With my parents, was what he said before leaving. He left me standing behind the invisible glass separating me from Aniya. Looking at her, contemplating the meaning of his words.
The doctors don’t look too pleased, heads hanging low as they leave the operation theatre. They have done what they could, now they have to wait and see. That I can see in their dejected expressions.
She is in a room similar to mine. With as many machines connected to her. Only, she isn’t awake like me. She looks so very much like she did in the car. Like she always did sleeping. Eyes closed peacefully. So very pretty. The scars are sprawled across her face, but I can see past them. I can see past the hurt, the pain. I hope she can too when she wakes.
For a great long while, I stand looking at her. The invisible glass still separating us. I would love to be just here, forever. But Mr D’s voice returns. With my parents, he said. What did he mean? Where from my parents do I start? What am I looking for? Was there anything different about them, ever?
Reaching over, mom pulled me close. She smiled her question. “You happy?”
I answered with the tiniest nod and a smaller smile, reaching around her to let her know it couldn’t be better. I couldn’t be better. That was more than mom could ask for. Pulling me impossibly closer, kissing my head lightly, she pulled me along.
I really did feel like I couldn’t be better. Happier. Why does that have to sound strange? It was just mom after all. And mom always felt happy. That’s what dad always said too.
“Your mom just feels happy.”
We were seated around the table, dinner laid out. There was nothing special or different about the day. I had gone to school, attended the classes, not even a surprise test or declaration of any previous test’s marks marking the day. At the usual time, Aniya and I walked back. In Aniya’s room, we had finished homework, before I headed home for the night. Mom and dad were home, as usual. Smiling between themselves, like the happy couple they always were. I went up to my room, showered and came back down. By when, dinner was ready. The three of us sat at the table. Dad started serving as I recounted my absolutely normal day.
“One should be happy for the dull days too,” dad said.
“Wow, you’re just such a ray of sunshine,” mom said, making us smirk at dad.
That was when dad said it. “Your mom just feels so happy.”
What followed was a scene that would remain forever etched in my head, what a happy couple looks like. Dad and mom were looking at each other with smiles that seemed ordinary, but even I could see the secret more behind the smiles. All the things that made them, them, running through their heads, triggered by that one sentence dad could speak so easily, a sentence that most would find indescribably difficult to say. Or maybe I could see it because I knew just how much they loved each other.
“You know the first time we met?” dad started. It was his favourite story, the story he got so close to telling so many times, but never could finish. Because, mom would always follow up.
“Yeah, how can we forget. You really want to tell him what you were watching?”
There was the twinkle in her eyes, like the two of them were sharing the secret in silence. I could see it in their eyes, but only knowing that the story was not coming. Not yet. It was the same that night too. Only, it wasn’t.
“Sure why not? He’s a teenager,” dad said. “I’m kinda sure he’s seen it too. If he hasn’t, I’m certain Aniya would have shown him.”
“Shut up,” mom said, reaching across the table to literally shut dad up with her hand over his mouth. “Don’t be an ass.”
It always amazed how the two of them could insist on me not swearing, or cussing, or using fowl language at any time, while so easily allowing the same of each other. How could they be so unfair, and be so cool about it? I wasn’t questioning that night though. That night, I was finally going to get to hear the story. And any double standards along the way were forgiven.
“So, she caught me with porn,” dad said through her fingers. “The kind with two women on each other.”
A few years ago, it might have had me gasping. Maybe a year ago, the mention of two women on each other from dad might have had me blushing. But dad was right. Aniya had scored the videos for us to watch. Knowing how good aunt was with computers, there was absolutely no way we could watch porn off the internet in either of our computers. Aniya had thus asked our friends from school to share the movies they had in flash drives. Who wouldn’t know the joy of sharing porn, especially for high schoolers. She’d bring them home, grinning insanely. Lock us in her room. Sharing the earphones, play the movies. It was at first a little difficult, embarrassing, disturbing watching porn together. But then, we had grown up doing everything together. Maybe we never did have the concept of us being a boy and a girl. We were just Aniya and Ani. Always together. And so, we got comfortable watching porn together too.
Dad punched the air above him in triumph at my expression, as mom looked at me with the question clear in her eyes. They knew dad was right, I was no stranger to porn. But that was a conversation that would have to wait, because there was no stopping dad anymore. It was his favourite story, and he could finally tell it.
“So we were in class,” he continued, limitlessly happy at mom struggling in vain to keep her face composed, rid of the smile creeping out victoriously. “We were in the same college, different departments for four years. And we only met, spoke in the fourth year. Can you believe that?”
That I did know. He couldn’t tell me the whole story, but this much he could. How they had met in the fourth year, not even in college. And how, since the first meeting, they knew they would be great friends. Just the most important details concerning their first meeting untold. Until that day.
“So, we had both joined the same institute, and we were put in the same class. Preparation for the great exam. My dear friend, and project partner, was sitting by me. He had managed to get his hands on his dad’s secret magazines. Had even managed to stuff it into his backpack, and bring it. So here we were, two boys, sitting in the very back of the class, going crazy over the pictures of two naked girls all over each other. Neither of us realising, we weren’t alone. A girl had joined us in the back, with the rest of the seats taken. It was easy for her to peep, and discover what had us enthralled. We looked up with the shuffling as the tutor walked in. Only then did I notice the dirty expression the girl beside me was giving me. Following my gaze, my compatriot, saw her dirty expression too. Pushing his chair as far as possible, he sat refusing to as much as turn his gaze in her direction. I couldn’t dare to move, not after the tutor had given us a stare of staunch disapproval. Seconds into the first class, and we had managed to enlist ourselves as the trouble makers. Imagine my surprise, when fifteen minutes in, the girl who was the cause of it all passes me a note. ‘Of all the pictures in the magazine, you had to pour over that? Not even the best.’ In that instant, it took all of me to keep from bursting out. And what followed was the greatest friendship. Ever. We came to learn of us being from the same college, and kept growing to what we are today.”
I could see why dad couldn’t tell me the story until then. He would definitely see me too young to hear the story, and if he didn’t mom would make him. But now that they’d told me the story, it was a strange feeling. Of lightness. Of warmth. Of laughter and insaneness. Like this invisible wall that had always been there had finally been broken. As insignificant as it had been, it was gone now, and we were so much the better for it.
“Oh such details you’d never forget,” mom teased.
“Of course not,” dad agreed, throwing back to mom.
There was nothing for me to say. No need for it. The two of them had gotten going. When they were so, they were chatterboxes with an endless battery. And I was the perfect audience.
Where do I start? The question had plagued me, taking me to the night they told me about how they met. Such a beautiful night. Such a perfect dinner.
Why did I come here? Why did he send me here? What had I missed before, that I now can see? I don’t know. I know nothing. It isn’t like I knew before. Like today is different in any way from the days until yesterday. And yet, it could be no more different. Until yesterday, even if I knew nothing, it didn’t matter. The unknowing tomorrow didn’t frighten me. Never did I have to think about it. Today, I stand with each second passing the murderous dread to the next. The fear of not knowing what lay with tomorrow.
I am at the dining table, scared. Unable to see past the night as it is in memory. So fragile, cracks breaking me as I stand helpless. What I wouldn’t give to go back to the night, to dad telling about how he and mom met. To mom and dad teasing each other, and me laughing with them.
“It means, they are gone. The accident has taken your mom and your dad from you,” he said.
The words finally sink in. Mom and dad are gone. And I feel their loss in the emptiness of the house. In my loneliness. I can stand no more, not with all my strength leaving me. Not with the tears bursting out. Not with my heart crumbling under the weight of the pain.