again. Yes, a lady with nice looking gray hair in a navy blue saree was standing patiently and watching the game. At the end of the game she walked towards me and said, “ Hi, Sheba, is that you? O’ my you have grown so tall and pretty!” Her voice sounded so familiar. I glanced at her. “Diana!” Then we hugged each other and she told me all her stories; her children, her husband, a lot. But I did not have patience to hear such a long story. Do you know it is like the book says Never ending story. Yep, just like that. So, I waved my hand and left.”

“ It is wonderful that you met her. Did you invite her to our house?” Issac leans his elbow on the table in front of him.

She crosses her arms. “ No,next time.” She uncrosses her arms and runs her fingers through her hair, which parts towards the front and to her long braid. “So, where is mother? She told me that she will come back from the hospital and I have been waiting for last three days. It is hard to fall asleep without her on her bed. I stare at the objects, to the ceiling and let my mind go blank and when my tears dries I blink.” Sheba looks down to the floor.

“ First I thought she could not come because of the heavy rain and storm, but today the sky’s so clear and bright!” Sheba leans on to the open window to make sure that the sky is still clear.  She nods her head.

“ Well, it is dark now, but still a clear sky.” She returns her gaze towards her brother.

And there is a silence that went on for a little while. Isaac is used to silence, but this is not a nice one. He leans more against the cushion thinking how to answer his sister’s question. He sits straight.

“Remember, last time I told you that our mother is a star now, he points to the sky through the open window. “ There, I can see her clearly, just in the middle.”

Sheba cranes her neck and looks upward. “There are millions of stars in the sky, so which one is mom?” She consoles herself. “ May be the brightest one. You are right brother. It is the middle one.”

Isaac stands there with her sister. “She is the brightest one because she was the kindest, warm,loving woman. Everybody liked her.” Isaac returns his gaze. “ Show me your rock collections and I want to see the shiniest one.”

Sheba’s eyes are moist. She is still glancing at the star studded sky. Her mind, which has been spinning, rearranges itself. She feel herself again.

“I will,but you have to give two big half a dollar coins.”

 

“ Sure.” Isaac laughs. His eyes begin to break into a tenderness around their corners as he steps back from the window.

 

snopy

Meeting an Angel

Express

The truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will. She presses one hand to her heart again and wonders if  she has made a mistake. Closing her eyes she thinks of her grandfather, grandmother, her parents, their love, affection. She could not meet their expectation! Sigh. Countless thoughts and questions envelop her mind. As Lekha leans against a soft pillow on the narrow bed, the thick printed curtain parts. Lekha sits straight. A woman in middle forty enters in a navy blue saree with gold border. Her black hair in a loose bun, small gold earrings on her ears, deep red bangles on her  both arms and a big red dot on her forehead, in between the brows. She appears to be a simple and friendly lady. Sometimes you meet someone and suddenly your heart sings. Yes, it is something like that. But who is she? May be a relative of my boyfriend .Out of courtesy, Lekha gathers her lilac colored silk saree from slipping and climbs down from the bed.

 “ Good morning! She smiles, pursed lips, raised eyebrows. She points at the bed. “ Please sit.” Her bright big eyes settles on lekha’s face for a while.

“ I heard from my son and sister about you. Is it true that you like my son?” She looks up at the ceiling, then to the wall.” A small sigh. She shifts and leans gently against the bedpost.From the trail of her eyes Lekha notices a slight similarity between mother and son, same nose, oval face, big brown eyes. A voice distracts her.

“ I understand completely. In our society we have to think hundred times before taking this type of decision.” Her eyes fastened on lekha.

“ Your parents love you so much and you just left them! She nods her head in disbelief. “ Sweety, if you want then I will arrange someone to drop you at your house.”

Lekha sits quietly. Her head down. She has no answer.  The stubborn nineteen years old girl is there to stay.

It has been a month after that incident. Now she is married and stays with her in laws.It is bright Sunday morning Lekha comes out of bathroom with a wet towel and pauses as her mother in law calls her. Lekha looks towards the veranda. Her mother in law sits on a wooden chair with a small white teacup. Without raising a hand from her lap, she offers a narrow smile.

“ Darling, today is a very special day.” She takes a sip from the hot tea.It is a special day for the new daughter in law to cook lunch for everyone and usually the neighbors come to taste the food. You can cook whatever you want. A big smile flashes on her face. She pushes the chair back and takes the cup to the sink. “Let me know if you need anything special for cooking and I will get those from the neighborhood store.”

The wet towel  slipped from Lekha’s hand when she heard about cooking. It is a grave situation. She can prepare special tea with ginger and cardamom. What else? She knows how to make chapati. Well it may not be quite round but it may work and rice is the easiest. In her parents home the cook does everything so she has no idea how to cook. She always thing cooking is boring, wastage of time. Instead read book, write or explore nature. But somehow she gets the confidence to do the task. Her father always says confidence is the key to success.  Lekha walks into the kitchen. “Oh, no! There is no gas stove here”. You have to use kerosene to light the woods which she has never done before. “Well, I will try.” Lekha pours a little kerosene on the dry woods and strikes the match. Yep, it works, the flame starts.She looks at the pots to cook rice but they are not the stainless steel or brass small pots, instead they are huge clay pots. “ Wow! It is even hard to lift the pots when is full with water.”Rice is almost done. She has to remember how to prepare the potato curry. Which one goes first? She stands with six big raw potatoes in a container and spices in a small bowl.A long deep breath. Lekha sits on the kitchen floor and peels the potatoes. One end of her light pink cotton saree is towards the other stove. Her mind replays a few scenes of the kitchen but the there is no clue to know the steps of the cooking. It feels real hot in the kitchen. Lekha wipes the sweats and suddenly hears her husband’s voice. “Take off your saree, right now. Take off.”

“ What? Here in the kitchen?” A shy smile hovers on her face. But she feels very hot. Must be the humidity. Then her mother in law comes running with her husband and both of them pull her saree fiercely.

“ Fire on your saree!”

She pours a bucket of water on the saree to diminish the fire. All the faces are white with fear. She hears the soft voice of her mother in law.” Sweetie, are you okay? You should be more careful while cooking. Do not worry, you go and change. I will ask someone to help you out.” Lekha walks out of the kitchen to change to another saree. She returns back into the kitchen. There her husband’s youngest sister has started to  peel the rest of the potatoes. Inside the kitchen her mother in law is mopping the water. She stands straight as Lekha steps in. Lekha is scared that she may say something.

“ Lekha, do not worry about cooking.” She points at her daughter. “ She will finish up and if anyone asks then let them know that you have prepared everything.”

Lekha looks at her face.She is so nice just like my grandmother or  my mother! I am so lucky to have her in my life.

It is the second week of wedding, a pretty spring morning. The sun is resting on the mailbox when Lekha opened it to pick up the mail. It is a letter from her grandmother. She walks to the backyard and settles herself on a wooden bench to reads the letter.She reads and reread each sentence. All of a sudden he face falls slightly. All the sweet memory of her grandma comes live.  She starts to sob.

“ Morning!” Her mother in law walks through the back gate. “ What are you reading that makes you cry?”

Lekha wipes her tears in the back of her palm. “ It is grandma’s letter. I miss her so much. I wish I can go back to her, see her, hug her and spend time with her.” Her mother in law sits down next to her on the bench. They sit silently. The air is thick with the scent of  honeysuckle, white and yellow blossoms dotted the bushes.

“Smell that?” She asks.

Lekha lifts her face from the letter and sniffs. “ I do not want to. I want to go back to my grandmother.” Her face is down. Her mother in law’s hand touches Lekha’s shoulder softly. A tear falls from the corner of her eyes leaving a trail down her cheek. She put her arm around Lekha. “ I understand your emotion and I can feel your sadness. But you made this decision of marriage. The only way is to wait for a miracle to happen, so that you can meet your family again. Give some time.”

Lekha looks at her. “She is so kind, warm,compassionate! She is the  sweetest person and the greatest gift in her life!Time will heal this.”

“Thank you so much Mom!” says Lekha folding the letter in her hand.

“ What for? She smiles. “ Come let’s go inside.

Two days back my ninety-three years old mother in law  passed away.

Her motherly affection, love, kindness will always stay with me. It will be perfect to say that she was an angel not only for me but to all others in her family, her neighbors,to strangers!

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Life from different angles

Inhabit

Her quiet and lonely life  has lasted for almost a year. One foggy week goes by, then another. One silent evening is followed by another silent evening. One cloudy day, after visiting the last patient, Liz drives to a nearby town to meet her friend Mei, a writer. Mei opens the front door holding the I-pad in one hand. A warm smile flashes on her small round face.

” Liz! After a long time! It is so nice to see you. Come in.” She closes the door from behind  and Liz takes off her shoes before walking into the living room. On the rectangle coffee table there are magazines and books are in a big pile. A few candles on one small table in one corner of the room. As Liz sits on the beige couch, Mei glances at her face.

” How are you Liz? I tried to call you so many times and even e-mailed you but I never received any reply! You need to let it go and move on with life.” Mei touches her shoulders.

” It is not that easy, not at all. But I am keeping myself busy in the clinic.” Liz replies slightly touching her ring then she pauses. ” How is your Novel coming?”

Mei brings the i-pad  and opens the goggle drive. She lets her friend read the story while she walks into the kitchen to prepare some tea, something to calm her friend. It is a pretty long story. Mei is almost forty and has been working on the novel for the two years now. she is a great believer in revision and revises each section on the novel six or eight times before she goes to the next chapter. Each time Liz comes, she reads hundred pages more. In many respects it reminds her of Henry’s screenplays. In one sentence the story might leap thirty years ahead and then in the next leap sideways two thousand miles across. But she loves to read her friend’s novel. Mei comes back to the room holding a small tray with two beautiful floral tea cups.

“This will help you relax.” Liz lifts the cup. The aroma of the tea wraps her as she sips the tea. Mei takes the I-Pad and starts to read her own story for a minute or two. She turns her head towards Liz and starts to talk on editing her story.  She concentrates more on her writing. After an hour or two of flipping a few magazines and reading the new edited lines of Mei’s story,Liz decides to leave.

” It is not nine yet. Stay a little longer and I will be done soon. Afterwards we can talk and watch a movie together.”

” It is fine Mei. But I have to leave. Tomorrow I have two meetings between eight to ten in the morning. Good night!” they hug each other.

After one week,on a partly sunny day, just after the announcement of a upcoming hurricane, Liz flies to Chicago to meet her friend Adel, a wonderful artist and her college friend. It is late afternoon when Liz reaches in Adel’s house. They sit in his dining room and talk for a while touching different events of their lives. On the table lay one or two sketch pads, sketch pens and a few almost completed sketches on one side of the table.

“The light is fine today,” he says “It seems to melt a little around the point where the water met with sand. Not at all like yesterday.”

“It was too bright Yesterday?”

She grimaces. “Too flat?”

” How is your clinic and the new patient?” Adel asks.

” It is very busy in the clinic and the new patient is getting stronger. she is seventy five but the surgery went well.”

Liz appreciates him as a kind and thoughtful man but does not like him when he is totally engrossed in his art! Liz leans over from her chair and touches his arm, and he stops sketching the dog until she moves her hand away.

” I came to see you after a long time and instead of talking to me you are concentrating on your sketch.”

” Sorry!” he says lifting his eyes from the sketch, then he frowns on the dog. ” I haven’t figured out the light,” he says. ” If I can’t understand simple light, forget about the stone sculptures.”

“It is the same light wherever you are, only your angle changes.” She shifts her chair closer. One of the cook places two cups of coffee between them on the table.

” We are good friends,” she says.

“Indeed, you are welcome to stay here in my home until you decide something else to do.”

Thank You for the invitation but I am needed in the clinic. I can’t leave it in short notice.”

Adel gives a short laugh that sounds precisely like the first abrupt sounds of a boiling kettle. ” You need someone to be with you and about the clinic. you can open one here and start your practice.”

Liz is surprised. ” It is not that easy to close one and open another in a completely different city. ” She glances at his face. ” Also what is the point of moving here? I will be busy in the clinic and you will never have time to spend.”

Adel sketches an errant line in the  dog’s tail and rubs it with his thumb. Then he stops.

” We are friend Liz. I will stand by you and give you company whenever you need. You have to make a decision. You have to be brave like Jules Verne who went twenty thousand leagues in search of the vastness of the sea.” He tosses his head back. “It is impossible for you to understand.”

” Now a days I stand alone in the early morning hours, where there are no foot prints besides my own behind me and I can feel a stark of emptiness in my heart. I understand everything very well.” Liz reaches right over and takes a sip of the hot coffee. Adel shakes his head and looks at Liz. ” He is gone Liz. You need to get over it and start a new life. I am serious.”

Liz glances at him. He starts to fidget with the sketch book like a young boy in school. She wonders how long she would have to sit with him before she could reasonably escape. Liz thinks of all the people she has met. She wouldn’t miss any of them and none of them would spend even a moment wondering of they would miss her. Each of them would fade in the other’s mind like paper dolls in a sunny window.

Welcome to relax in a strange world

Heal

A series of images fill the whole area in front of her; People running, crowds of running men, women with infants and children holding their parent’s hands, showing desperation. A dozens, then hundreds, in pants,t-shirts,shouldering each other,shouting,crying for help. It is almost possible to hear the mass pulse of breath and pounding feet. She can see the tennis shoes with holes and some without the laces, sandals, barefoot. They keep on coming, trying to escape somewhere, something dreadful, mouth open, arms pumping. So desperate to hold on to their families, small children, older parents. She does not understand the words that come out of their mouths but she feels their feelings!

The image fades away slowly but the screams continues. The images reappear again, they come wheeling around the corner.Jade hurries to the only safe zone, the market wall, back flattened,arms spread.The people blast past with wide, scary eyes.They don’t have any destination, they don’t know where to run, where to hide themselves and the children.Outside it is like winter fog, not quite yellow and not quite white. Parents run past her holding tightly to the small bodies of the infants.They try to breathe, but it is hard and there is something in the air. Very suffocating! The white foam comes out from some of the children’s mouth. People are on the side of the road with their older parents,choking, gasping for air. Some are lying motionless in the  mud. Most of the people crying for help and begging for mercy.

Jade’s mind is tunneling back to the parents who are hovering over their children. She could not take it anymore, she wants to do something. Do more that a pledge, write articles, blogs, sending donation.“We are with you, we promise”, she murmurs with a determination. Jade runs through the fog. But she starts to lose her balance.Her eyes sting, nose start to stream.Her out stretched hands hang in the empty air and fall to her sides. She could not take it any more.

It is almost morning.Jade opens her eyes.The dream is so real as if she was there with them. She takes a deep breath. It must be the news that she watched last evening and she switched off the TV before the news ended. “Who is going to help all those innocent people?” She wonders and sighs.It is mentally tiring and hard to believe.  Instead of waking up, she pulls the bed sheet up to her chest and closes her eyes.

She is in a garden with trimmed hedges, shade trees, blades of grass, every sort of flowers. On one side of the garden, a bench in the shadow of a tall tree, a still figure, apparently human. He turns her way and nods, a gesture of permission and Jade approaches slowly.

“ How fragile we are.Is not it true?” He says inviting her to seat on the bench.

“I do not like all these things that are happening to the innocent people.The sadness and stress are hard to bear.” Her forehead wrinkles as she say.

“You try your best to help others and sometimes you have to gather more energy to move ahead. Stress will come but at the same time you need to learn how to cope with that. You seat in a quiet room, close your eyes and listen carefully. What is it you hear? Not traffic,not much sound.” he says “ You hear something but what? The mind itself. The world hum.”

As he explains she tries to understand what it means, she wants to heal herself and others. She closes her eyes.She is able to say what she feels and she is also the same person who stands outside the feelings. All the words themselves all there is or she is just the words. she listens to what she hears. She can feel the time! It feels like she tries to become someone or she is inside something. Is this her own body! Where is she? She is the first person and the third person. She is with all the people she watched in the news and they are in her. Is she trapped? Or this is the reality? Her mind lengthens and reaches them, console them touching their hearts.

Her memory

Blur

Every hour a thought floats to the surface. If we’re all going to end up happy together in Heaven then why does anyone wait? A big sadness hangs behind her ribs, sharp and gleaming, and it’s all she can do to keep breathing. She does not know the reason but one early morning she had to fly to her grandfather’s house with her dog Luke. She never goes anywhere without her parents! Her grandfather’s house is long and narrow, like a train  and it has five bedrooms: a big living room in the front, a rectangle kitchen, a prayer room, one study room and other two are bedrooms.  The windows are all the same but the color and the pattern of  lacy curtains are different in each one.Grand father hugged her in the middle of a sentence and there are tears on his cheeks. “ Are you okay?” Riana asks with deep concern in her eyes.

“ Yes, now that you are here everything will be fine.” He replies. He says that there was a time when all the houses were a collective farm and grandmother used to walk everyday to work in a chemical plant. She was a brave woman. Now she has to be hooked up to her oxygen machine every night. “ It must be the chemicals!” He says with a heavy sigh. It is cancer. First they found it in my mom, then in dad in his lungs. She imagines cancer as a tree: big, black, leafless nasty tree which took her parent’s lives. Riana walked into her grandmother’s room to meet her. Her face resembles a lot with her mother. “ Hello grandma!”

She smiles and asks her to sit on her bed. “How are you young woman? It is so nice to see you here. Make yourself home and feel free to ask if you need anything. Your grandpa will help you.” “Thank you grandma.”

In the afternoon Riana stands on the front porch.Out side she can hear the little white butterflies are looping through the willows, the grasshoppers chewing the leaves.

“God made the world and everything in it.” says her grandfather. Riana thinks, then why isn’t everything perfect? She wants her parents back in her life. Up in the sky she sees her dad sipping coffee and watching the evening news and her mother reading a book leaning on the couch. Their cat is taking a nap on a piece of  old newspaper. It is not that blurry at all.

“ Tell me about my mom.” Riana asks her grandmother sitting on her bed. She glances over and then her eyes are a thousand miles away. She tells all trips down the river in boat, fun days of picnics in the park,  time that they spent in the swing set reading stories together. Suddenly she pauses and closes her eyelids. Riana understands and leaves the room quietly.

Oné rainy day,when she was five something happened to her. Her mother called the family physician and she put some drops in her eyes. Pretty soon all Riana could see are blurs and colors.Dad was a fog a mom was a smudge and world looked like it does when your eyes are full of tears. A couple of hours later, right when she was riding in the back seat of mom’s car, the world started coming back to focus. She could see the trees, the leaves more clearly dark on the top and pale on the undersides, are moving independently but still in concert with others.

Almost everyday she misses her parents; mom walking into the grocery store holding her hand or to the library picking books for her and the bicycle ride and story time with her dad.Sometimes in the silence she feels her mom, together with her, under the beautiful sun, both of with decades to live.

Her grandfather does not believe her. He sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on the small table with droopy eyes and broken blood vessels in his cheeks. He wipes his eyes and tells her that she needs read more books and start thinking about school. Riana stands close to her grandfather. “You don’t believe in anything that you can not see or feel? I believe in souls and I feel my mother on my side. Even I see her and dad sitting on the puffy cloud” Riana says angrily and leaves the room.

That night she lays in her bed with her grandmother. The unpainted plaster of the wall slowly cracking all around her. She tries to remember a sentence mom or dad said but everything seem so blurry!

Dense fog and sunny day

Discover

There is no time for luck or good fortune or discovering new things in life instead to be at work from early morning to midnight. Jade works in a garment factory where she sews until her arms fall asleep. She sews elegant and expensive dresses which wind up looking very nice on Italian, Canadian, Swedish, American women, different ones for every season. Cutting, stitching, finishing, ironing, packing all the time makes life more difficult when you are not worthy of the product. It is difficult to break the agreement and to look for another job. She sits quietly looking at her severely dry long bony fingers. Her father used to say that long fingers are perfect for drawing, playing piano or any musical instrument, they are very artistic fingers. She remembers when for the first time she played the ‘Flight of the bumbled bee’; she played like lightning, every note so clear and perfect that the audience  were mesmerized and then clapped hard. It was her greatest revelation. But now it seems as though her life has been rolled up like a newspaper, fastened with a rubber band and tossed into the bushes. After her father passed away she started the job in this garment factory. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above her head. It settles on her one arm, she tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of her neck, below her ear. It escapes and perches on the window frame. Jade tries to shoo it out through the open window into the air; she wants it to fly freely in the open air and to enjoy its freedom. She wants it also for herself and the people of Syria.

Sunlight falls in the long hall, while fluorescent light burns overhead. All the ladies are like tired children of a camp. Jade’s heart thumps inside her head. She leaves the half-stitched dress in the showing machine and grabs her small handbag.

Next morning She stands with a cup of hot tea. she holds the chipped cup delicately pinching the curved handle between her thumb and forefinger. She looks outside of her kitchen window. There the small black birds fly through a vast stretch of sky in circles of their own invention. This morning they are flying low and by looking at them she could tell that it is a whole new day.

Jade does not have the luxury of a car so she walks aimlessly on the streets to discover something new. The street side vendors are a destination, inviting her to linger. She sits on a wooden stool and orders ice-cream. Just when her exasperation at the wait  reaches the breaking point, the ice-cream arrives. It is a mix flavors of vanilla, chocolate with so many nuts. She takes one spoonful of ice-cream and it is delicious! She leans at the edge of the chair, her eyes wander around. At one corner of the street, under a small leafy tree an old woman sits. She is very frail and bony and from her torn, heavily patched cloth she looks very poor. She stares straight ahead, seemingly lost in memories. Jade stops eating and walks up to the woman. “ Would you like to try this?” She asks as she hands her the cup. She opens her purse and gives a few rupees. A grateful, happy warm smile lingers on the old lady’s face.

It is almost evening. Jade is all wrapped up, the decorated street lamps and lighted windows are glittering, the frost bit into her face, her lips feel like frozen crusts of bread, cheeks are smooth and cold as porcelain. The sky and streets are full of Christmas spirit. Jade stands in-front of a shop, her arms folded on her stomach, one foot crossed. The concentration is on the beautiful gown on the mannequin. “ I would love to see that on me.” Then she steps back. She has to save the money until she finds another job. “ Well, nothing wrong in just trying.” She murmurs and walks into the store. The heavy glass door opens in a soft click. She stands in-front of the long rectangular mirror with the dress. The sales woman asks her adjusting the belt on the dress. “ It looks so pretty on you and fits perfectly. Would you like to buy this?”

“ I will think about it, thank you.” Jade replies touching the soft fabric of the  blue dress and watching the news on the small television on the wall-” The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebels held part of Aleppo ended yesterday, after weeks of heavy fighting, Damascus announces complete victory in the battle to retake eastern Aleppo from rebels.”

That is the best part of her discovery. The dress falls into the floor as she runs around the room, a huge smile sparkle on her overly excited face, she is happy for all the people and especially the children . Her struggle is not much comparable to the people of Aleppo.