Hiraeth (Welsh)

A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, or a home which maybe never was.

At eight, when we had to leave my childhood house in the village which had a backyard and a swing, to move into one above a restaurant in the city, I cried for an entire month. My mother, a poet herself, pacified me by teaching me new words that sounded melodious. Or maybe, she was trying to pacify herself.

Hiraeth, one such word, has stuck with me for years.

I felt the word when I was eleven and my father took my younger brother and left to earn the daily wages but both of them never returned. My mother cried uncontrollably and the sinking feeling in my heart was Hiraeth. The family I knew would never be the same and I would miss it my entire life.

At fifteen, my best friend, my only friend, moved to another city. I waved goodbye to her till she became smaller and smaller until I couldn’t see her bus anymore. Recalling the promises that we made to keep in touch, I walked back home, through the streets, we once joyously played in. The streets seemed haunted and strange, as though I’ve never walked down them before. Hiraeth, I called it, when I realized that I would never look at the road back home with the same familiarity ever again.

I felt homesick again at twenty when the boy who said he loved me was saying the same thing to another woman. When I went weak in the knees and felt like my heart would explode, I termed the feeling as Hiraeth. I would never look at love the same way. I could never go back to thinking about love as the innocent, pure, and safe space that it’s supposed to be.

At thirty-three, when my mother passed away, I was left with a house, my mother’s diamonds, and a loveless marriage. I wondered why I had everything in the world, a comfortable life and yet I didn’t feel fulfilled. I called the emptiness in my soul Hiraeth. I missed my house in the village with a backyard and the swing and wondered how feeling homesick goes beyond missing four walls. Hiraeth.

Picture by Arno Smit (Unsplash)


The Lost Shoe


When I was a child, I lost a shoe while walking through the market. It was a busy market on a hot summer day and my mother couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I remember she complained that morning about having to go all the way to the city for something so frivolous but I forgot what we went to the market for. I remember her dragging me with her because there was no one else to look after her four-year-old child. She rushed to get me ready so we could beat the afternoon crowd. I saw her running around the house, rambling about her laborious life, trying to bring everything in order before we begin our journey. I remember quietly standing in a corner, afraid of her vexed expression, knowing that I must not get in her way.

Once the house was managed to her liking, she turned to me. Suddenly, the woman who was just moving at the speed of lightning slowed down and gently brought my shoes out. She sat me down on a chair and knelt to the ground. She held the two laces in each of her hands and looped them. “This is the bunny’s left ear and this is the right ear. Now cross the ears. One goes over the other and there! All tied up!” she said in a singsong voice as she tied my lace. Back then, to me, it seemed as though my mother could do magic. With time also, just as much as with the laces. Time would just slow down every time my mother spoke to me as if to let me bask in every moment so that I would never forget a single memory spent with her.

Suddenly, getting back into her lightning avatar, she swiftly dragged me out of the house and almost ran till the bus stop. She held my hand as we boarded the bus and didn’t let go till we reached back home later that day. Once seated on the bus, she nestled me into her lap and I was as comfortable as the dew drops on the rose petals despite being in the midst of a garden full of thorns.

When we reached the city, my mother quickly brought me to my feet and braved the crowd. All I remember was getting yanked through a herd of sweaty, mindless people who didn’t bother to look where they were stepping, which was almost always, on my feet. I raised my other arm to defend me from thick bags smacking my face. It seemed to me that my mother was walking at the speed of the choo-choo train that she bought for my last birthday.

I don’t even remember stopping to buy what we came for. Before I knew it, we were back at the bus stand waiting to board the bus back home. My mother suddenly looked at me and gasped. “Where is your right shoe?” she asked me and the color of my face disappeared. I had to look down at my feet to notice that I was missing a shoe. A beautiful white-colored shoe with colorful stripes and with laces that my mother always tied for me. When I first saw that shoe from the window of another shop in the city, I immediately knew I wanted it. Even if that meant I have to let out the loudest possible cry in the middle of this busy market and embarrass my mother.

She bought that shoe for me after I wouldn’t stop crying then, but now I was crying the same way when I lost it, knowing very well that considering how my mother’s mood has been throughout the day, I am sure to get whacked anytime now. I kept repeating that I was sorry and didn’t want to add to her troubles in between my sobs. I looked at my mother so I could anticipate the intensity of trashing coming my way but instead, I saw her face soften slowly until she burst out into laughter.

We didn’t board the bus we were waiting for. Instead, my mother picked me up and took me back to the market and bought me a new pair of shoes. This one was a black shoe with purple laces that my mother would go on to teach me to tie the same way. She also bought me my favorite vanilla ice cream which I gladly shared with her. She narrated the story every time we went to the city. Only this time her face always lightened up at the mention of the city instead of dreading it.

Today, I noticed that her shoelace was untied. So, I knelt to the ground and tied them for her. Just then, she looked at me, smiled and narrated the whole story of my lost shoe all over again. She tells me how amusing she found that I didn’t even notice when my shoe came off. She laughed, thinking about how afraid I was to disappoint her. She cried remembering my innocent face. She may have forgotten how to tie her shoelace, she may have forgotten who I was on most days, but she always remembered the story of the lost shoe to its last detail.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The Brown Belt

My father had a thick brown color belt. It was the only one he had. When it broke or wore out, he would buy the same one. He didn’t care if it matched his shoes. Probably because you could never see him wearing it. You see, he never tucked his shirt. Always roamed around town with his big paunch and oversized untucked shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbow. The unseen poor belt would lose its shape and tear from within trying to hold up his pants; and his honor.

Not only to save him from the humiliation of dropping his pants in public, but the belt also saved him from the humiliation of having a gay son. The first time he used the belt to hit me was when he saw Sameer in my room, a little closer than a seventeen-year-old boy must be to another. He whipped the belt continuously, not caring where it hit me, till I lost consciousness. The scars on my back reminded me every single day that protecting my father’s honor was more important than accepting who I am. Even after he was gone, I kept the belt in my wardrobe, right next to my brown belt. Over the years, when I thought for even a second that I cannot live a lie for my entire life, I would bring out his brown belt and whip myself with it.

So today, when my seventeen-year-old son stood in front of me wearing a white dress that stopped just above the knee and told me that he doesn’t identify as a male, I had no choice. It almost amused me how the new generation has come up with so many new ways of getting in tune with who they are. Nonetheless, my father wouldn’t have had it. His belt needed to be brought out to protect his honor yet again.

I walked up to my wardrobe, remembering every single whip, every single slang hurled at me by my father, every single tear of my mother cursing herself for not giving birth to a “normal” child, every single time my father warned me to keep my true self a secret. I remembered every single time my father opened the wardrobe and brought out his brown belt. I remembered how I would go numb with fear even before the belt touched my naked skin. So I opened my wardrobe today and took out the brown belts, both his and mine. Only this time, I threw my father’s belt into the trash can and walked over to my son. I handed over my belt to him and told him “this will look good with your white dress.”

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash


Of my Aunt’s Bindis, Bangles, and Courage

At the break of dawn, I heard the soft rhythm of the clothes hitting the stone plank at a distance. I lethargically carried myself to the window and peeped out to see Ammu Maasi tirelessly trashing the clothes and then taking a moment to delicately tuck the lone strand of hair behind her ear that dared to escape her otherwise neat bun. Her only two gold bangles made this soft tune that I was so used to waking up to.

I was eight years old when my mother left me with her youngest sister. Then, a newlywed bride who was still getting used to the metti she now had to wear on her toe, Ammu Maasi didn’t hesitate even once before taking me in. She shielded me from her mother-in-law’s taunts, her brother-in-law’s lustful eyes, and her husband’s ignorance.

I wondered why she didn’t hate my mother for making her life so difficult. The answer to my questions lay in Maasi’s stories. They painted my mother as a warrior who escaped this prison of a house where she was only beaten and enslaved by her husband and also saved me from the same life. I didn’t blame mother. I loved being Maasi’s shadow, following her around as she effortlessly handled every single chore of the house. She always made sure I studied and when I told her I enjoyed writing, she would sit next to me and make me recite the stories that I wrote while she looked out the window at the clear blue sky.

But this morning felt different. I felt the need to memorize every single thing that she did. Right from running around the house, cleaning every single corner and then coming to a halt and almost in slow motion, putting that red bindi right in between her eyes with her ring finger. I always believed that no one could do things as she does. That day was the last time she would waltz around the house with her sheer elegance and beauty. She fell down in the kitchen while making chapatis. She could never move the right side of her body after that day.

The first time I saw her crying was when she tried so hard to stand and work with just her left hand but always fell onto the floor. Soon after that, I was married off to the first house Maasi’s husband could find, far away from the village, but her thoughts never left my mind. Every day, every single thing I would do, every single story I wrote had a little bit of my aunt in it.

Then one day, we got a call that her husband passed away. It was my turn now and I didn’t hesitate before bringing Maasi to my house. This time I shielded her from my new family’s taunts and told my children stories of a warrior named Ammu who always believed in herself and lived life with absolute grace. I’d turn to Maasi and see her smile as I tucked the lone strand of her behind her ear.


Photo by Rupali Neelkanth on Unsplash

Transforming from a Muslim to an Indian

It is an underlying fact that India is more a home than a nation to the millions of people who live in here and this feeling of intimacy towards one’s home is a characteristic feature of every Indian. The notion of nation was an alien invasion which not only restricted us to geographical entities but also created social, cultural, and most importantly, religious differences in the realm of political agendas. Religious markers were labeled on every individual and one assumed an identity through such constructs. The isolation of minorities from the majority, rift between religions, and domination through power were all resultants of the political dogma. The worst effects were witnessed in the religious scenario as India was perceived, by a few, as a construct of Hindutva. This not only led to the estrangement of rest the society, especially Muslims, from their homeland but also questioned their allegiance and loyalty. The Muslim community was still coping with this isolation when they were distanced even further with the tag of being propagators of terrorism thrust on them, which deeply damaged their sentiment of patriotism. The feeling of being viewed either as outsiders or perpetrators of havoc has intensified over the time and has widened the gap between communities. 

The Government of India and various committees have continually worked towards fortifying the Muslim community by providing various benefits and reinforcing their rights in the societal arena. Though the status of Muslims has come under constant scrutiny, it is important to realize that the chaos exists at a superficial level. The problems of communal violence and religious intolerance are instigated by political underpinnings, they have no value in the lives of people, the feeling of brotherhood and oneness continues to exist. People reside with each other in harmony and contribute equally to the growth of India as a nation.

Despite the communal synchronization the condition of Muslims is complicated as the various efforts by the Government lack efficient implementation. The Government has set up schools and other assistance to educate the rural population but the girls are hardly aware of education and the boys dropout after high-school in order to fend for themselves. The role of Government ends at setting up institutions, there is no effort to persuade the masses to make them realize the possibilities that can come up through education. The graph of education in Muslim population is comparatively lower as the family is larger and the parents find it difficult to provide schooling to all, it is rather easier to employ them in petty occupations and help obtain some income for the family. This increases the probability of illiteracy and unemployment among the Muslims and gravitates escalation of the community. 

The religion of Islam is seen as oppressive and domineering, governing the ethics of life. It is argued by many that it is Islam that rules the livelihood of Muslims, who are dictated by a certain set of restrictions and who possess no freedom or integrity of their own. The position of women is even more subjugated as they are expected to function within the framework of the patriarchal setup. There is constant pressure on the existence of women as they are bound to adhere to the imperatives which are translated by the male clerics. The truth remains unidentified that these restrictions are unreasonably blown out of proportion in order to defy the principles of religious conviction. The limitation is a consequence of the misinterpretation of the religious doctrines which is continually promulgated in the mindset of people that reinforce an image of negativity.

The position of Muslims in India cannot be conclusive as the choice remains in the hands of the people. It is our foremost duty to exploit the resources granted by the government for our own progress and development. It is unfair to concentrate specifically on definite castes or communities as it tends to leave out the rest of the society from the view of advancement. Determining the status of Muslims in comparison with others widens the rift and calls for simulated sympathy. The responsibility of building up and fixing a position in India is an obligation of not only every Muslim but that of every Indian, in order to conceptualize the emblem of a free India.

Photo by Julian Yu on Unsplash


The summer couldn’t have announced a more unholy arrival. Ablaze crops had turned to dust. The little that spring brought was wasted under the blistering heat. Only the rats survived. They fed on the little that remained and then ate some more.

A little town, that was dry and thirsty, stood in the periphery of vast deserts. It hosted little houses and almost all of them were built of wood.

A well that came with the promise of water was almost empty. A man in his thirties, jumped inside and then climbed back up with a full pail in hand. A big gulp of the water he had retrieved was followed with panting and cursing. Life was not easy in little towns stranded in deserts, in the middle of no-where. He jumped right back in with a second pail.

More panting followed when got back up. He looked back, beyond a green fence, towards a barren farm. The summer had been equally unkind to him as the others. ‘May the lord save us’, he bellowed.

With a pail in each hand, he walked back to his wooden house. There was a welcoming party to greet him on the porch.

“Honey, the kids need more water.” This came from a woman in her late twenties. Tall and handsome. Motherhood had added a few extra pounds to what was god’s craftsmanship. Ebony hair and sharp features up top and slender frame with curves as one mannerlessly let one’s eyes continue to scan below.

“Tell them to fetch it, themselves” he growled. He was just as tall as his woman. It seemed like he once matched her in more than just height. But time had not been as kind to him.

“Honey, you make us laugh” she retorted feigning humor. “We delicate things don’t get into a man’s business”, she further cajoled him.

He made his way up a few steps and walked right up to her as she clutched the elder of her two daughters, tightly by the hand. He said nothing and walked right inside.

She waited for a few seconds to pass and walked right in.

The two girls were poured a glass of water each from the two pails that had clumsily been placed on top of a floorboard in the pantry. The elder picked up one pail and made her way to do other things water allows you to do. Her sister followed.

He sat there atop a bed, changing into a dry shirt. The door opened. “Things have to change, William.” “Those girls need you.”

“They need their daddy to be the strong man, I remember him to be” she spoke with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“A good man is just as strong as his woman lets him be, Beth. And, you drained me of all my strength.” He sounded weak. Silence was accompanied by sobbing.

“I did what I had to. My children…” she was cut off before she could finish. “Our children were provided for by their father” he screamed.

“Their mother needn’t be whoring around for nothing.” He was now standing up and seething. Sweat trickled down his forehead. His nostrils flared and spit raining down with each word.

Silence had no company.

“I am a whore but I am also your wife and the mother of our children” she spoke back. Tears stilled filled her cheeks but they didn’t alter her stern tone.

“You are not my wife, no more.”

They were in a stand-off and no one was about to lower their gaze.

“Yes, I am different. Different to a man who vowed to stand by his woman in sickness or health.” She raised her hand to command silence as he about to protest.

“And yes my body wears the scent of another man but, if it’s only my body you made your vows to then you were never my man and I never your woman. William, I vowed loyalty and love and my soul will provide you just that till you hear me breathe. As for the scent, I wash my body twice with sand in a desert just to rid it. But you still smell it none the less.”


Even water wouldn’t or couldn’t change what was different.

Picture by Valentin Lacoste (Unsplash)

The widow sipped rum

Thunder growled at a soft little town. The streets; its people; were at the mercy of bleak ebony skies. Horses and street hounds made themselves heard. But, their sounds were without an audience. Still more thunder and still more rain.

A stallion, built to last such nights made its way down an empty street. Not a soul to see its eyes glowing and penetrating the night. It walked undeterred in the company of rain as all else sought refuge. It was the vehicle of a woman in white. A hat and leather jacket draped her white dress. A colt stood in its holster strapped to her waist.

Her stallion made its way to some light in the distance, offering some resistance to what was going to be a long night. A bar in godless country, in the middle of a godforsaken night, was no place for a woman in white. Yet, she stepped off her horse and left him in the company of unholier looking friends. She walked in.

Drenched and dirty, she was in the company of men. All wore stained shirts that were equally damp. All else stopped. They watched as she made her way to a barstool. Her movements were bereft of grace, instead, she carried a swagger afforded to only men twice her size.

As she sat on her stool, she canvassed her surroundings and met the eyes of gazing men as they hastily went back to business. The colt was free of its holster and placed on top of the bar.

A man with a thick mustache wearing a pale white shirt folded all the way up to bulging shoulders and a waistcoat that had lost its battle to a mountaining belly made his way to take her order.

“You, drink?”, he growled. She looked at him and not so much as wore a grin. “A Jack Daniel with nothing but ice” she growled back.

“Not many maidens walk in here. You know in the company of savages.” “And those that drink anything but Christ’s wine, are asking for hurt.”

“Well, no maiden walked in here, tonight, old boy.”
He looked and growled some more and went to fetch the lady her drink. She stared at her colt.

“Dear, I wasn’t expecting you here tonight” spoke an old voice. She turned back and let out a dry smile. The old voice belonged to an old man wearing a baggy green suit and more rings than fingers.

He sat beside her. “My regular, John” he announced and heard an “Alright” in response. “Darling, Jack usually has me fetch you first before we head here. He always buys the drinks that, young man.”

She said nothing. Drinks arrived. “Is he waiting in the lodge?” he asked now sounding concerned and fearful.

She took a deep breath and all her rum needed replacement.

“We would come here to see the ships leave the bay. After the rains, the sun transforms old country to the paradise, I remember” she spoke.

“Well it does get better, doesn’t it?” “Jack with the horses?”, now looking back and expecting the door to open.

“Jack and I grew up together. He was just a boy and much like boys do, he dreamed us whole adventures and trouble.”

She giggled. “I dreamed his dreams.” Now she stared directly at the old man. The swagger was gone. She was back doing those woman things that savages expected woman do. The skies were not the only ones raining down.

“My dear, where is Jack? What has come of him?” he asked as his hand clenched hers.

“I came here alone.” “Jack, his clothes, his smell, his beer and all else, never made it here”, she proclaimed.

The old man stood up and but continued to clench the woman in white.

“There is no us, no more. You shall drink with only me, tonight”, and with that, she gestured at the barman for a refill.

The colt carried only four bullets. The other two had found a new home. None could provide pain as fierce as a scorned heart. So pure, so raw and therefore, so scorned. The widow sipped rum that night.

Picture by Santiago Martin (Unsplash)

A moment in Time

Note: The nature of this piece mirrors that of a writing experiment paired with a visual artwork of my choosing.

Trigger warning: A vivid description of an intrusive thought that may be triggering to individuals overcoming or dealing with any and all forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

A fire ant is crawling down the back of my left thigh. I run my index finger across the landscape of what a back-of-a-thigh entails and I cannot seem to find him.

My green and purple striped bed sheets are six days out of a fresh laundry wash, tainted by the smell of a mild vanilla comforter liquid. The fragrance is leaving its confinement infrequently and quietly. It refuses to be contained.

The first person to abandon ship — the ship being my body, bone, flesh, blood, soul, all of it — was me. I am still trying to find my way back home.

The artificial orchids on the coffee table are catching dust. The remote control for a wide television set rests beside it in silent companionship. I would like to think they are friends, in the way that inanimate objects can be well acquainted with each other after years of coexisting above a shared panel of wood.

The cable bill for August reads like a mockery to the numbers that dance across it — must pay immediately.

My gracious mother of twenty three years is seated on the floor, reaching for her cellular device which will aid in forging a chicken curry recipe. She follows her quest by resting her head against the curved frame of the sofa.

It rained forty three minutes ago. The curtains shiver coldly on the onslaught of a slow evening draft.

My intrusive thought for the day:

• Imagine a fruit peeler, the kind with a worn handle from years of constant use — or don’t.

• Take the instrument to your ankle of choice and press down on skin until the air tastes of blood.

• Now, gently peel upward as you would with a plastic razor caging shiny metal blades.

• The peeled skin curls into itself — bashfully, almost.

• Rinse and repeat.

Today, I drew the portrait of a famous British musician. I scarfed down three packets of Chinese angel-hair taffy.

I did not envision an emptiness that is draining — like a vacuum in the middle of the Arabian Sea.

The pedestal fan squeaks hesitantly, as though it is fearful of life.

I drink hot water from a stainless steel cup.

I find my bearings.

I am alive.

I will tell Mama!

That day didn’t seem to pass as quickly as I wished because memories are cruel and come back like a boomerang. No matter how far you throw them away, they find you back! And memories which are your worst nightmares are hard to get over with. 

Not every day you are scared of people until they condition you to stay fearful of them. Like a daily task it becomes a habit, a chore to be scared even of their footfall. They make sure they don’t break the continuum. They suck your light, inject you with all the filthy darkness they have little by little.

And then when they shred your soul piece by piece, when you become ‘unbreakable’; you seize to be threatened by them. They no longer terrify you rather are seldom petrified to see the canvas they painted with the blacks of their own fears.

I was born into a middle class family where I lived in my lala land and a house with a loving family. My home-Mother, Father, elder brother, fear and an old grandmother who smelled like soap. We all live fears and not lives since the time we come into existence. We hide in the womb of fear.
I feared losing my doll, Candy. A random doll, dressed in a red shirt with yellow buttons; blue trousers with red socks and a red hat which read ‘Candy’ in yellow. You see, I didn’t have to work hard to name her. It was just her long brown pleated hair and eyes that made her look feminine, rest she was a man of cotton. Candy had served as a doll to my cousin sister, who now had grown up into a lady. Her lip had come off when she was given to me and now, candy was mine. So she was and so I sketched her new lips with a black marker. I took her everywhere. I bathed her, combed her hair, talked to her for hours and slept with her. We humans are strange-treat dolls just like another human and toy humans like dolls. From the fear of losing my doll to losing humans to losing myself; the fear just grew bigger and bigger with every dawn kissing the earth.

Life was as normal as it could be and I couldn’t help but be chirpy and mischievous. Like candy, I too was dressed like boys because I was thin and bones would usually stick out of the frilly delicate clothes. I was so frail that I remember my mother counting my ribs on me. My legs were twitched like witch’s broom and hair hardly longer than my father’s. I barely looked like a girl! I forgot to be one until I was reminded, like every girl is- through words, gestures and yes the touch!

“Aren’t you the good girl?’’ said the man in the long beard who used to come to my home to teach me the holy book. He sat right in front of me with just a table between us. I stopped reading at once and gave him a strange look after which he said, “go on keep reading”. I did so. I moved my body back and forth slowly with the rhythm of my voice as I read the verse from the holy book and read them out loud so that he could correct me. I did that every day. As I was reading, he kept is hand on my shoulder and felt my bone. At first I thought he wanted me to stop moving but as he ran his hands down my body and clenched my hands which rested on the book, my voice quivered. The room went silent. I heard a throbbing in my head and a voice deep within saying “I will tell Mama”. I couldn’t give voice to my words. Alas! I couldn’t say that out loud. “I know you are a good girl” he said while lustfully tracing his hands on mine. My voice betrayed me and I sat like a dead meat while he bit my lower lip and sucked and sucked the childhood out of me.

While he left, his smell still stayed in the room. I ran to my mother knowing not what to say. All I said was “he kissed me”. “Where” my mother asked. A child of nine was I, when I gestured towards my swollen chapped lips.
“Don’t tell your father” my mother said immediately.

I wish I had. I wish!

Picture by _mxsh_ (Unsplash)

The Caravan

There was once a caravan on the other side of the river. Surrounded by trees and puddles and sheltered under the raging sun. Smoke came out its chimney and continued to fill the sky until whatever was being cooked inside had filled dinner plates. It had arrived in the beginning of summer. It had not been the first one. A summer before and the one it had followed had brought many such caravans to edge of the river.

The river, well, it was placid. Filled with fish and other treasures water could offer. It was not just a river, it was the lifeline of an entire village. God had blessed a tiny settlement on the southern tip of a southern country with lush waters and the fertility it brought along, a couple of centuries ago. Men, woman and children would bathe, fish and do other things here. They had simple begginings and probably even simpler ends but for generations they enjoyed every bit of their simple lives under the custody of god created waters.

A few boats connected them to the outside world. Technology had made its presence felt but was taking its time to find a place in village homes. Al’s internet café existed in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. A few better travelled men had found gadgets that with a few clicks could connect them to the neighbouring cities and beyond.

Alas! Simplicity suited simple beings. Simple beings are one’s not exposed to the lust of desire. Desire is sprouted by the knowledge of treasures and riches. And knowledge when desired is proliferated faster than the speed of light. In the last 2 decades, this simple fishing colony had seen many of its children depart to occupy bunk beds in rooms filled with 8 such bunk beds in cities leaving behind their rusting playgrounds and aging parents. The few that remained longed to see the sights the cities promised.

One such 15-year-old was Timothy. A rather short and frail looking teenager, Timothy had been sick for about half his life. The village was all he knew. Once he was healthy, he would travel far beyond the river. He had seen one friend after the other depart to boarding schools or sweat shops. Both, seemed like obvious choices to escape their sanctuary. 

Once he was strong and had earned a thousand units of currency he would escape. He would leave. Mother and littles sister would be accommodated in a nice flat in a big city after few years of hard labor. He would feel the city breeze against his branded clothes and breathe the scent of industry and development. Such ambitions the fifteen-year-old held.

In fact, dreaming had become a luxury he was able to afford every night as he sat across the caravan only separated by waters. He sat over grass with a bottle of milk and a few nibbles in the company of stars and different shapes of the moon. And every night tunes of artists old and older played. The caravan was blessed with music. He would first listen from afar and then one day have his own. 

He had seen an old man, probably in his seventies, emerge from the caravan and sit beside the edge of the river on a foldable chair under a foldable umbrella. He often waved at Timothy and Timothy waved back. That had an unspoken bond.

The old man emerged from his caravan with his chair in hand and the umbrella that went along with it. He sat it down on the same spot that now had impressions to guide this process along. But, before he could sit down and wave at his young companion, the old man fell to his knees.

Timothy called out and called out again but the old man sunk deeper into the ground, until all he could see was a lump across the river. Timothy jumped and sped across a light current. He had not been a natural swimmer and his sickness had something to do with it. He swam with intent, none the less, and emerged on the other side after a good 6-7 minutes of swimming. He had crossed the river! He was finally on the other side. Not how he had imagined it but he was there.

Soaking wet and with heavy breathes, Timothy made his way to the old man. He had started to move. His legs were gently caressing the grass and his palms were firmly against the soil trying to push it down. He was breathing heavily, so much so, that even Timothy’s swim induced calls for air were not able to compete with him.

“Are you, alright?”, Timothy gingerly asked, as he helped the old man roll over so that he could face a half moon sky.

“My pump, in the bbbbb”, he responded. This was both preceeded and succeeded with loud gasping. Timothy ran into the caravan and found himself in the company of many scents of luxury. There was still some wine in a tea cup and the meat that had accompanied it could still be found in bits and pieces on a plate place on top a tiny table. The table bordered a sink and a few cabinets. Those were rummaged.

Timothy knew exactly what he was looking for. Children in the clinics he had visited before, used ‘the pump’. At five he was told that they needed magic dust to cure their flu. He had begged for some himself. “That’s the last thing you need”, was the stern reply he was given.

No luck! Back on the grass. The old man’s breathing slowed down. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. Timothy looked out of the window and froze. The river and its bank still visible, he stood there and moved not an inch.

Frank Sinatra was singing. 

“Fly me to the moon” he requested in song. Frank continued to sing and slowly Timothy got back to his task.

He scavenged a drawer right next to a well-made bed and he found it! He walked outside to see the old man staring intently at the stars. His eyes were wide open. The pump was thrust into his mouth and a few clicks were made.

His breathing picked up. And, soon with a little help he sat on what was now an unfolded chair, a few inches away from its intended location. A request for some water was made and yet not a single word was exchanged. Timothy obliged. The cup was drained of the wine it contained and replaced with some water.

“Son, you saved my life” were the first words he spoke. He took another gulp of his drink. “So, what’s your name, son?” he asked, his head still firmly transfixed at his cup of water. 

“A minute longer and my wishes would have come true” he continued. “All I wanted is to rest one final time on the bank of placid waters in the middle of no-where. Escape the treacherous city pollution and industrial waste”, he kept on going. The few pumps of magic air seemed to have done the trick.

Nothing was heard in response. He felt the summer breeze against his beating heart and then he didn’t feel anything at all. He looked up. Timothy stood there wearing no expression.

With one big heave the man stood up. “You don’t speak much, son?” he asked with wry smile. There was no humoring the boy. 

“You should meet the wretched hell raisers back there”, he howled. “Not a shred of decency. No amount of etiquette and not so much as a count of discipline.”
He was now desperate to get the boy to talk. 

He leaned in and placed his hand on Timothy’s shoulder. “Your parents raised you well. Simple beings from simple places but with a world’s worth to give.”

The boy was not even looking at him anymore. Instead he stared at the chair.

He turned back to find a lifeless old gentleman sitting on the foldable chair.

“It’s time to cross over”, Timothy finally said and pointed at the river. At its banks rested the body of young boy. He was all of fifteen years of age.

The big cities were left waiting. One had escaped it and the other its promises.