Every day, I wake up to the aroma of creamy coffee wafting from the home directly below mine. My nostrils flare as I flood my senses with a longing to taste it, to lose myself in its wondrous depths of deceit, and distract myself from a long, dull day ahead.
I drag myself to work with the same urge in my thoughts. Sometimes I wanted to let go of my awkwardness and immediately ask for a cup. But before I go ahead, I always take two steps back. I would stand in front of their house, leaning on their door, inhaling the creamy sweetness. It wasn't that I couldn't get a cup of coffee outside, but Mrs.Batra had always been the greatest. I had no idea what it tasted like, but the fragrance was enticing enough to keep me standing for hours in the hope of getting a sip. However, the time restriction I'd be under would cause my body to unconsciously drift towards the road.
I usually walked a short distance to work. Anyone who inquired about my daily walks would be told that I am a nature enthusiast who helps to minimize pollution or whatever. However, in reality, I did not have the necessary funds to purchase an automobile, and when I had to walk even further for that, the option of taking public transportation was long gone.
The streets of my locality were boring. Your eyes would lose the spark within a day. And I have been living here for two years walking the same street daily. My eyes were more interested in reading the work mail than look at my surroundings. But there was one house that demanded my attention every time I pass through.
The Malhotras lived across the street in a simple cream house with a sprinkling of chocolate brown accents. It was the ‘new’ house, the one that was part of the trend. It wasn't very distinctive; every second house looked the same, but my gaze was drawn to it instinctively every day. It wasn't so much the home as it was the individuals who lived in it that piqued my interest.
The three-person family operated a restaurant that offered delectable fare. Their restaurant serves the finest food you've ever tasted. That eatery supplied the majority of my meals.
An old woman who lived in that house greeted me every morning with a crooked smile. Whenever I saw her, she was gardening. But she didn't appear to know anything about landscaping. She spent all of her time tending to the plants, but it would have been better if she had simply ignored them. At the very least, they'd be alive for a few hours longer. Their garden was enormous, yet one glance at it was enough to dampen your cheerful attitude.
I always made a point of looking at the old lady. She possessed that type of magnetism. Her black hair, with more than a few grey streaks, was always pushed high in a tight bun, held in place by a finely carved wooden hair stick. She had the best sense of fashion in my area for an elderly lady.
She has a son, Mr. Malhotra. He was like a precious artifact kept hidden from prying eyes. It was unusual to see him outside of his home. He never went to any residency association meetings, social functions, or even come out to run his restaurant.
The few times I'd seen him, he defied my perception of him as a docile, petite man with a potbelly. He appeared to have attended a gym as a teen and never left. In contrast to his son, who looked to be as pious as one can be, he was buff and terrifying.
His son was the one in charge of the eatery. I'm not sure how he doesn't get duped more often with his over-the-top friendliness and trusting demeanor. He is dubbed the saint of the neighborhood, and angel, I call him.
After greeting the grandma, thinking about the people I live with and their weird lives, with the scent of coffee still lingering, I would enter my workplace, commonly called a bookshop.
My employer was a plump woman with a lovely grin that never left her face. I'm not sure how her face doesn't hurt from smiling so much. In her opinion, she was as motherly and compassionate as a supervisor could be to a difficult and troublesome employee, aka me. And, as a side note, she has the greatest hugs I've ever experienced.
As soon as I walked in, I made a beeline for my position behind the counter, where I would wait for customers to arrive. The bookshop wasn't too huge, just big enough for a fair number of books to fit in, with a color scheme of cream and brown. I'm so used to being surrounded by brown that I've developed an aversion to everything brown, including chocolate. I know, I'm a pitiful person.
The day would quickly pass by, with me either reading a book or having conversations (argument in boss's eyes) with customers and occasionally with the boss herself.
This is my regular regimen, which I have followed religiously for the past two years. But I made a detour today.
My mother came to see me, and I'm sorry I ever gave her my address.
She wasn't precisely a mother figure. She was nurturing when I was little, but my adolescence was spent with her immersed in the world of drugs.
She was lost in the real world, drowning in various narcotics. She had little knowledge of what was going on around her or in her son's life.
We didn't have much money, to begin with, but her drug addiction, which increased steadily as I matured into my adolescent self, cost far more than we could afford. All of our savings were spent on her drugs, and I was forced to drop out of school. Pitiful, I know. But because of it, I have a fantastic career, a fantastic employer, and a place full of comic and fiction books. What else do you need in life?
I haven't seen her in two years. Her childhood buddy had come to see us once, saw her in a pathetic state, and instantly decided to bring her to a rehabilitation center. I hadn't seen her since, and I wasn't looking forward to her visit. She was released from rehab months ago, but her reluctance or my refusal to visit her may have slowed our 'reunion'.
I was sitting on my bean bag, twiddling my fingers, waiting for her to arrive when the doorbell rang.
I can pretend that none of this has impacted me, that none of her stupidity has wounded me, but when I saw her face, her eyes sparkling brilliantly with a tiny curve of her lips, reminding me of my earlier years with her, free of drugs, her taking care of me, I couldn't keep back my tears.
I walked towards her involuntarily. She reminded me of my mother, not a drug addict who was drowning in her sorrows and reluctant to accept responsibility. She appeared to be a lovely, elegant lady who could hold her own. She seemed to be in good health and upbeat. And, perhaps I'm seeing things, but there were unshed tears in her eyes. Her hair in a regal bun, eyes glittering with tears, lips curled into a soft grin, she reminded me of all the fun I had as a youngster with her. I was inches away from her, resisting the want to draw her in for a hug.
As soon as I saw her, all thoughts of ignoring her or hurting her vanished. She is not pitiful; her stay in treatment was a triumph. My mother has come back, finally, I can return to my house.
I've been here for two years, getting to know the people and the neighborhood, establishing weird ties with them and this area, adoring my little but snug and comfortable house, falling into a routine that I've grown to love, living happily after a long time, yet never once did I feel at home. My mother's lap was where I slept, and home was when she sang to me, her lovely voice filling my ears, her scent tickling my nose, her enticing face refreshing my eyes - she was home.
For years, I had missed my home, and here I am just inches away, ready to be touched by her, filling all of my senses.
She softly extended her arms, motioning me to immerse myself in the joy of returning home. With a beating heart and a large-toothed smile, I raced into the embrace.
There was no rush or joy in her hug, which was similar to my boss's but not to my mother's. She is no longer a drug user, but she is also not my home.
When I can't get rid of the vision of her being her loser, pathetic, terrible self, I can’t feel at home. My home is lost, shattered, crushed. In every way, I will never be able to return home.
I got my mother back but lost my home forever.