Every morning, I sit in front of the mirror and look at the person behind it. I stretch out, reaching for my reflection, for myself, but am blocked by the glass that barricades me from moving forward. So I stare, grubby square palm on glass, into the golden eyes set deep in the pale skin of the girl in front of me.
That is me…yet it is not. It is only a reflection.
I live in an apartment, in a tall grey building, close to the main road. Fifteen floors up, the sound of the wind drowns that of the cars and smoke bellow. I reach out for the sky, but it eludes my grasp. Like an unattainable freedom, or a dream within a dream, it seems to draw further from me the higher I climb.
I walk down stairs in my crinkled blue pajamas. It is my seventeenth birthday. My mother smiles, and rushes in to hug me. She’s always been such an energetic woman, smiling and fluttering around, happy as bird.
“Happy birthday, sweetie!” she smiled, ushering me toward the table, “I made you your favorite today, Jam tarts and French toast with cream.” My mother was perhaps the most enthusiastic pastry chef to ever be born ; her zest never fails to make me smile. She puts the plate in front of me, and goes on to pack her apron along with a variety of spoons and spatulas. “Hurry back from school today, Ambar, your grandmother and grandfather will be here to see you, so try not to stay back.” The very word school forces a sigh from my mouth. Oh the many trials and tribulations of that small-minded, pig-headed little society, commonly known as “school”. It was hard being treated as cattle, herded by age into tiny rooms where time is so precisely calculated for each subject of study, told when to eat, when to drink, when to stand, when to sit and when to use the blooming loo. It could well be mistaken for a prison
At least I had my grandparents visit to look forward to. It was always wonderful to have them home.
I remember my grandfather taking me for long walks to the market. My legs were small and I struggled at times to keep up with him, and in the hot Indian summers, it was slightly more tedious than usual, but I never complained. He would tell me stories of the past and teach me lessons others could not. He shared his radiant happiness and strength with all who cared to ask. He seemed like the pinnacle of strength to me, the very thought of being any stronger and braver than him was inconceivable and almost obscene. He may have grown older, and I faster, but that image remains with me. It is the one unchangeable fact of life. My grandmother is beautiful woman. Tall and slender, she would rap me in her arms that seemed so safe whenever she came by. Tying my unmanageable black hair into a tight steal plait, her dainty image is much in contrast to her steal stubborn and tough attitude that often gave way to love and patience in the presence of family. She taught me to fight for what I believed in, and to be gentle yet not vulnerable. They were important to me. Very important, and the thought kept me trudging forward threw the school day.
I never understood school. I knew the content being taught, so I should be allowed to walk out of the class and learn something I didn’t know? The teacher thought otherwise. No matter how many times I logically explained my dilemma, he seemed to take my want to leave as a personal revolt against his teaching. I wasn’t about to conform to rules that seemed so silly, so instead I was put threw detention with delinquents and deviants. Unfortunately, today, I could not afford an after school lecture. I had to be home to see my grandparents.
It was tiring to sit through classes, eyes peeled open against their will and by the ring of the lunch bell, I was too exhausted to move. However, I couldn’t bear to sit in the same seat for a minute longer.
Wondering through the passages and hallways unobtrusively, I slid between the shadows. I didn’t mind human’s, but for some reason, the company of these teenagers was not to my liking. I will admit, my own personality was an acquired taste and not a very palatable one.
Wandering aimlessly threw the crowd; a soft music caught my attention. Drifting form the music room, it called to me, the sound of a piano, almost ghostly, haunting the hallways like child’s last lullaby. It made me shiver.
I walked towards the music room, and watched, as the boy’s fingers floated above the keys. He sang softly, so soft; I could just about hear the words etch against the silence.
“The sun will set again, and rise
Fall as leaves of the trees.
We will rise and fall and die
with the moon, the sun, and sky.”
The melody fell into silence. He glared at me, his sharp purple eyes bore into my scull with contempt. He slammed the piano shut, and smiled, as he slowly came towards me. My body shook, cold sweat dripping down my arms. I was paralyzed. He sang a song as he passed me, that pierced threw my ear like a knife-
“All hail the beautiful princess,
Aero’s fairy hope,
Punycherries blossom as
the little princess grows
Punycherries blossom as
the little princess…”
My knees buckled under an invisible weight. I knew this song…it was my lullaby I heard in Aero.