It was a spontaneous thing I came up with. I warn you - it's highly unedited.
***The picture is NOT mine! My photography skills are pretty basic!***
|"The wings were a pale blue colour, with black specks splattered in certain places. It was as though the one who had created her had worked tremendously hard to make her so beautiful."|
Thud! The bag hit the ground.
Sitting down made me realize how much I had worked hard these few days. I fully understood how tired I was.
Being born as the eldest child had its share of disadvantages. All the responsibilities had to be thrust onto you. All the misfortunes that happened to the family resulted in the eldest kid quitting their aspirations and happiness.
In case it wasn’t clear, let me enunciate this again: I was poor. And terribly unhappy.
I wouldn’t say that our condition was too precarious. We had a roof on top of our heads, the necessary furniture, food to eat and air to breathe. The only thing that we didn’t have – and the only thing we needed the most – was money.
My father died two years ago and my mother – a bitter woman who lost her leg in an accident – never forgot to remind me every day how poor we were. Where most kids woke up to the sound of the alarm in their phones, I woke up to the sound of my mother grumbling about the lack of money.
Trying desperately hard to ignore her, I would get ready for school. I would try to tune out as I took a cold shower. I would concentrate on my little siblings’ chatter when my mother went on about her misfortunes.
Leaving her at home and going to school was a relief. However, at school, my siblings and I would be subjected to stares – some mocking, some pitying and some a mixture of both.
After I survived the torturous hellhole also known as school, I would run to the local supermarket where I worked as an assistant. I would change into my uniform – a bright red suit with an accompanying red cap – and concentrate on preparing everyone’s bills.
I detested looking at the net amount of each bill. The amount in some bills was more than my salary.
How can you spend so much money? I wanted to scream. Like it’s a disposable tool – don’t you have a clue how much money matters to people like me?
I would work for three hours and then rush to the little café owned by my mother’s best friend. This friend was – excuse the crude language – a pain in the ass. She’d force me to take orders from almost all of the tables while her daughter (the other waitress) sat inside the kitchen, busy with her irritatingly sparkly phone. Yes, this job was more horrendous than the one at the supermarket.
If I tried to complain to my mother, she would yell her head off. She would say, “How can you be so ungrateful? You should thank her for hiring you, not curse her!”
When I was done with the torturous hours at the café, I would trudge back home. Instead of resting for two minutes, I would help my siblings with their homework. Finally, in the middle of the night, I would study.
Yep, my sleep cycle had gone for a toss.
These few weeks had been all the more demanding.
Along with my daily chores, I was supposed to nurse my grandmother.
My grandmother had returned from my uncle’s place a few weeks ago. All she had was mere flu, but nana acted like she was suffering from lung cancer.
To add more to my woes – my school and place of work were far off from my house. My house was in the outskirts. You had to change buses, cross a river and trudge for a while till you reached my house.
Presently, I was at the river’s bank.
The sky was grey. The leaves of the trees around me danced because of the breeze. The breeze was cool and soothed my skin. It was quiet, not eerily so.
I should go home. The frantic part of me whispered.
And continue to be a slave for everyone else? The irrational part hissed. That’s all you’ll do. You’ll never have time for yourself if you continue to serve those ungrateful souls.
Mother will not be pleased. The frantic part cried.
To hell with Mother. The irrational part said.
“Yeah, to hell with Mother and her stupid opinions.” I said, smiling a little. As if to prove my point, I picked up a pebble and threw it into the water. The ripples created made me laugh.
It was rather strange to hear that sound – a simple sound of delight. There were times when I felt I had forgotten how to laugh.
Since the day my father died, I was forced to act like an adult. I was forced to work and be the breadwinner. I was forced to abandon my childhood.
But not today.
I removed my boots and peeled off my socks. The odour of the socks made me gag.
“Yuck!” I threw the socks away. “I’m never going to wear those!”
Then I dipped my feet into the water.
Ah, this is so good! I thought, closing my eyes. I could do this every single day.
I had crossed this river every single day, but never had I gone and surveyed its beauty. I had never really experienced the gentle caress of the breeze, never tried to enjoy the coolness of the water and the calmness of the area. I was too busy working for everyone else’s benefits. I never really put much of a thought into my benefit.
I have heard a lot about fishes nibbling the dirt off your feet. Some say that it gives a very ticklish feeling but it is quite soothing. It was healthy. But like most things healthy, this fish-feeding-on-dirt-thingy was usually a part of a spa treatment.
I imagined fishes gathering around my feet – fishes of lurid colours, different colours and sizes. I imagined them eating the dirt from my weary feet and I could actually feel the tension knotted around my shoulders and stomach easing.
I was so busy dreaming that I nearly didn’t notice a butterfly arriving next to me.
The second I saw the insect, I snapped out of my reverie.
It was small and looked more fragile than a porcelain vase. The wings were a pale blue colour, with black specks splattered in certain places. It was as though the one who had created her had worked tremendously hard to make her so beautiful.
Yes. I had a strong feeling that this butterfly was a female one.
I wanted to touch her wings, but I knew that one hasty move would scare her.
So, I moved my hand next to her – very slowly – expecting her to sit on top of it.
She did not disappoint me. After a few moments, she perched atop my hand. Gently, I lifted my hand until she was at my eye level.
I surveyed her for a few more minutes. Now, I was imagining myself to be in her place – fluttering away in the wind, exploring the pockets of nature and free to make her own choices.
Then, she flew away as quickly as she had arrived.
Strangely, I was envious of that little butterfly. She didn’t have to worry about her demented mother, her little siblings and the lack of money. She had her delicate wings and the freedom to choose where she wished to go.
Yes, she may have a much shorter life. But she didn’t have too much to suffer like I did.
I guess it was God’s way of justice and I don’t think I could do much about it apart from following the rules.
I could rebel, yes. But that would not be the best way to handle the situation.
Sure, I would have got my freedom. I could be as free as my peers. I could do whatever I wanted – finish my homework on time and sleep for long hours. I could sit here, my feet deep in the waters and imagining. I could have the right to do what pleased me the most.
But a part of me knew that this was not really possible. This part, though morbid, was right.
I was supposed to be one of the breadwinners of the family. My family’s health and happiness lied in me working hard. We would get nowhere if I was wasting my time. I had to abandon my happiness in order to give my family theirs.
I removed my feet from the water and wore my socks. After tying my shoelaces and hoisting up my bag, I left for home.