You would think that crying myself to sleep almost every night this past year because I feel utterly lonely would make me question my way of doing things. Alas, I am still as stubborn as I was many years ago when my mother pointed out that I was going to, one day, be where I am today. But where am I, exactly? Why do I so often feel like I am being misconceived and mistreated? Might it be that I am not as good of a person as I think I am? I am no saint and never have been one. However, does that give consent to all my past mistakes to retaliate all at once? How am I supposed to learn from them if the sheer weight of their retaliation is making me crumple like a piece of paper?
With such thoughts of realizations following the recent vicissitudes of my life, I look out of the window of the train that I am sitting in, while the outside world zooms by in a green blur of tall trees and grass.
This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I received a call from my mother. It may have been the dreary weather, or simply her tone of voice, which gave away the fact that it was not going to be a chipper conversation. And so, within the first minute of talking, she brought up a topic that we have been discussing, unintentionally, on and off, for many months now.
She said, “I could not believe it. I always gave her respect because she seemed like such a great kid with such great values, but boy, did she prove me wrong. You should have been there, maiya, and heard how she spoke to auntie. I don’t think I will ever forget how she behaved today. It was beyond despicable.”
The enormity of this situation unfolding back in my hometown was almost lost on me, but for the fact that my mother was speaking about my cousin’s “dwindling” character, who just so happened to be an epitome of a perfect child in my mother’s eyes. Up until recently, at least. And as my mother began describing my cousin’s atrocious outfit, my mind started wandering back to a conversation many years prior.
“Maiya, you need to reevaluate yourself. Reflect on who you are now and who you want to become. You have many good qualities but a nasty tendency to be stubborn. It is not about how much potential you have, but what you can do with that potential to make a difference in the world.”
The train gave a lurch, bringing me back to the present moment. Bringing me to the realization that my cheeks were moist with tears. Bringing my mother’s two years old words back, “Maiya, you never cry. I haven’t seen you cry in so long.” Maybe those words jinxed me back then. Because it seems like all I do now is cry.
There was a time when I used to hear my inner voice telling me things. Good things, mostly. Pushing me in the right direction. Egging me on to achieve more. Now, that inner voice is a whisper; almost fully diminished by the very real, very powerful, voice of my mother. Every single anecdote of hers, even her take on my cousin’s outfit is important. If life is about learning, there seems to be no better form of education than listening to my mother. Yet, why is it so? Was it not a mere six years ago that I refused to do absolutely anything my mother asked of me? Why have I changed so much? Will there ever be a person who will outdo the voice of my mother?
This last thought pushes forth an image in my mind. The one and only image of a particular face that does not make me want to cry, simply because the face in that image is so unbelievably happy. And the fact that it is looking directly at me, making me believe that I am the sole reason for its sheer happiness makes me want to scream with elation. I almost raise my arm to touch it, but know that I cannot. I want to let it know that I am beyond grateful that it is here, right now, on this gloomy train ride. I want to let it feel my delight at seeing it after so long. Yet, I am scared to let it in. I do not want it to feel my pain, or my grief. I want it to know how strong I have become, but not know what it took, for me to get this way. I reluctantly turn away from the face, hoping tremendously that when I look back it will not have turned into the sad, sunken face it had become when I last saw it in person.
I settle on staring out of the window again. The outside world seems to be coming back into focus. The trees and the grass have turned into houses and streets. I am a mere two stops away from where I need to be. Suddenly, it becomes overwhelmingly necessary for me to get out of the train. I cannot bear to be here anymore. It feels like I could be literally anywhere else and feel more at ease. I get up abruptly, encouraging a dirty look from the person sitting next to me, who immediately shifts his legs to let me pass on to the aisle. I walk up the aisle, and get to the exit in a few short seconds. As the train comes to a halt, and the doors slide open, I almost jump out as if my life depends on me getting my feet on the concrete floor down below.
I look up in order to see the sign that will tell me exactly where I am, and see the same face staring back at me. He does not look as happy as he did mere moments earlier. But at least he is still smiling. Slowly, the same sick joke plays itself on me one more time, and it dawns on me that he is supposed to be dead. So, why is he here?
My mother’s voice pops into my head once more, “the dead never truly leave us because love extends itself beyond this world.” And I think that she is right. That is why he is here. Because I still love him.
The only person who ever understood my stubbornness and who stood up for me anyway.