I know him, but I don’t. I see his shadows everywhere in my life, but it is where to place him that I am having all the trouble. When I look in the mirror, they’re there to haunt me. All of those strangers, all of the ghosts that crowd around, and in the center, it's him.
“Anjali!!” I was trying to hear their voices when I heard my parents calling me. Did they know I wasn’t normal? As I walked downstairs, my memory had fogged up. What did I do and what have I yet to do? My answer; everything. I have yet to see myself properly, yet to fulfill my purpose walking on this world as an individual, so many things that keeping track of what I am to do and what I haven’t has become my kryptonite.
My mother, father and I all look into each other's eyes, then at the empty seat at the table.
“ Have a good day at school honey. Remember to come right back home, don’t talk to strangers, don’t talk-”
“To anyone. Right.” My parents looked at me weirdly. I had never brought up the topic of why, who, what, and when. Only how, and then, nothing. I looked outside into the crowd of kids walking into school. They probably all had friends, teachers who knew they existed, and they must’ve all travelled somewhere besides the comfort of their homes. Did they know I wasn’t normal?
Outside, my neighbor smiled at me. We walked to school together every day, all while me not saying a single word to her. Often, she talked about middle school troubles, grades, friends, other social drama that she could never relay to anyone else. I guessed it was because she felt as if she was talking to the wind. Wind is always there, and you can feel it in your presence, but wind is invisible, and can’t express emotions.
School was normal, and normal for me meant collecting homework, avoiding teachers, staff, students, and keeping a secret. Every lunchtime, I was alone in the library, and I talked to the librarian. Every lunchtime, I moved my mouth, and I learned something different about the world. Every lunchtime, I was breaking my parents’ only rule. Today, Ms. Periwinkle (yes, that was her name), asked me a question.
“How are you today Anjali? What are you reading there?” A how, and a what. I saw him again, sitting beside Ms. Periwinkle, and was grinning ear to ear. I saw him again and again, along with more ghosts, flitting along the walls, speaking to each other.
“Umm, ghosts!” I covered my mouth with my hands. “No, no, I’m reading umm, When.”
“Oh! When is a very good book! What was it about those ghosts you were talking about?”
“Nothing. I just saw something, someone. Never mind.” I fumbled with words, and then I got up to look for another book, hoping she didn’t catch the last word. “Someone” Looking around at the world atlas books all the way on the other side of the library, I saw him, and then, me! The ghosts were of him and me sitting and reading in the library when I was just a 6th grader, him an eighth grader. Now, it was like we had switched places. Another version of me was older, and was calling him to come home. That wasn’t me; I would never ask him to come home, the HIM that he always was to me. I felt Ms. Periwinkle nudge my shoulder.
“Why, do you want me to tell you a story about your brother?” I looked her in the eye.
“Sure honey. Him.” I nodded for approval. I could handle this, I could.
“Your brother, he loved to see sights. Field trips, the zoo, and of course he looked in the same atlas you are now. He loved the maps the best. One day, he said he was going to see the world. Travel.” I knew this story. He never came back.
“I was in 7th. Last year, he ran away, and he thought he loved the world more than me, and now I can’t be normal. My parents want me to be safe, but how can I when I’m just so naive to everything in this world?”
“You can be normal with me. Lunch is about to end sweetie. How about you try out seeing the world for yourself today? And I have something to give you.”
I inched up to her desk. It was an e-mail address.
“Find him, and tell him.”
School was not normal today. It was a one-of-a-kind.
Barging through the door of my house that day, I gave out a whoop of joy.
“Honey! Did you enjoy your day?”
“Can we try and find him? I know in my heart that he has just been wanting to be found. Please help me.” My parents smiled, the reaction I had least expected. Was I dreaming up this whole situation, the whole prospect of finding him, seeing my parents happily smiling at me like it was the perfect thing to ask? I knew they were hiding their true feelings, but was I ready to reveal my own? My parents suddenly changed their expression.
“We know how much you miss him, but we don’t know how to-” I pulled out the sheet of paper and waved it in the air.
“We can do it right here, right now.”
He kept on lying near me the whole night as we tried to think of the things we could say. The ghosts still haunted me, and sometimes, I still didn’t know if the he I saw was really the same he he really was supposed to be. All of me hoped. All of me wished. There was no hesitation, except would my brother still want to be my brother after two years of neglection? Was I something to him, and what would I write to show him that?
At midnight, I figured he’d be somewhere with a time change and that I’d better write him sooner than later. I had figured out what to write.
“I miss you. From, Anjali.”