Imaginary

“ Can you give me a house?” The boy asks standing close to the huge tree.

“ I have no house,” replies the tree. The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house.Then you will be happy.” The tree smiles.

The boy without any further thought, cuts off the tree branches to build his own house. It hurts the tree but she keeps quiet. She is just delighted to see the boy, her childhood friend.

“ Disgusting! So ungrateful! Selfish boy!” Hope uncrosses her legs, sits upright, legs drawn in and her eyebrow bends. She closes the book with a thump and hides it deep behind the other books in the walnut bookcase. As she turns around,she hears her mother’s voice from the kitchen.

“ Hope!It is almost time for school.”

Hope glances at the windsor cherry finish clock on the wall. It is almost 8.30 am. She marches through the narrow hallway to the dining room to grab her lunch box. Something fluttering out the  glass window caught her eyes. A bright cardinal sitting in the pine tree and staring directly at her. For a moment their eyes locked, and they look at one another their heads slightly tilted. “Welcome my new friend!” The cardinal chirps and then takes a flight, cheerfully. Hope’s gaze returns to the dining table.

“Did you memorize the timetable?” Her mother sips her tea, trying to look at her sideways with the cup at her lower lip.

“O, snap!” Hope nods her head in disbelief and tries to find out a reasoning.That is the main reason that she wakes up real early but she completely forgot! It must be the way she has arranged her books in the book shelve. Her study room has two doors. If you enter from the right side, then immediately you will notice the school books in the bottom shelve. But from the left side of the entrance your eyes directly fall  on the wonderful story books. Well,there is no other reasons to verify this event, so she must have the right conclusion. Now she realizes that instead of memorizing the time table, why she read a few pages of the book The Giving Tree.And she does not like the greedy, self-centered boy at all. “ Nope ! Nope! The friendship is such an amazing thing and the boy did not care to keep it! And on the other hand the tree is so affectionate, so kindhearted and so thoughtful! I am confident that my tree friends are wonderful like the tree in the book.

“Hope! Did you memorize or not? You need to focus more on your math.” her mother looks directly at her, one eyebrow arched.

Hope does not like to lie to her mother. There is something mysterious in mother’s eyes! They understand your inner feelings without any confession.She bends down to tie her shoes avoiding her mother’s eyes.” Don’t worry mom, it will be fine.I am getting late for school. Bye.” She leaves and her mother tilts her head back to sip the warm tea.

 

The bell rings for the first class.Hope sits with her two elbows on the small table, her hands clasped in front of her, her two fingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips.Hope tries her best to remember the time table before the class starts. She could remember up to the 7 but gets stuck in the eight table. The door opens and math teacher appears.He sits on his chair, takes the roll calls. He closes the book,pushes the chair to one side and abruptly stands up. He starts to ask question in a random order. Suddenly his eyes falls on Hope.

“ Hope! Please stand up. What is eight times eight?

Hope tries to count in her head. She stands straight. “ Sixty two.”

“It is hard to hear your voice. Come to the front of the class and speak clearly.”

Hope’s forehead and palms are warm and sweaty. As she tries to walk her way from her seat, her unstable nervous hand bumps into other notebooks and they fall in a pile. All the student’s curious eyes  are on her. She does not know where to look. “ Sorry! Pardon me!” She tries to  picks up the books from the floor.

She stands in the front. Her unstable nervous hands squeeze both sides of her maroon skirt.She closes her eyes for a second to do her prayer but suddenly she forgets the right one. Instead she begs the wonderful, kind tree of the story book. “Please help me.I will be your best friend forever and will not hurt you in any way.”

“ What is eight times eight?” A deep voice echoes.

A long breath.

Hope opens her eyes to answer. “ Sixty two.”

“What?” Now the voice is not only deeper but it sounds more angrier.

“Sorry, it is sixty four for sure.” Her voice is confident.

“ Excellent!Next week I will start the question with you so be prepared. You may go back to your seat.” The math teacher turns his attention to the class.

That evening after school, Hope opens the iron gate of her house and runs to the garden. She has to give this wonderful news first to all her friends in the vast garden.

 

Detonate

 

Lora nervously smooths her skirt and then her hair, and asks to see Mr.Daniel as soon as the butler appears. A small smile ebbs across his face. “Please have a seat,ma’am,” he says gesturing dramatically to a marble living room filled with elegant  furniture. He disappears without a sound. Lora walks into the living room her small heels echoing throughout the enormous, empty space.Sunlight glints off the shiny floors and reflects the gilded, mirrored furniture. She takes a seat in a stiff, high-backed upholstered chair, places her portfolio against the chair and then takes a deep breath. After a while of waiting, she takes a few echoing steps towards a set of massive French doors and pulls on one.The door opens with a silent whoosh and walks outside. Her eyes widens. Stunning, she thinks.

Colors immediately overwhelms her visual senses: the home is white, sleek, almost an homage to an ancient Greek structure and it sits against a towering hill lines with cypress and old grape vines. The outdoor patio is a world unto itself; the waterfall, the white clouds and house. She turns back into the room and opens her portfolio. She pulls out the sketchpad and set of soft pastel and begins to paint. For the longest time, the only sounds are the waterfall, her pastel dragging along the paper and two hummingbirds chasing one another around the patio.

“It is beautiful!”

She stops drawing, drops her pastel and reaches out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir,” she says.

Daniel smiles his famed dimpled smile. He extends his hand and takes a seat. He has a short-sleeved polo shirt and black pants, his dark hair slicked to one side. “ May I?” he asks, reaching out his hands for her sketchbook. He studies for a second, his dimples growing even deeper. “ You are hired. When can you start?” he says handing her back the pad. “ You are a real talent. It is lovely to meet you and let me know when your design plans are finalized and we’ll get started. I am sorry but I have another meeting.” He stands and shakes her hands again before lifting it up into the air. “ I trust your hands with my home,” he says before sauntering away.

Lora watches her beloved pastels roll over the paper, her smile widens across her face.

“What should I paint on the frame?” asks her daughter Summer, shaking her from her memories.

“Up to you,” Lora says into her mic, toggling her wheelchair closer to view what her daughter is sketching: the sun and the clouds. “Pretty.”

“ But it is boring mom, not like your paintings.” Summer says, her face serious as she scans the yard and the horizon.

“Close your eyes, be still. It is in quiet the wonder begins.”

Summer keeps her eyes shut. For a moment, there is complete silence. Suddenly she opens her eyes and watch the lanky,grey bodied, crimson-capped birds head nearby wetlands and the exquisite sunrise. “ I got it !” she says, setting down her pastel and picking up a paint brush. After a few minutes, Summer stops and turns to Lora.

“Is painting what it’s like to be you?”

Lora looks at her little girl and raises her eyebrows. Tears rushed to Lora’s eyes, but she swallows hard to stop their rise. “Yes.” she says, her voice breaking. You are exactly right. It is like I’m stuck in place but my mind is flying and full of wonder. I can do anything in my imagination and be anyone I want in my head, even though I can’t move.”

“That must be an art,” Summer says, nodding her head. Now I understand mom.” She turns her heels and begins to paint again. She holds the frame for her mother to inspect, her posture rigid and a proud look on her face. “What do you think?”

Lora’s eyes widened. On the frame, Summer has painted a birch arching over the window, its bark white. Instead of leaves, she has painted faces: Lora’s, her father Daniel’s’, her brother Don’s and her own. On the right side of the frame, she has painted Family Tree in pink. The thought behind it is very mature and deeply sensitive.

“Beautiful,” she says. “ You are a true artist. I am proud of you. Never give up.”

“ Thank you mom,” she says taking a dramatic bow. Today I will present this best gift to my  dad.”

Lora’s husband Daniel died in the last deployment, in Afghanistan although she survived.  Lora wipes her tears and looks at her daughter. “ Your father will love this gift.Go get ready to visit dad.”

 

 

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.

Here and Beyond

Vivid

Olivia climbs the stairs all the way up, negotiating the steep and treacherous stairs to tell Matt that he has missed a very important phone call. It is treacherous because they are remodeling their house again and stairs are just stones piling on each other. The caller, she says was a woman, whose name she did not catch. He waits. She is looking dreamily beyond him now, out through the sloped window in front of the desk, to the hills in the distance, pale blue and flat. What, he asks gently, had this woman on the phone wished to speak to me about? Olivia with an effort withdraws her gaze from the view. “A film, she says in which it seems you have an offer in a leading part.”

This is interesting. Matt has never acted in film before. He inquirers as to the movie title or what it is to be  about. Olivia’s look grows vague, more vague that it has been up to now. “ She did not tell any title or about the movie.” She lowers her head and frowns at her husband from under her eyebrow in solemn silence, like a child who has been asked a difficult and onerous question the answer to which she does not know.

“Never mind, no doubt the woman will call again.” He says.

Olivia was very sharp but now it has changed a little. Her glossy, kohl-black eyes have lately taken on a faded, filmy aspect which worries her husband Matt. Some nights are different from the others. She wakes up or at least leaps from bed, and goes dashing in the dark through all the rooms , upstairs and down, calling their daughter’s name. It is kind of sleepwalker state which seems to her real thing that her daughter is living, trapped in one of the room of the house. Matt holds her still until she grows quiet. “ She is there in her bedroom,” she whispers in the dark. A long deep sigh. They lay on the bed on their backs for a long time holding each other’s hands. Around them the hall furniture stand dimly in the gloom like shocked and speechless attendants.

After their daughter’s sudden death Olivia finds herself venturing, tentatively to entertain the possibility not of the next world, exactly, but of a world next to this one, contiguous with it where there might linger somehow the spirit of those who no longer here and yet not entirely gone either. When she overhears people speaking of bereaved, she hungrily scans their faces to see if they really believe their lost one not entirely gone.

The curtains are thick and drawn tightly shut and Matt does not realize the dawn has come up until he sees forming above him a brightly shimmering image that spreads itself until it stretches over almost the ceiling. At first he takes it for a hallucination generates out of his sleep-deprived. “ I can see her clearly. Look at her pretty blue dress with white laces and colorful tiny mirrors on the bottom of the dress.” Olivia whispers clutching Matt’s hand.

” I remember this dress. It really looks good on her. This is the one we purchased in one of our trip to Agra. Right?” Matt asks turning his face slowly towards his wife.

” Yes. She spotted this dress in one of the roadside shop in-front of the Taj Mahal.” Olivia replies with a small smile. ”

They speak in whispers as if the very action of their voices might shatter the frail assemblages of light and spectral color of the image above them.The thing seems to vibrate inside itself, as if the teeming particles of light itself. Surely they feel this is not entirely a natural phenomenon for which there would be a perfectly simple scientific explanation. But surely this is a thing given to them as a gift, a greeting, in other words a sure sign to comfort them that their daughter is there. They lay there watching it , awestruck for a long time. As the sun rise the world above them are setting, retreating along the ceiling until it develops a hinge at one edge and begins to slide steadily down the far wall and pour itself at last into the carpet. Straight away they get up and start their dealing with the day. They are comforted a little until the wonder of the spectacle to which they have been treated begin to diffuse, to slip and slide. They absorb into the ordinary things of life.

Evaporation

Translate

She is alone in the suit. She sits in an armchair, wearing a robe and slippers and appears to be asleep. Her lean face, silver hair uncombed, pale hands folded in her lap. Celia sits on a cushioned bench watching and waiting. Soon her thoughts fall away from the still figure in the chair.Celia loves her mother who sits before her, leaning into the light shade by a table lamp nearby. Her mother is like a friend and they talk and discuss everything. It is hard to see her mother in this situation. She wishes her dad to take care of her mother. Her father defines terms, draws diagrams, rushing to airport or preparing for conferences. At home he stands before a full-length mirror reciting from memory speeches he works on, refining his gestures and facial expressions. He never has time for his wife.Her mother is a lover of daylight and dense of life. She gathers and tends children, teaches a course in an adult education program, belongs to a group of volunteers who read to the blind. Her mother opens her eyes. She is not surprise to see Celia. She knows that Celia will be the first one to appear on her side.She takes Celia’s hands and holds it.

“ It is so nice to have you here. How was your flight?” Her voice is a near whisper. She has trouble dealing with the congested syllables in few words. Celia is very close to her mother and she wants to make sure that her mother will be taken good care of. She moves her chair closer to her mother.

“ If you don’t mind then I would like to ask you something. Do you think about the kind of world you’ll be returning to?”

“ I don’t think about anything. There is the final point. It is a moment never to be thought of except when it is in the process of unfolding.” She replies taking a sip of water from the glass.

“ Think of the age of the earth, oceans appearing and disappearing, think of the age of galaxy. All those billion years. And you, me and all others. We live and die in a flash.” She continues to speak. She is all face and hands, body gathered up within the folds of the robe.

“ What will happen? Do you have any idea?” Celia asks tucking her mother’s hair behind her ear. Her mother knows the rigors of science and sometimes she is philosophical just like her father.

“ My grand father used to say that,lines of brilliant light, every material thing in its fullness, a pure object. They are everywhere, of course in libraries, in museums, in mud, places of worships.” She closes her eyes for a moment and then looks back at Celia.

“ The person is a mask, the created character in the medley of dramas that constitute your life. The mask drops and the person becomes you  in its truest meaning. It is the conscious mind that stays. The reality is that everything has a beginning and an end to it, so don’t worry about that.”

Celia leans her head on her mother’s shoulder. It is hard to understand her mother’s philosophical meaning on life. She wants her mother to be happy and to enjoy the last few days of her life..

“ I understand mom, just testing your knowledge.” Says jokingly.

 

unique

Lukewarm

There are large blank patches in her memory that shift locale daily, unpredictably. Every morning when Hope wakes, she remembers something that the day before she has been unable to recall her house number, phone number or the name of the book. Then an hour or two later she notices a batch of new blanks she can not remember her social security number, the name of a few mysterious vegetables in her refrigerator.She has been told by her doctor so many times to let her family know that but she does not care much.A nurse visits her every morning.Although she does not expect the day to play out like this.Around nine in the morning, nurse Jena enters to her room without knocking. She draws back the white curtains and the sunlight floods the room. From her bed Hope glances the sloping meadow, the pretty pond, the waterside houses and her irritation passes.

“Let’s check the vitals,” Jena says. “ Get ready to take a walk in the garden.” She is an abrupt, oval-faced woman with graying wavy hair. She treats her like a small girl who Hope does not like at all. But sometimes she likes Jena’s crisp personality and her bark of laugh when she resists her attempts to get her up or make her follow a strict diet or to drink eight glasses of water in a day.

Hope has been told by her surgeon not to live alone after the heart transplant.The residue of  painkillers and anesthesia lives for six to seven months. Her insurance covers some, but not much. Now that the new president in office, he wants to repel the one health care that she has  but not sure what will happen in future. Hope is stubborn to depend on others.

The doctor has called dozens of times since the surgery about her heart. But Hope is tired to talk to anyone.

Awake. The pulsing cry of doves. Hope cranks the shutters open. She takes the coffee mug from the drain basket, sets the water boiling.She lapses into thought, as she stretches her legs, pushing the chair back against the wall.Today she should return the call.

“ Hello doctor! You tried to reach me?” Hope asks running her hand through her hair very lightly, just once.

“ How are you feeling Hope? Yes, I tried to reach you several times because the mother who donated her deceased daughter’s heart wants to meet you.”

They are both silent for a moment.

“ She wants to meet me! But I am not sure if I can handle that doctor.” Hope places her right hand onto her heart and feels its sturdy beat.It belongs to the young girl who died in the car accident.“I guess I owe her a lot, right? I mean she is the one who made the decision to donate her daughter’s organ. Well, sure doctor I will go for a short visit.” A pause fills her chest.

“ Thank you Hope.This will be better for both of you.”

It is lovely day, the sky is bleached turquoise color. The meeting is set on the top of a hill,close to a small white church. Hope stands steadily for a few seconds, then squares her shoulders and slowly walks up to the top of a hill breathing hard, leaning heavily on her cane, her heart pounding. There the woman stands in a white dress.Young enough to be her daughter, Hope thinks. Short wisps of brown hair crosses her forehead, no makeup or any jewelry. She extends her right arm. “ I am Alexis,thank you for agreeing to meet me. I am so sorry that you have to walk all the way up.”

“ It is fine,I need some exercise too.” Hope says with a small smile. “ It is so thoughtful of you to make this decision.”

“ My daughter was very close to my heart. It was very difficult for me to leave without her.” She looks up to meet Hope’s eyes. “ I want to listen to her and feel her. That is the reason I want to meet you.”Alexis walks closer. She leans her face forward towards Hope’s chest and closes her eyes. She listens to her daughter’s heart.Tears run down on her cheek.They stand there for a long time holding each other.

Determined

Overwhelming

Louisa places herself on the sofa between a sheet and a soft blanket, her head resting on a white pillow. She closes her eyes and folds up, elbows at her midsection, hands pressed together between her knees. She lay in a kind of timeless drift, a mind work spiral, carried on half formed thoughts. She opens her eyes again. She hears something that sounds like sand spilling, a trickle of gritty dust between the walls of the room and the room begins to move in a creaking sigh. Louder, powerfully. The wind makes the shutters swing and bang.Louisa sits up for a long second,deeply thoughtful, before throwing off her blanket. She listens to the edges of the room, the interfaces. She rushes to the door and opens it, half aware of rattling lampshades. She grips the edge of door frame and faces into the room. All the things inside are jumping up and down.She opens the door and stands until the shaking stops.  She pushes her hands against the door searching for a calmness in herself.

The sky is low and grey.The traffic lights are dark in certain areas. The long lines of cars, knotted and bent. Outside the streets are crowded with people.Voices fall around her. The noise subsides then begins to build again. The world is narrowed down to inside and outside.

People call to each other on the street. Out side she has the oddest conversation with one of her neighbor. She has hardly said a word before this. Suddenly he wants to talk. “ The news said a power station may have failed, causing a flash. Thirteen people were dead.”

“ What will we do? The older woman with a dog in her tight arms asks “I thought my heart was going to jump right through my chest. I have never met this in my whole life! It is so scary!”

“We will wait and see.” The man says in a deeply concerned voice.

The older woman raises her eyebrow. “ I don’t think we should wait, instead we have to act in an intelligent way.

Louisa smiles. She has made up her mind.The loud, empty noise like an earthquake can not scare her.There is no point of sitting back and wait for magic to happen. Louisa shakes her head.The scale of justice has tilted a lot in wrong direction. Constitutional principles and societal values should not be threatened.They have to make the things happen and it is no doubt that they will. She walks straight into the big group of crowd to raise her voice and fight for civil right, women’s right and equal justice.

Solving a dilemma

Conundrum

Olivia and Paul try their best but the house itself start to takes part.

The lamps dismount from their stands at the slightest touch, the glass from the frames start to shatter when anyone walk past them, the air inside the house  has acquired a poisonous residue from the negative things they have said to each other. Now the house is haunted with pain. One could feel it  the minute  one walks in the door.

They sit there on the white sofa unsmiling, neither of them say anything. A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the floor.It is so oddly quiet, as if  the house is holding its breath. Both husband and wife are like two becalmed sailing ships carrying sailors from different countries who shout and curse at each other as they drift farther and farther apart. Sometimes they forget the nicest things that they do for each other.

Olivia sails past Paul, then makes a half turn and looks over at him in the gathering dusk with a genuine expression of surprise. An acute observer would detect the presence of rich nature, warm heart, thoughtful intelligent eyes. Olivia twists her wedding ring. This is the man for whom she fought with everyone to marry. Now she should try her best to fix the problem. She would rather find happiness in the quiet of ordinary things; a book, a petal falling from a flower or an extraordinary shape of a rock.

Miracle happens everyday they are rarely tallied. No one keeps the score.

A late afternoon in November. Olivia sits up startled, gasping. Her husband Paul appears at the door. “Is everything okay?” He asks irritably flipping the pages of a book.

Olivia smiles. “ I had a strange dream!”

Paul turns around. “During the afternoon?It is really awkward.’’ Paul glances at the clock. “ It is almost one thirty. You should spend time in your sketch or writing.” He evidently wish to return to his reading.

Olivia murmurs. “ Well, my dream was strange but sweet.She smiles mischievously. “ There is a handsome man in my dream and I would rather enjoy his company.” She hums a few lines of an old romantic Bollywood song and lays back on the bed.

Paul closes the book that he is reading and stares at his wife. “ How absurd and nonsense!. Keep your silly dream to yourself.” He walks out from the bedroom.

Next morning is very delightful.

As Olivia tries to cover the rose bushes from freezing rain Paul walks into the deck. “ Are not you going to work?”

Paul gives Olivia a helping hand and says, “ I have taken off from work to spend some time here.”

Olivia raises her eyebrows and laughs a charming little laugh.

Candle

Candle

A very pretty October afternoon. Outside the blue sky and white clouds tumble over each other. Jane has decided to stay home and read. The library books in her blue tote bag are each chosen  carefully because the blurbs on the back promise love and happy endings. She settles on the sofa with a cup of herbal tea. An acute observer would detect the presence of a rich nature. And looking closer, might also discover the depths of her kind, loving heart.

The doctor don’t stop by much anymore, the nurse only come in to give medications and the families hover in the doorways assuring one another that everything will be fine in due course. At this moment Jane steps in as  a volunteer, to be the last witness.Jane agrees to make tables capes: to be the one who sits and waits once a situation turns into truly hopeless. After her grand mother’s death in cancer she dedicates most of her time in caring for others.

Jane always imagines lives to be funnel-shaped, they grow narrow as we age and we all begin to swirl faster and faster until the concept of a day or an hour or a year no longer has any meaning.She strongly believes in love and faith to heal others in need.

In the late afternoon her phone vibrates, it is the Hospice again. Jane drives to meet another new person who needs her care. Jane knocks softly adjusting her plaid pleated skirt. An old woman in a peach colored cotton gown opens the door. Her white hair is pulled into a loose bun. She straightens eye-glass.

“ Are you Jane?”

Jane smiles and nods her head. “ You must be Darlene.” Jane says shaking Darlene’s heavily veined but soft hand.

“ Please come in. I want someone to talk to me.People, I mean families, friends used to come and give me company but slowly they stop talking to me.” She folds her arms across her chest. “ Life gets lonely and boring staying in one room. I want real talk.”  She says pouring a small glass of juice in and handing that to Jane. Her heavily veined hands are hidden nicely inside a pair of cotton gloves.

“ I can do that.”Jane replies.

Seventy five years old Darlene has cancer. “ Come sit here tell me about yourself?” Darlene slips one hand into her pocket and pulls out two pieces of fruit flavored candies. “ Doctor has warned me not to take any unhealthy sweet but this is my guilty pleasure.” She giggles handing one to Jane.

They chat for one hour, play one or two card game, recite some poem together until Darlene is ready for her afternoon nap. She used to read tons of books, take long walks but now she does not have energy to thumb through the magazines, even small walks make her tired. Sighing  loudly Darlene stretches out and gets ready for her nap. “This is not fun at all. But your company is very enjoyable.”

The last round of chemo appears to have done  the trick. Doctors are ready to let Darlene go home. But she comes back in two days. She can no longer screen out the everyday toxins of life, so she will spend her last Christmas in Hospice house after all.

Jane takes a couple of movies along with a bag of popcorn and the oversize box of raisins which Darlene loves.

Darlene is excited to see Jane again. “ Come here to the bed. I can not sit so we will watch the movie from here.”

It is the Christmas day. Darlene has been sick all week. The cold has dragged on and her lungs have gotten worse. It is obvious that her immune system has given up.

Jane is in the middle of rearranging her book shelf, when the phone rings. She rushes to see Darlene.A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the grey floor. Darlene can not stand to open her eyes and finds herself back in this place where Christmas is carted away in boxes, where angels are being taped into bubble wrap. Jane pulls a chair. She does not have any book to read so instead she sings her favorite Christmas carol to Darlene. “ Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright..” Jane chokes into tears. She sees the rest of  Darlene’s life in a flash, like a child’s flip book, the pages rushing forward and the pencil thin illustrations slimming down. Jane’s generous heart always wants to see others happy. She does not want to lose Darlene.

This time Darlene opens her eyes. “Hi! You look so pretty in this blue dress! The color is so good on you!” She touches Jane’s hand and wraps her fingers around. “You are an angel! In a few days you brought so much happiness to me. And I enjoy all your stories on hiking trips. If I recover soon then we will go together.” A small smile beams on her face as she closes her tired eyes holding Jane’s hand softly in her.

candle

Daring

Daring

Darlene moves back and forth between kitchen island and refrigerator, between stove and the sink with an insatiable energy. Her husband sits at the breakfast table with a I pad, trying to remember which section of the news he has not finished. He hears his wife’s monologue on an instrument.

“ I am trying to read the news,” he points out. But he lifts his eyes from the I pad.

“What is bothering you?”

Darlene wipes her hand on the corner of her tie-dyed blue dress and pulls another chair close to her husband. She looks out of her brown eyes from beneath her long bangs and asks,“ I have agreed to take part in a group performance  in a chapel in this weekend, but not sure if I can really play.” She toys with the music piece on her hand and says, ” I get so nervous in front of people and even I am not musical enough.”

“ Of course you are. Remember how you did not know how to play piano and then after practices you have started to play so nicely.” Her husband says taking one spoonful of oatmeal. “ Just like we used to say to our children Be confident, and you will do fine.”

Darlene is a little shy but stubborn. Her creative mind is always dares to try new things and to achieve the best.She has a clarinet, which responds much more readily to her breath. Sometimes she tends to be panic if any note gets too high. She blushes. Her cheeks suddenly matches the tint of her eyelids and the rose color sinks into her throat. The other day, her friend Andrea, eagerly smiling woman in long bangs, a tangle of gold and turquoise pendants speaks up in her music class. “ I like when you play with so much attention and you are really good at it! Why don’t you join our team?”

Darlene smiles. “ What team? I am a new learner, but I am not sure about a performance.”

Andrea arranges the flute on a wooden box and says. “ You should try. We will perform in front of a small group and we have one long month to practice.”

There is a little concern in Darlene’s eyes. She hesitates and then replies. ” I will let you know and thanks a lot for the suggestion.”

Darlene has made up her mind to play in the music group.

A cold Friday evening in November, the  day of the performance. Scarves, mittens, down coats pile up on the corner in the back room; boots accumulate under it. Cold fingers unfold the steel music stands, chilled mouth pieces are tenderly held in arms. Darlene adjusts her plaid pleated long black skirt and sits on one of the wooden chair. Her slightly protruding brown eyes intent on the sheet music, her nicely shaped thick eyebrows arched in concentration.When all are in place, a fidgety cough and a narrow giggle. Finally they hear “ one, two,three, start.” There is a unified intake of breath and the astounding manifestation. Darlene tries her best to make it perfect.  The concert is a success. There are happy tears on her face. She is proud of her bravery to perform in front of the audience. Infected by the warmth of the audience, the musical group join their sweaty hands and bow.

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Lekhamisra

Lekhamisra

Hello and Namaste to my wonderful bloggers and readers. I am Lekha, grew up in one of the beautiful city of Odisha in the mystical land India. My paternal grandmother was a perfect story teller- stories of brave kings and queens to stories of freedom fighters, to stories on kindness,honesty, compassion, truthfulness. As soon as I learned to read, my marvelous adventures started through the fairy tales, the mysteries, the classics and the autobiographies. O’ Yes, it was lots of fun! Life got busy with my son and daughter in their school,library, music class, dance class, tennis, soccer, scout, debate...Staying active is very important for me. I have a deep affection and respect to Nature. After the children started their own lives, enormous time has poured into my weekends. I decide to do devout my time in volunteering. But still I could not satisfy my hunger and craving to do something more. One evening, I was reading some article on international issues on children, women,and on animal cruelty, which were very disturbing, traumatic and sad. It is very hard to see others in suffering. Life is more fulfilling and rich when you help others, when you bring smile on others. “ Be a rainbow in someone else’s clouds.”- Maya Angelou. So I start to write again. I want my writing to be a strong voice for others in distress; for the innocent animals,for children, for women, on global warming and for all other social causes. Sometimes the truth is hard to digest but I am determined to reflect on those topics to make my readers aware on social issues. And I am thankful to WordPress for providing this wonderful platform to express my observation, views and dreams. I hope you explore the stories,enjoy and leave appropriate comments.

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