Letter to Lucy

Darling Lucy,

How are you? Hope you are feeling better! I am missing you a lot! It has been two long days since you left us. I did n’t expect you to leave so suddenly when I was not home. Your absence is so strong, palpable in the air around me. At the same time I didn’t want you to suffer so much. I understand that you were having such a terrible time in breathing. You felt so in restless that you ran from the front door to the back door and to the front door again. Do you remember that? It was Thursday, March 29th when Lasu dropped his dog Milton here with us. I bet you were thrilled to see him around. That afternoon you even eat a little food from his bowl. Everyday, I used to give the same food to both of you,but you thought that Milton’s food was more special than yours. You are silly! It is the opposite. I used to sneak a piece of chapati, spoonful of Basmati rice into your food bowl, so that you will finish your food without any fuss. I am not sure what happened that night. I noticed you ran towards the front door and then to the back door. Dad thought you wanted to go for a walk and I opened the front door and called you to follow me without the leash. You leaped forward,sniffing the whole front lawn eagerly, but decided to come back inside and followed me to the kitchen. It felt like your heart had jumped through a hundred hoops.Your eyes were begging for something and maybe I did not understand properly. I gave you two pieces of the lemon bread and you ate them all,you licked the bowl clean and even licked the floor. Did you really like the bread or wanted to  make me happy?    

Hope you are having fun- enjoying your time in taking longer naps, smelling beautiful flowers and walking around. I have read in books that heaven is the most blissful place. I would love to know how you are passing your time. You are always shy at strangers at first but slowly warmed up to them. Make more friends and enjoy each bit.

 It is hard to come home without you following me around, dozing at my feet while I was reading a book or watching Netflix. Yesterday I warmed up two rotis for you and some steamed broccoli. I sat at the dinner table and pretended that you were standing there very close to the chair and begging for food without blinking your eyes. In the night I woke up three times to check on you; to make sure if you are breathing fine or if you want to go out. You were in deep sleep on your navy bed with two white pillows at both sides. You enjoyed leaning your head on the pillows. I did not hear your click-clock sound on the floor so I went back to sleep. But it is not that easy! I can still feel your presence. I assumed you were standing besides my bed and staring at my face. Your beautiful eyes with long white,expressive eyelashes. You knew very well how to tell a story through your eyes. That must be a god-given quality of yours!I  I am confident that you are an angel in the form of a dog.

You always wanted to go on a long drive like Milton does with Lasu. In the middle of March, during my Spring break, you were not feeling well; had a cough and lost your appetite. Dad was thinking of leaving you with Chad for a few days until we return from a trip. This is Covid time so we couldn’t fly, so I thought you may enjoy the ride with us rather than staying back here in Kingwood. A car ride! You came to the car wagging your long bushy tail and with a buzz of excitement. It made me excited, too.Three of us in our Toyota Rava left for Zion National park. It was a pretty long drive but we stopped time to time to help you in eating food and water. While I was driving, I noticed how occasionally, you lifted yourself from your dog bed, leaned on the back window and watched the scenery passing by. You stuck your nose out the window, drinking in the smells that rushed pass.Remember how windy it was while driving through the national forest and you wanted to drink water. We stopped the car on the roadside and opened the trunk to help you. I gave you a few pieces of the potato fry and insisted you to eat your medicine. You were so stubborn to eat the medicine that I had to wrap the medicine in a piece of bread to help you swallow it. It was not that bad. Was it? I bet you didn’t know that you eat the medicine. You looked outside and was surprised when the whole bag of fry flew out from my hand and the bag rolled over towards the other side of the road. You didn’t know that it was the wind and you thought I threw it. Right? We started driving. You sat there and watched the magnificent desert sunset with us.The sky was tinged with color, a motley jumble of pink, purple and yellow streaks that bore down from the west. It was so pretty!You lifted your head. A moment later, as if the two actions were secretly connected, a shaft of light came slanting through the clouds. It struck the sidewalk an inch or two from your right paw, and then almost immediately, another beam landed just to your left paw. As you turned your head towards me, a great bucketful of light poured down on your face, crashing against your eyelids. You blinked and I laughed. “It’s okay Lucy, go back to your sleep.” You lowered your head. As it got dark, you took a nap. I could tell you were weak and tired-too tired to finish your food. We were a little relaxed to see you enjoying all the food like lemon bread, pound cake, cheerios in warm milk. I was so grateful to you for giving us the company and your love.

We will be always grateful to you in bringing joy to our hearts. You reminded us to slow down and enjoy life around us and taught us to be calm.Every thought, every memory, every particle of the air and earth is saturated with your presence. In the morning when I eat the oatmeal I look around, expecting you to appear in front of me and beg for a spoonful of oatmeal. You always appear at the door when I leave for work and when I return and now I am looking all over for you. Fifteen years is a long time and you have given us so much happiness and love! Today I am wishing you all the best and praying for you to have a smooth transition to your next life. If you see us anywhere then please give us a hint or run towards us and give us a tight hug.I will even welcome you in my dream.

Until we meet again- bye for now

Yours loving

Mom

Haikus during my last drive with Lucy

“A long drive

She watches the scenery drive by

Beautiful national forest”

“ Cotton puff clouds

Dancing sunlight on the tips of the mountains

Her eyes at beautiful Zion”

“Vermillion cliff

Dazzles in sunlight in a stretch

Watching together”

Haiku after Lucy passed away

“A lonely home

My eyes search for her everywhere

Now she has wings”

On a Sunday

Sometimes life just happens.

“Hi Liza! It is so nice to see you!”

Liza rolls down her car window.“Grocery pick Up? Hm, Liza smiles waving her hands at Robert. “How is everything going?”

“ Nothing much, just holding on.Time to time, I come to pick up groceries.” He says, “I have a great idea! Why don’t you come to my house in the evening today?We will chit chat and have a good time.”

Liza looks startled. She does not want to visit during this pandemic time. “Let’s wait a few more weeks.” 

Robert did not take his gaze off Liza. He insisted Liza that she should come to his house. And Liza could not deny the request of his friend, so she agreed to visit on the condition that they should have a mask on and keep 6 feet of distance. 

“Sure! You got it.” He replies with a nod.

In the evening, Liza arrives at Robert’s townhouse. Robert opens the door and his dog wags his tail ears pricked and then trotted forward. He is vibrating with eagerness to see Liza.Rex padds up to Liza and thrusts his nose into her hand.

“It’s okay,pal.” Robert rubs the special spot behind the dog’s ears.”Liza, this is my dog Rex.” In the shadows of the darkened room Rex looked more like a wolf than a dog but a very handsome one. At the living room wall, Liza notices a most extraordinary painting of Budha.

“Stunning!” Liza says. “Certainly brings so much peace just staring at his face!”

“ It was done back in my college days.”

“ You are so artistic! Are you still painting?” Liza asks, still glancing at the painting.If she moves her head to the right or left, certain brush strokes subtly change their tint. In other places the surface is so smooth the color must have floated onto canvas.

“ You should display in it our department!” Liza suggests.

“No, no I prefer it to be in my home.I am not that great.” he walks towards the painting. “ My grandmother had a quick eye for fine art and she helped me a lot in teaching me how to draw and paint. Now I do paint in my spare time which is available plenty now.” He laughs.

All this spilled out of him, from a math Professor! Unbelievable. He adjusts his mask and pulls two chairs for them to sit. “ I am excited for the online classes to start! How about you?” 

Liza leans back on her chair. “ I am glad but I hope the pandemic will leave so that we can go back to our normal life.” she sighs!

Robert pulls out one of his artwork from behind the table. “This is another painting I just started.” He puts the painting on his desk. “During this strange time, when yo are cooped up inside your house, creativity finds it ways.” Liza nods her head while casting  a closer look at the painting. It is a picture of a Beach front- wooden benches on the boardwalks face the sea, all empty. Circles of light under the boardwalk’s long rows of street lamps and the lamps have receded to a vanishing point. In a distance the waves are coming in. A few birds are pecking on the sand for food. Liza sighs. “ So realistic!

“ I was there last week. It was so quiet that you could forget the sidewalks and wander in the middle of them anywhere. The digital billboard ads blared, beaming down on nobody.” Robert says moving the painting from the desk.

Liza sits straight on her chair and says,“ Yesterday, I was talking to one of my elderly neighbors whose wife has a severe memory problem. She had been acting strangely for several days-not eating properly or responding when her husband speaks. A few days back she was disoriented and very anxious. It got so severe that he had to call the ambulance and guess what, her test came out to be  positive for the Corona virus. He does not know what is going to happen to his wife.”

“It is really sad!” Robert changes the story. “ I heard that you like photography. Is it true?”

Liza smiles. “I do in my spare time which I also have plenty. My first camera was a present from my grandfather. I was enthralled by the magic one could create in the dark. It has been ten years since I had sat down with my family and announced my decision to pursue a career as a photographer. The news landed with the force of a grenade in my home, although I was at a loss to understand why. My country has changed so much! I read in the newspaper how young ladies in my country are changing the old norm and embracing the new. It should have been obvious that I was  passionate about taking pictures. But the scene in the elegantly appointed living room of my parent’s home still rang in my ears. “ Liza, photography is just a hobby,” my mother said. “ You can continue that even after your wedding. I’m sure that Das’ family will not mind at all.”

At that point I informed my parents that I will not marry. My mother was first horrified and then finally, furious. My father had warned me that if I continued with my crazed plan to become a professional photographer then he would cut off all the financial support until I came to my senses.

I did not want to marry the person whom I don’t love. He is indeed a handsome, charming man, Liza reflected. On the surface, he appeared to be everything a woman in her world could ask for in a husband, But she does not want to marry at all because she knows for sure that after the wedding is over, her in-laws may not allow her to pursue her dream. She wanted to create art,pictures that make people stop and take a second look. Things have changed since then. I decided to take a teaching job in the university and my photography has stayed just as a hobby, like the way my mother predicted.”

“ It is indeed a interesting story!” Robert laughs. 

Liza pushes the chair back. “ I should get going because. It is really nice talking with you.”

“Please call me or stop by if you get bored.Hopefully in a month we will be able to get back to our classes.”

“ I hope the same.” Liza says.

Briefly Noted

 Today, the air is strikingly clean.The rays of the morning sun fall on the white blooms of the pear trees.Outside in my lawn, squirrels are hopping around on the grass.  l leaned closer to the windowsill to get a better view,-some are looking for food and the others just playing around.In every day of working life, I miss the opportunity to look at nature so frequently. Now I have plenty of time! 

 If I step in to the living room, the news channel that my husband loves watching, is now making me crazy. So I have decided to spend some time recounting the small stack of toilet paper in my bathroom closet. Last time, two weeks back I went to three of the local grocery stores, and all of them were completely out of toilet paper. In one of the stores, which I remember clearly carries its toilet paper and paper towels in aisle number 8. That day that isle was crowded and the shelves were empty.One couple with two small kids had one cart full of twenty four double count of scott toilet paper rolls and another family had six packs of Viva rolls. I stood at one corner of the isle and looked up and down for toilet paper and hoping to get at least one- any brand will work.The isle was crowded and noisy. A few other customers are complaining,arguing and asking not to hoard all but leave some toilet paper rolls for them. One of the angry customers, a tall man with a blue mask on his face, pointed his finger to make it clear and shouted, “It is called sharing!” Another lady pushed her eyeglass up on her nose, lifted her mask, and said, “ Hey,I understand that you have kids, but take three packs and leave a few for us.”  She paced back and forth with frustration and walked back towards the couple and stood in front of their shopping cart. She said, “You know perfectly well that the store may not stock them back for a while. Don’t you know? I need to have one pack.” The couple with the majority of toilet papers in their carts, waved their hand in the air in disagreement and left. Bitter argument, shouting are the last places one should be, so I turned around. I was mad too for not finding any toilet paper,and I picked up some unnecessary, unhealthy items like brownie mix, ingredients to make carrot cake but a few green vegetables to counterfeit the sweets that I will eat for several days of my quarantine. 

 I entered the house with the load of groceries in my hand. As I was washing them and cleaning with clorox wipes,I overheard my husband negotiating airline refund for our international flight to India. We had a plan to take two weeks off in Spring break and visit our families back in India. But now we have to plan for next year. Hopefully this virus will be long gone at that time. After ten minutes of all the cleaning and wiping, I decided to change my clothes and wash my hands for the tenth time. 

It is almost five o’ clock in the evening. I walked into the living room to relax on the couch. If you will look down,you will notice how the beautiful hardwood floor is now full with dog hair.My twelve years old dog Lucy is a mix of German shepherd and boxer and I know perfectly well that she sheds in every spring . But If you are home all the time,then you should clean it. Now that I have washed my hands, I don’t want to touch the vacuum cleaner. I saw that my husband had finished talking with the airline and jolted down something in his notepad. I cleared my throat. “Wow!” Didn’t I vacuum the hair yesterday!” I said. He lowers the volume of the television and stops writing.

 “Yes, what happened?” he asked. I pointed at all  the dog hairs on the floor. “ I vacuumed the floor yesterday!” He smiled calmly and reminded me that it is early Spring, then he said, “ You don’t have to vacuum everyday, and instead just use the broom.” 

“Isn’t it the same thing?” I looked at him to hear his reply, but he had already started typing in his laptop. After vacuuming the whole floor, I washed my hands and decided to take an evening walk. I venture out from isolation, alone for a peek around, filling the stillness with my own narrations on a city’s mood. “It is a beautiful spring day,” said one lady walking with her dog. 

“We’re just not able to really enjoy it.” I smiled, nodded my head as she passed me keeping her distance. After twenty minutes of walk, my eyes fell on the face of a woman in her sixties sitting on a wooden bench talking to her small dog sitting on her lap. She wore plastic gloves and had a scarf wrapped around her face. I stopped a few feet away from her and with a big smile said, “ Hello! You have such a cute dog! Hi!” I waved my have at both of them. She looked at me. “ I’ m so isolated now that I have started spending time talking to my dog.” She cleared her throat. “ Everybody is freaking out. It’s a completely different way of living.” she said.

“I understand, I was so suffocated at home that I decided to take a walk.” I said.

She leaned forward on the bench. “I clean my house, work on the yard, but I miss talking to my friends.” A small smile appeared on her face. “I don’t mind being to myself but mind being forced to be by myself.” She kissed her dog.

“ Do you talk to your friends on the phone?” I asked curiously.

She nodded. “I do, but it is not the same at all. I liked to eavesdrop on people in museums and go to the theatre with friends- and now all gone.”

Her sadness and loneliness touched me and I understood that completely. “ It will pass soon.” I told her in assurance. I waved my hand in the air to say bye and started my walk. As I was walking, the famous poem of Emily Dickinson started playing in my mind. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 

That perches in the soul 

And sings the tune without the words 

And never stops – at all ….”

Flood

“Up,” her mother says, pulling on her arm, hard. “Get your rubber boots on.”Ann couldn’t really figure out what is going on, so she stands up and starts to arrange the yellow coverlet on her bed, but her mother shakes her head. “Now,” she says.

Her mother has two rules: don’t leave the room without making your bed and dress before you leave. Today Ann is leaving her room in her pajamas, her bed all tumbled, so she knows that something is not right. Ann glances at her mother’s face to figure out a reason and she could see clearly the two lines on her forehead and lips, a thin line. No smile there, no good morning wish. All she could hear is the sound of the rain. It sounds like a truck is dumping a load of gravel on the roof. It has been raining hard for two days, but nothing like this.

The front door is open, and just outside it is one of the volunteer firemen. There are a couple of inches of water in their front hallway, and to Ann, it looks like the magic carpet in the cartoons, where you can float up and away.

“Hurry up,” her mother says, handing her the boots. And to the fireman, “My friend’s back in the house at the end of the street.”

“She ‘s up in the attic, and when I stuck my head up those stairs she let out a scream. I tried to calm her down but she says she’s not leaving her house,” the fireman replies.

Ann comes and stands in the middle between her mother and the fireman. “Let me try,” she says. “Go ahead,” her mother says, “Be careful, it is water everywhere.” She bends and zips her rain jacket and pulls the hood upon her head, the way she sometimes does when she is heading to the school bus. “It is not safe to stay here,” the firefighter shouts over the sound of the rain.

“We’re fine,” Ann says as she holds her father’s hand and climbs the small flimsy boat in their front lawn to rescue their neighbor. “Just give me a chance to talk to her,” Ann says as they row off into the darkness. “She always listens to me.”

But nothing like that happened. Ann shouts at the top of her lungs to get her neighbor out from her attic but she wouldn’t.  She enters into her front room, the door is not locked and the flood water has started to fill the space. It is a one-story house, and the ladder to the attic is down. She is up there sitting on a stack of two huge suitcases, her legs pulled up under her nightgown. Ann wonders why she has those suitcases. She has never gone anyplace. Maybe she has some important or special stuff inside the suitcases.

“ Just go back down there, Ann,” she says sharply from the half dark and for just a moment she sounded a lot like her mother.

“Come with me. The water’s getting really high.”

“It won’t ever get up here. This is the highest place on the whole farm.” Ann thinks she is almost right about that. “Then I’ll stay here with you,” Ann says.

“We need to get going,” calls the fireman from below.

“You go with them,” she says. “Don’t worry about me. Leave,” she says sternly.

The water is deeper as Ann climbs back into the boat and they sail, like a dream, down their underwater driveways, and onto the water-filled road. It is hard to see much, no lights, no moon. The fireman maneuvered the boat around powerlines that come up suddenly like snakes skittering along the surface and pieces of things, of roofs and fences and strange brown chunks. They float past one of her friend’s barn where the cows are standing and mooing loudly. Ann couldn’t control her sob. “ Let’s help the cows, they are desperate and scared to death,” she begs.

“We will. But first we need to rescue the people, afterward, we’ll come back to rescue the animals.” the fireman says loudly. They stop by another house where Ann’s class teacher Mrs. Quindlen is standing at her front step with her shepherd dog.

After a while, they reach the church and they climb down from the small boat. Her teacher has a plastic bag full of knitting supplies. “ I can’t stand the boredom,” she says. Inside the building, Ann spots almost all her neighbors and they are all talking about the destructive flood.

Ann finds one of her friend sitting at a corner with her backpack and eating a sandwich in her hand. She waves with the sandwich.

“Were you scared?” she asks.

“Yes. But I pretended that I wasn’t.” Ann says.

“Why?”

“ My mother doesn’t know swimming and she doesn’t like to sit on the boat,” she says with a smile. “So I pretended to be brave to make her feel safer.”

“Even if I know swimming, that’s not the kind of water I can swim in. The current is too strong enough to suck us under. I was really scared.” her friend says, stuffing the last corner of her sandwich into her mouth. Ann walks around to look for her mother. Her mother is talking with one of her friend who is wiping her tears with a cotton handkerchief. She has the biggest ranch house with columns in front, a huge living room and a big kitchen. Everything is gone in the flood. She starts to cry again. Ann’s mother puts her arm around her friend’s shoulder and tries to comfort her. Ann turns around and walks over to the big glass window. There is nothing to see outside, except for water everywhere. She stands there, thinking of how to rescue all the cows and dogs from the barns. Hopefully, the fireman has already done that.

  • Midwest flood

The Tango

The silence is unusual and we aren’t entirely sure how to talk about it- not because it is too grave and not because it is too trivial, but because it seems grave one moment and trivial the next. No one could remember such a thing happening to the entire country before. The incident has now lasted for more than two weeks. A few days have passed and it is too grave now.

A stand up comedian performing on one of the late-night talk show is the first to broach the subject. She waits for a moment in his act when the audience has fallen completely still and the halted in mid sentence, raising one of her index fingers in a listening gesture. A smile edges its way onto her lips. She gives the pause perhaps one second too long, just enough time for a trace of self-amusement to show on her face, then continues with the joke. It is the joke on the president’s speech on wall. But some people prefer to stay silent.

The silence has been siphoned out of the city and into our ears, spilling from there into our dreams and beliefs, our memories and expectations. In the wake of each fresh episodes a new feeling flow through us, full of warmth and a lazy equanimity. The truth is we enjoy the silence- sometimes we find ourselves poise in the doorway of our homes in the  morning or on the edge of our car seats as we drive to work. Surya wants to scream,her heart cries out for the people who are suffering because of one person’s demand.

There are many lovely, pensive girls and the landscape is cluttered with them. Most of the time nothing out of the ordinary happens to them and then they get older. In a painting Surya has been gathering wildflowers, though in real life she rarely does anything of the kind. She is more than a little odd-lacks caution or just because she always says that “ love is giving, marriage is buying and selling. You cann’t put love into a contract and there is no marriage in Heaven.”

She keeps herself busy in charity work and she doesn’t care about love or marriage.Shlok,one of her collegue doesn’t care what Surya thinks. He has seen her helping an autistic boy who was provoked to fits of punching by the tone of her doorbell devised an instrument that raplaced the sound with a pulsing light. She says that the autistic boy loves to sit on the floor watching now as she presses the button again and again, a wobbly grin sperading over his face like a pool of molasses.

The silence is plain and rich and deep. It seems infinietly delicate, yet stragely irresistibe. Every so often the character of the silence would change slightly, the way the brightness of a room might alter, and gradually we get used to the stillness.Surya loves it. She doesn’t mind staying alone and doing her own things in the weekends. She settles into the couch and continue reading her novel “ The Baron in the Trees”, holding the pages up to a patch of sunlight. A fire truck begins whirring its siren somewhere, but she barely notices it. She reads the story of an eighteenth century Italina nobleman- Cosimo Piovasco who spends the whole of his adult life in the trees surrounding his village. From the branches of various oaks,elms he is able to educate himself, conduct his long romance with his childhood friend Violante.She carries the book and walks to the dining table and sits on a chair with a cup of hot tea in her hand.

Shlok is determined to break the silence. He takes the oblique route, making a loop through the plant nursery at the west end of the plaza. By the time he reaches the end of the lane, one of his palm is coated with the scent magnolia, the other with the scent of pine. He knows that surya loves the scent of magnolia. A song has broken out on his tongue. It takes a moment to recognize it as “ Somewhere over the Rainbow”, the melody that floats effortlessly. He stands infront of her house and knocks at the door.She doesn’t hear the knock at her door. Shlok opens the side door and walks in, he is determined to break his silence. He finds Surya sitting in the kitchen, at the small round table with a book in her hand.

“What are you doing here?” she asks closing the book.Her voice sounds flat.

Shlok pulls another chair and settles himself. “We need to talk.”

“On what?” She has known him for so long that  she doesn’t have to finish the thought.

Sometimes we become more headstrong, more passionate. Our sentiments are closer to the surface, lives seem no less purposeful than they have during the silence.We come to know ourselves better after the great stillness. A muffled noise of understanding escapes from her throat, just loud enough for him to hear.He nods,laughs and nods again. They both promise to open their mouth and stand strong for the others.

Lost girl of Sanaa

People everywhere- skinny, skeletal people, in front of her, behind her. In the thick crowd, Maysun loses the grip of her mother. Someone bumps into her; she stumbles forward and almost fell. Only the thickest of bodies in front of her save her from going to her knees in the dust and dirt. She shoves her way around to the other side of the road, crying out, “Mama! Mama!”

There is no answer, just the ceaseless pounding of feet on the road. She calls out for her mother, but her cry is lost in the thud of so many feet. People bump her, push past her. She can’t stop in the middle. Her mother told her that the only way to survive is to flee the village, away from the soldiers, from the bumps. Her feet aches, a blister burns with every step. Hunger walks beside her, poking her insistently with it sharp little elbow. She tries to look back to trace her mother but the crowd push her forward. A woman limps along beside her, crying , her tears black with dirt and grit. The sun is growing stronger, become stiflingly, staggeringly hot. The acrid, stuffy scent of body odor and sweat fill the air. At the top of a small rise, she comes to a stop. Moonlight reveals thousands of people walking beside her, jostling her she has no choice but to stumble along with them. Hundreds more have chosen a hillside as a resting place. They have left their burning homes, bummed by the cold,heartless soldiers. Some have lost their parents, some their children. Maysun peels away from the crowd heading toward the collection of moonlit gray stone building in a distance and picks her way carefully through the valley. After a mile or so a trail leads her into a copse of spindly trees. She is deep in the woods- trying not to focus on the pain in her toe, the ache in her stomach, the dryness in her throat. Dehydration gives her a terrible, pounding headache. Dust has clogged her throat and eyes and made her cough constantly.She couldn’t walk any longer so she sits leaning against a huge tree. Instead of her effort not to sleep, her eyelids closes.

Maysun is in her school, a small building on the far edge of the village. The open windows and thick stone walls help to keep the sun at bay. Maysun loves science and when teacher asks her, she answers in all smile, “ When I grow up, I will be a scientist.” Mayson glances at her friend Hamida,who sits beside her, looking fearful. She whispers. “My mama says we should leave before the war gets worse.”

Maysun closes her notebook. Her eyes widened. “ I should tell my mama”

“My uncle says it is very bad in the nearby town. The soldiers have burned down the houses.”

The bell rings and students popp from their seats like springs.Maysun gathers her books in her bag and runs home to give the news to her mother. Her mother is in their garden. “Mama!” Maysun calls her mother throwing her bag on the kitchen floor.

“What happened?” her mother asks wiping her forehead, aware that she is smearing black dirt across her skin, and she stands up. She rises to her feet and moves toward her daughter. Before she reaches, a trip of women appear, as if sculpted out of the shadows. They stand clumped together in their front pathway. An oldwoman in rags,holding the others close to her- a young woman with a baby in her arms and a teenager. Each looked feverish, sweaty and tired. The old woman helps out her empty hand. “ Please spare some water.” she begs.

Maysun’s mother opens the small wooden gate. “Ofcourse. Come in. Sit down on the front porch.”

The old woman shakes her head. “ Just give some water, please.” Maysun runs inside and brings a jug of water and a glass.

“Drink.” The old woman says, holding the water to the young girl’s lips. The young mother makes a moaning sound and tightens her hold on the baby, who is so quiet-and her tiny fists so blue- Maysun’s mother gasps. The baby is dead.

“Go inside,” the old woman says. “Lock the doors.”

“Why…?”

Then they see the mass of black shapes moving across the field and coming up the road. Dogs bark and babies cry. They come forward through the field and up the road, relentlessly moving closer, pushing one another aside, voices rising. Suddenly the world becomes pure sound: the roar of airplane engines, the rat-ta-ta of machine gun fire, people screaming. Bullets ate up the grass in rows, people scream and cry out. Trees snapped in half and fall over, people yell. Flames burst into existence. Smoke fills the air. Maysun watches a man fly into the air like a rag doll and hit the ground in a heap. Her mother pulls her into her house and tries to lock the door behind her. The house begins to shake, the windows rattle, the shutters thump, dust rain down from the exposed timbers of the ceiling. Maysun hugs her mother, uncertain, her heart pounding. Suddenly the house shakes violently. “Let’s run!.” Maysun’s mother runs outside clutching her daughter’s hand. Outside in the dust, they continue running. Suddenly Maysun loses her mother’s hold in the crowd. “Mama! Mama..” Maysun opens her eyes. She tents a hand over her eyes and stares up into the bright and cloudless sky.

Shifting Sea

Jane can see a shimmering aura surrounding her, setting her apart from others. She feels uncomfortably distinct from the other students in her class. Sometimes they are friendly, more often they are not so friendly.Jane’s mother has told her many times that she is special. She understands that she has no choice in the matter. Jane is a shy girl, too shy even to turn away quickly from a rude stranger. She is almost twelve. She is thin, underdeveloped for her age.Medium height-but with narrow shoulders, bright almond-shaped eyes, thick curly hair.

Every Morning after Jane’s father leaves to work, her mother brushes her dense, dry curly hair,  with a half-broken hairbrush and reminds her to brush her teeth before she runs off to the nearby school. Much of her waking life Jane is with her books that she gets from her school library. The actual world is blinding to her. A maze. But if there is a way to be memorized through the maze, she will memorize it. The great adventure of Jane’s young life until now : reading books, drawing pictures and taking care of her four younger siblings. She cares less on her dress, her food or how they live.

Her mother is always proud of her when Jane shows the report card from her school, but her father is different. When he returns home from work, he asks Jane to stop wasting her time in reading, instead she should work with her mother in the kitchen,or take care of her other four siblings. “Jane, stop reading books,books are useless.” he says haltingly, awkwardly, taking a sip from a glass bottle. “ Learn cooking, cleaning the house which will be useful in future. In his aggressive barking voice he accuses the girl.Jane leaves that part of the room to the other end because their house is just one long room. She doesn’t like the smell of the liquid that her father drinks, nor his voice.She hides her books under a bed cover and dashes to stay with her mother.Jane’s mother pinches her mouth, refuses to utter much, the unspoken words become a din like nocturnal insects in the dry heat of summer. She doesn’t like to argue with her husband but she couldn’t stop. “ Let her do what she loves to do.” she says, “ Now a days girls are going to college, working and I want Jane to finish her school.”

“Stop the nonsense!” Her father screams slapping his palm on the floor. “ Jane is a girl and girls don’t need to go to school.She needs to do only the household chores until I find someone for her.” Jane’s mother serves him food in a banana leaf and sits there quietly. She understands that there is no use in arguing with her drunk husband.

After Jane’s father asleep,her mother lays down on the floor with Jane on one side and the other four of her children on the other side. “Not to worry dear,”she assures her. “ You will finish school and go to college.”

Jane smiles and whispers. “In that case, I want to be a scientist.”

Her mother doesn’t understand the word, but pulls Jane closer. “ Sure,if you set your mind, then you can achieve it. Come, let’s sleep.” Jane’s mother has never gone to school but she has taught herself to read and write. She is determined to send her daughter to school. Jane lays awake for a while thinking about her dad’s anger.Whenever her father drinks the awful stuff,he shouts and get angrier. It seems like his face starts to change shape and swims and a little bit of space opens up between her parents.  It is almost midnight, when moonlight shines diffusively through the filthy window.Jane stops thinking,turns her head toward her mother and closes her eyelids.

Days pass. One late afternoon,after school, Jane memorizes her timetables on the front veranda, when she spots her father at the door with a stranger.Jane glances at them as they approach.Her father clears his throat. “Jane,come meet my friend Mr. Roy.” he says. “Come.” Jane closes her notebook,takes a big step,and folds her both hands. “Namaste!” The man is old, short and skinny. He runs his hand over his bald head and a fake smile flashes on his lips. His head shines like the glass balls people place in the flower beds around their houses. It looks like it might shatter the instant her bangs into something. He winks at Jane. Her father walks forward. “Go, ask your mother to make a cup of tea for our guest.” he says. Jenna scuttles inside to call her mother. Her mother is sweeping the kitchen floor. “Mom, dad wants you to prepare a cup of tea for the guest.” Jane’s mother stops sweeping. “ Your father came early today!” she gives a surprise look and asks, “ Who is the other man?”

Jane shrugs her shoulder. “No idea mom.But for sure very old.” she says, “Can I sit here and memorize my timetable?”

“Sure but first finished sweeping the floor.” Jane’s mother walks out of the kitchen with a chipped white cup with black tea: the only cup they have.Jenna could hear them talking for a while and her mother comes back inside and starts to switch on the stove. Jane is surprised to see her mother cooking so early. “ What happened mom?” She asks.

“Nothing dear.” she says. “The guest will stay to eat dinner. We have only one potato and a handful of rice.” Jane closes her notebook. “I can get something from the nearby store.” she asks, “ Would you like me to get something?” Her mother shakes her head. “We will cook what we have but get one or two green pepper and a bunch of spinach from our backyard.”

“Sure.” Jane leaves.

After the dinner,her father and the old man drinks from a bottle, Jane sits there with a book on her hand and her mother sits quietly. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above his head. It settles on his arm, he tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of his neck, he swats again. The fly escapes and perches on the broken window frame. A twinkling laughter escapes from Jane’s mouth and she quickly covers her mouth.The old man looks at Jane with long, narrow eyes, fixed so hard the corner looks like keyholes. He purses his lips, whistles and beats out on the bottle in a rhythm.He comes toward Jane and spins her around. “ I like your sweet daughter.” he laughs, running his hand into her hair above the temple, twisting her hair around his index finger. Jane snatches her hand free from the old man and runs to her mother.  Inside her head is buzzing with scary thoughts, on top her scalp feels loose. He tongue is licking her brain, it tastes sickly salty.Her mother wraps her both hands around Jane. “ Get out from my house.” she screams. “ My daughter is not in a marriageable age and you are like her grandfather! Shame on you!” Jane’s father springs from his seat with a raised hand.His eyeballs glistens and turn into little squares. “ Don’t utter any word. If he wants to marry our daughter then it is perfect.” he says. “ There is no age barrier for a marriage.And he will keep her happily.” Then her father turns toward the old man. “Sorry for all these.” he folds his hands. “ We will be happy to give our daughter to you.Please come and sit here. Come.” he requests. Jane and her mother sit there dumbfounded with tears in their eyes.

Next morning,sunlight comes slanting through the gaps between the wall of the room. Jane opens her eyes to find the sun round as a ball and is ‘wrapped in a cotton wool. Birds are squawking, who knows where they are hiding, there are none in the air.The old man and her father are sitting on the front veranda.The old man’s shoulder is hunched,his collar bones rounded.They are busy making deals on Jane,the old man is ready to give lots of money in exchange to marry Jane who will be his third wife and in promise to give him a son. You could see the gold and black molars,the worn down stumps and gaps between his teeth. Jane looks for her mother. She sits in one corner of the kitchen with her youngest son on her lap, her legs are stretched out into the aisle. she is feeding milk to the little one. Jane sits there leaning against her mother.Her mother doesn’t say anything and Jane starts the conversation. “ So what will happen mom?” she swallows her tear and continues. “ I am just a kid. I want to go to school, I want to be a scientist.” She glances at her mother. “ Why are you so quiet today? Are you not going to help me?” Her mother pulls her closer and tightens one hand around Jane’s shoulder. “Your father is a crafty bastard. He has taken money, cows and a few goats as a bribe from the old man.He wants to buy a small store and start his own business and that way he will be able to take care of your four siblings.”

Jane pulls out from her mother’s embrace. “ What about me?” she asks. “ What about my dream? My life?” she shakes her mother in her small hand. “You want to sale me to the old man in exchange of money and goats? Really mom?” Jane covers her face and cries. “ You promised me that I will continue my school. You lied to me!” Jane’s mother looks up to the ceiling and back to her daughter’s face. Her beloved daughter whom she has promised to fulfill her dream. She has to do something but what. She leans her back against the wall and searches for a way to set her daughter free.

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My world in his unspoken words

“I can’t believe he’s already one! He is growing up so fast. Wow!” Rumi says breathlessly and then glances at Dr.Thomas. “It’s a little concerning that he has not talked anything; even a single word!’

“Not to worry. Some babies talk late. Girls usually talk a little sooner than boys. So have a little patience!.” he say with a small smile, Rumi thinks she worries too much. She gets ready to leave the room, but at the door, she turns around. “ I wonder if his hearing is okay. Milo doesn’t seem to hear me. When I call his name, he doesn’t look at me.”Rumi pulls the chair and sits heavily. “ The other day I clapped my hands as loud as I could and he didn’t even turn his head. He just keeps sitting on the floor, looking out the glass doors at the leaves blowing around in the backyard. As if I didn’t exist.” So? She takes a deep breath and glances at doctor Thomas .

Dr. Thomas puts the pen down and opens his mouth to say something but then Rumi starts her other questions.   

“ I have seen him bouncing to the music, so he’s definitely not deaf. What a crazy thing to think. But Dr. what’s going on with my Milo? Please tell me that he’s fine..”

“He’s fine Rumi. Give him a little time. I will see you in a month.” Dr. Thomas gets ready to see his next patient.

At home after lunch, Rumi sits with Milo. “Say Juice. Juuuuice. Say I want juice or say swing. Look at me Milo.Tell me something. Why are you screaming?” Rumi asks and then carries Milo to the backyard. They sit on the deck and look at the sky, Milo’s favorite thing to do and now it is same with Rumi. She stares at the blue sky for a long time and feels as if she is the weightless sky, floating and free.  She is her son’s imagination and unspoken words. She turns her head and notices the happy face of her son.

Milo was a beautiful and bright-eyed boy. She loved him instantly. She dreamed of him a genius in math, best in sports, a wonderful debater like her father. But she should have had much simpler dreams. Each year Rumi lit the candles on cute Mickey mouse cakes, sometimes on Barney cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” Then her husband used to say,come on Milo! Make a wish and blow your candles! And then he wouldn’t, so they had to blow them out for him. She always makes a wish, the same every year. “Please say something, look around and enjoy your life.” She never stopped wishing. They visited countless doctors, therapist to help Milo. In one bright sunny day, she marks his face wondrous and joyful with the unexpected discovery of a new fascination, on light switches. He opens the musical card, shuts it and opens it again. The same song every time he opens it, but the cards are heaven to him. He spends rest of his days smiling and flapping his hands . That’s all he wants every year.

“ How about a prescription for him that will make him talk.”

“Are you serious!” her husband asks. “Don’t be so silly! Therapy will work best for him.Don’t worry so much.” He says. Milo is her world. When she returns home from  the errands, Milo screeches and jumps up and down, flapping his hands. That’s the way he shows his excitement and happiness. One evening after her walk, Rumi entered into house, with a new idea in her mind. It was weird, but she wanted to give it a try. So she jumped up and down in the same way as her son, flapping her arms. Milo was so excited, that he continued that for a few more seconds. Rumi watches her son and wish he can smile and say, “Hey, mom,glad you’re back” or he can run around and hug her and say, “I love you mom.”.

In one visit to the doctor, he surprised her with the news that her son Milo has autism. Rumi couldn’t move from the chair. “Are you sure?” she asks the doctor. “ Maybe you are reading somebody else.” she waits for the doctor to say something. But it is just a field of silence.

From doctor’s office to her home, she confronts with God while driving. “ Why are you punishing me? What did I do?”she asks. “ If you want to punish me that’s fine but why to my son?” she wipes her tears. “Let him live and enjoy his life,please.” She is angry with Him but she still have faith that Milo will be fine.

“Come Milo, let’s go to the playground.” Rumi says, grabbing the car key. It is a cooler day. She drives him to the nearby playground. Some Children are running around, playing hide and seek. Rumi takes Milo to the swing, the one which gives him extreme pleasure. All he wants to do is play in the swing. You have to push him over and over.After twenty minutes,Rumi gets bored standing there in one place and pushing the swing.”Milo, would you like to play with those kids?” she asks, “ Look! They are having so much fun.” she stops the swing. “Come let’s try. I will be there. Come.” Milo screeches  whipping his head. Instead,he wants to play in the sand box. He scoops up as much as his hands could held, raises his hands high and let the sand spill down. The feeling of sand moving through his fingers mesmerizes him. They stay in the sand box until the sun goes down.

It is another gorgeous day! Rumi finishes her prayer and walks into the kitchen. Milo sits on the kitchen floor and organizes his rocks. He loves to collect smooth, white rocks, mostly round. He arranges them into a line. Rumi sits down on the floor with her son. “ Would you like to play with you?” she asks with a smile. Milo glances at her mom’s smile-stunning brown eyes and knows that he doesn’t need a voice to tell her anything. Her face is like his now. He is delighted with her mom’s contribution to his rock project.So both of them sit there and arrange and rearrange the beautiful rocks in lines.After one hour, Milo jumps up and flaps his hands, a happy dance.

 

Everyone wants her to carry on.Move on. She doesn’t want to. She wants to be here, alone. Rumi stops the car and sits quietly looking at the beach. Her son’s favorite place. Rumi crouches down on the sand and writes Happy Birthday Milo! But with each pulse of waves, her writing washes away. The next wave crashes,and deposits a single white, round rock at her feet. Her heart quickens as she picks up the beautiful, smooth stone and rolls it inside her hand. ‘I miss you so much!’ The first tear is slow, hesitant, and then they come fast, one after another. Rumi Looks at the sky. The moon is bright- yellow and rest of the sky is dotted all over with brilliant white stars.  The moon, the heaven, the universe and her beautiful boy among them.

 

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Unusual

“Are you even listening, Mark? I’m beginning to wonder why am I here? Why?”

Mark’s mother is not scolding, not really. Chiding, teasing, though there is an edge to the mother’s voice- “Why me?

In the dining chair beside the mother, her child has been immersed in an interactive topology game on his iPad for the last thirty minutes. Very solemnly the child speaks in a thin voice to his mother as one might speak to a classmate who is having difficulty with a homework assignment. “Everything has been decided, from the beginning of the universe.”

“What do you mean?’

“This is the time you are supposed to be with me the mother and child moment.”

“O’ sure, that is it.” His mother does n’t know whether to laugh at the answer or be impressed or annoyed. “It is my free will that I decided to stay with you at home, instead of running errands.

Mark is not persuaded. “Mom, no. There are not accidents in free will.” He persists: nothing could be accidental, for all things are determined there’s no chance of something just swerving off on its own.”

Her mother laughs. “ You are too smart. But there are plenty of accidents in life. Really.” No one except the parents could know the secret of their child, the beginning of his life. The unexpected pregnancy was a nightmare, when she was going through the chemotherapy but decided not to abort. She had strong faith and belief,that there is a super power or something like God, who will take care of the life that is growing inside her. Mark was a premature baby and fragile. They had to visit the doctor in every month to check his health, to make sure that he will be a normal baby. And he turned out to be an exceptional child, very wise for his age. It is sometimes hard to understand what he says; a lot more like his philosophical father.She loves her deeply and now without him could not imagine her life. She glances at him before getting up to make some ginger tea. Mark has returned his attention to the damned iPad in his lap. There is an air about Mark’s intense curiosity which feels like he is a fairy caught in a net.He has grown, but has remained small for his age, late in speaking, but when he started to speak it was in phrases, vocabulary flourished with long words. She wonders if, gazing at her, Mark might see something in her, unknown to her, unfathomable. Last time Mark told one of her friend that she was an old soul and it will be easy for her to find her ways out in this universe. Her friend was surprised to hear this from a small child and out of courtesy, did n’t say anything, except she pushed her chair and kissed Mark’s forehead. “ You are astonishing!”

One day Mark asks her to participate in a game of hide and seek but in a different way.

“What do you mean by a different way?” Mark’s mother asks.

“Just come and look for me in my room.” he says before walking away.

His mother counts to ten and knocks at Mark’s door several times. Impulsively she opens the door. “Mark? Where are you?” She looks in the closet, stoops to peer beneath the bed, and even lifts the bed cover and the pillows. “Mark!This is not funny…?” She laughs nervously. The child is certainly in the room somewhere, but where? There is only one glass window which is shut tight. If he crawled through the window to go to the lawn outside not have shut the window behind him! Was it possible, Mark has the power to create somehow or something, may be a miracle, a way to make himself invisible. She sits down at the edge of Mark’s bed. He cann’t just vanish from his room! Or is it possible! She thinks. desperately she opens all the drawers in his dresser. “Mark? Please don’t scare my..” It feel like the vivid presence might vanish from the world as you switch off a lamp and be plunged into darkness. It seems like the stories her grandmother used to tell her-the stories of Gods and their super powers. But it can n’t possible in this era! Or it is possible?

Out of nowhere Mark appears, behind her, on the farthest corner of the room,smiling at his astonished mother.

“Oh, Mark! You frightened me…”

She embraces him without asking him any more questions. She does n’t want to know how or where he was hiding. She is glad to have him back in the house, with her.

 

Puzzle

Laughter too depends  upon memory a memory of previous laughter.

“Grace – not Gracey?” – That is your name?”

At first she can’t comprehend this. He takes out a little notebook from his pocket and painstakingly inscribed in it what appears to be a diagram in logic. “My days of mastering symbolic logic seem to have abandoned  me,” he says pleasantly, “but I think the situation is something like this..”

Grace is uncertain how to respond. It is fascinating to her that Dave has language skills, mathematical abilities  but he can’t retain new words, concepts or facts even if they are embedded in familiar information. Like many brain-afflicted individuals he carries with him word books, crossword puzzles. His knowledge of world geography is still impressive.Grace is speaking carefully to him: “Mr Dave- let me explain to you again that I am a Professor and has been working with you for a while. You have met me before.”
Dave  nods vehemently, even little impatiently. “ Grace- yes, doctor Grace.”

“I ‘m not a doctor I’m a professor. Please just call me -”

“Professor Grace.” Yes..” Well that makes two of us. I’m not a clinician either.” he laughs. He listens to Grace as she explains to him on the tests they will be doing on him. He listens politely at first, then becomes bemused and beguiled by her. She is wearing a pink wrap around skirt with black tights beneath, a black jacket over her thin frame tightly and not the crisp white lab coats of the medical staff, there is no laminated ID on her jacket to inform him of her name.

“ Why you are here, doctor and why am I here?”

Grace stares at him and then says, “ We are hoping to establish some facts containing memory.” Dave is eager and hopeful, cooperative but as the tests become more complicated and accelerated, he is thrown into confusion. He seems to be failing about like a drowning man. Restless, exhausted, without knowing why, he stands at a window and stares outside. He may be trying to determine where he is. But he is a proud man, he will not ask any questions. Like an athlete too long restrained in a cramped space or like a rebellious teenager, he begins to circle the room. He stretches the tendons in his calves, reaches for the ceilings-stretching vertebrae, mutters to himself.Grace would like to clasp his hand to comfort and encourage him

Grace walks toward him. “ Would you like your sketchbook?” She hands him one. He is pleased to see his sketchbook. He pages through it growing, holding the book in such a way to prevent anyone else seeing its contents. Then he discovers his little notebook in his pant pocket.He opens it eagerly, records something in it and slips it back into his pocket. Grace glances at Dave and thinks how sad, how exhausting, the amnesic can’t remember anything. His brain resembles a colander through which water sifts continually and never accumulates; those years before his illness, resembles a still, distant water glimpsed through dense foliage as in a hallucinatory landscape.

Dave looks worriedly at her as if he can read her thoughts. Grace feels her face burn like one who has dared to touch another intimately and has been detected. With an uplifted finger, to retain Grace’s attention, he leafs through his little notebook in search of something significant. In his bright affable voice he reads: “ There is no journey, no path, only emptiness.” He pauses to add, “Maybe this is the wisdom of Buddha.” he laughs with inexplicable humor. Grace smiles with him remembering how he used to explain to her the views of different teachings. He is always good in teaching and explaining. It is almost seven-thirty in the evening when she leaves.

Next day the test is on counting ability count as high as you can without stopping. He begins counting and continue for an impressively long time, then suddenly stops,distracted by Grace’s earrings.  “Looks like a pyramid upside down or may be pineapples?” he laughs.

“Please continue counting.”

“Counting’- what? What was I counting?”

“You don’t remember the count?”

Dave stares at the illustrated cards. His finger twitch. He looks blankly.

Grace leans forward. “You are doing fine, please continue.”

Dave looks at her again. She is a pretty woman with light brown skin, straight black eyebrows, dense wavy hair. The dimple on her cheek deepens while she smiles. Who is she? He has seen her somewhere? He thinks in a school where he used to teach? He extends his hand and shakes the woman’s hand.

“Hel-lo! I think we know each other we met in a school-did we? In a high school?”

Grace hesitates. Then gracefully she slips her hand into his with a smile.

“Hello, Mr Dev I’m Grace- whom you have never met before today.”

 Just after the rain,Grace knocks at the door before entering the room. “Good morning!” she smiles. “ I’m, Grace.”
“Yes, welcome.” Light coming up in his eyes, a slight leap of hope emerges.

“Welcome, Grace!”

Her hand grips in his, a clasp of recognition.

Grace thinks He does remember me. Not consciously but he remembers. Well there is no scientific data to prove. The amnesic will discover ways of remembering sometimes it bypasses the conscious mind altogether.

Suffused with happiness, Grace feels like a balloon rapidly, giddily filling with helium. Eagerly he smiles at her, leans close to her  to shake her hands. In his strong hand,Grace’s small hand. “We have met before?” he smiles gallantly.

“ Do you have an idea how long we’ve been working together?- Grace asks.

His smiles wavers. He speaks thoughtfully, gravely. “ May be two weeks a month? May be less?” He is still gripping her hands; gently she detaches. Grace has volunteered to take Dave to downstairs to the first-floor cafeteria, for lunch, sometimes for his medical tests or to the garden downstairs.She has become lonely. Work has become her addiction, her salvation. In human relations you never know where you stand.She is determined to help Dave in each step of his recovery. She has high hope.

It is a bright, sunny day when Grace returns to Dave’s room. “ We have some very interesting tests for today, Dave. I think you will like them.”

“Tests- yes. I’m good at them.” His smile is anxious and hopeful. Grace shows him the brainteaser puzzles consist of numbers, varicolored squares of plastic which you move around your thumb until there is an ideal conjunction of numerals and colors.Dave takes it from her with a bemused chuckle “Excuse me! Like this.” And within seconds, he has lined up the squares to perfection. His smile is that of the triumphant. Grace laughs – he used to teach the children the same way, the tricks to solve the puzzles.  After two days Grace returns to check on Dave.

“ Hello!”

“Yes- do I know you?” Dave asks, “I can hardly remember you.”

Grace is little frustrated. “Yes, we are.”

He gazes at her plaintively.

“ Are you my wife?” he asks anxiously, “ Or may be a lover?”

A twinge of excitement sparks in her. She wants to say yes I’m your wife, but she stops. He walks over and takes her hand in his strong dry fingers. She has been anticipating this she doesn’t pull her hand away from his grasp so quickly. They stand their clasping hands.

“Do you remember me?” Grace asks.

“I think I met you in your school am I correct?” Dave asks carefully. His hairline is receding from his forehead and his dark hair is fading to a beautiful shade of gray, his forehead is slightly creased with bewilderment or worry that quickly eases away when he smiles. He looks handsome in a neatly pressed khakis, a striped shirt.Grace still loves him dearly.

 

His memory is like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces that has been overturned, but these countless pieces might be fitted together again into a coherent and illuminating whole.

Dave drops her hand and moves back to his chair.  “ I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you Nobody – Too? ”He recites the lines with a chilling sort of merriment, the poetry of Emily Dickinson…