Not Mere Silhouettes- A True Story
copyright © 2011 letterme. All Rights Reserved
Black. Grey and dark blue. I shift my legs to wrap up myself, with my hands. My shadow is bent over the edges, elongated, and lies silently over the walls. Copper colored rays scatter beneath my feet, beneath the shadows like a gradient, a mix of many. I breathe hard, to relax my pounding heart against the loneliness of the evening, and the strange feeling of ubiquity.
As the story begins again, after a short pause, I listen very carefully, trying to picture everything. This time it happens 40 years back, in a rural countryside village, probably never heard of.
A 12 year old grabs his father’s old 1960 roadster bicycle and rides along the pathways parallel to the canal, then across the grave, passing the plains, the daily trip. The bicycle is too high for him, and he needs a support to get on to and get off from it. Whenever he couldn’t find something to place his little feet meant trouble. Trouble though nothing serious than few bruises and a wet dripping child and a bicycle, if the wheels doubt the cyclist’s presence and thought of finding their own way through the ‘waterway’, (just few feet broad and very shallow), meant mother’s restrictions.
He pauses there, asks his mother whether she remembers a day when he returned dripping water all over his body, shaking, on one such bicycle trip. She shrugs, while preparing the dinner though it’s still too early and says she doesn’t, in a tone mixed with love, and memory. She comes out of the kitchen, to join us, and sits carefully at the bench. Her face is wrinkled, hair faded into grey, eyes circled with creases, but when she joins our company her eyes gleam with excitement.
It’s as if she has been longing for a long time until someone comes to talk with her a while. Her signs of tiredness and depressions are gone, many wrinkles in the face are smoothening and she finds herself in her mid 40s once again. She takes our discussion few more years ahead of time from his childhood. Now he is in his 20 s, and she recalls how he bought his first ever motor bike. I can see he is smiling through the evening air, as he tells me it was a 125 cc old model, and could reach 80 mph easily. He speaks looking far away, as if things are written somewhere down there, and we listen carefully. I can see laugh lines across his face, as he unfolds us his good old experiences with his first ever motor bike.
He speaks crystal clearly, and says how he thought all was over and closed his eyes very tightly when suddenly a poor dog jumped in front of him while riding at his top speed. “No, I knew brakes won’t do. I had absolutely nothing to do. It was so sudden and no one can take a decision that fast, so I gave up”, he continues, and says “You don’t know them ma, do you? I never told you” looking at the mother. She pretends she is irritated, but gives up soon. She doesn’t say anything, but waits calmly. The past, memories, the happy times
He continues. Now it’s about getting his first ever license to drive a car, well any vehicle, back then in 1980 s. He recalls how he practiced driving lessons all by himself with the old tractor. He says it was very unfortunate that the tractor lacked mirrors to reverse it back then, and always he had to turn the torso to look what’s behind, about to be run over. It is all right, when it comes to the tractor thing, he says, but the trouble comes much later, he smiles.
Examiner sits at the passenger seat, and he is holding the steering wheel, with dozen of people in the back, in an old Chevrolet bus. The road is straight , and empty so driving to the front is not that difficult, he says. This is the first ever vehicle he is going to drive apart from the tractor! He comes to a junction, and he is tested with the ability to reverse the vehicle. He pauses and laughs. He can’t use the mirrors; he wants to turn the torso and look what’s behind, about to collide, just as in the case of the tractor. But he can’t see anything save heads of a dozen more exited people like him, waiting for their turn. Blimey. With two efforts he saves the day and obtains the license, he says.
The dusk creeps through the canopy, and we listen. He asks mother about few people who lived those days, who are now either very old or dead, who he can not see. She replies, and adds details as she knows them. For a while we all stay speechless, calm and quite, in our own worlds. The ticking of the clock interrupts us.
He slides his hands, slowly over the hand rim. He fingers are curled, and he hasn’t straightened them up for years now.
He can not, because he has undergone something wrong with his nervous system few years back, that’s how doctors explained it, though no one knows for sure the exact disease or the cause for it. He is still smart, he can think, he can smile, he can do anything but with out lots of movements. Of course he can fold arms slowly, from elbows, and fold his legs from knees, but he can not move. The wheel chair takes him from his room to where we speak, and sometimes his mother helps him. She is old but she is all he has in the world, to look after him, to feed him, to live with him. He had his good times, he was married as a very reputable man but that was in the past. He was capable back then, like any other human being. He made a house, and had a beautiful daughter, and enjoyed his family life. But since the disease he lost things, his family, his daughter and many things, but his mother. At age 56 he is being looked after by his mother once again, for the second time in his life. They together live just like in the old days in their old house, where now the previous members have left at different ages.
He slowly leaves to his room, where he spends most of his life now, either listening to the radio or watching TV. He leaves because it is too difficult for him to stay in the wheel chair for long, because it is painful. He is accompanied to his room by his mother, and she returns. She invites me to the kitchen, where she prepares dinner for ‘us’ today. She loves talking, because there is no one to talk to, other days, except her son. She smiles as she talk, but I can see from her eyes, she smiles amidst lots of chaos in her mind, as a courageous mother fighting her life for her son.
I sit quietly and close my eyes while listening. It is not painful; it’s just the imagination of it that hurts. I look through the open window at the western horizon, where crimson color scatters over the blue sky, producing a strange high dynamic range photograph of an evening. Dusk falls, darkness makes things disappear, but the faces of loved ones are still seen vividly, because they are not mere silhouettes but crisp and bright images drawn in our hearts.