A Motherless Child
Everything around me moves slowly. As if submerged in water. All I have is my grief. All-consuming grief that swallows me whole. I sink down to the bottom of the ocean where I cannot breathe, where breath sits heavy in my chest.
And yet I keep my face a numb mask of blankness despite the raging storms inside me. All I feel is pain. But I can't dare show it.
I want my mother. I want my mother. I want my mother. Why did they take her from me? Why did they put me in this strange place where everything is so big and shiny and I'm surrounded by all these strange people who took me from my mother?
Tears flow down my throat and into my gut. I force myself to stand and find my place in the room filled with people. I take a seat on the rough carpet of the living room floor. I look up. And I hide the fact that I can't breathe. I can never breathe.
Around me they talk and they laugh and they share stories. Nobody seems to have noticed how quiet I'm being. I doubt they care. I'm a stranger to them at the end of the day. A stranger in a strange place where I don't belong. Where I can't belong without my mother.
I feel like screaming but at the same time my throat squeezes shut and I cannot make a sound. Not that anybody cares whether or not I make a sound anyways.
Five days ago I was with my momma in our little one room house. And it wasn't much but it was enough. We were together. I always had her. But now I don't.
Five days ago the men came in their black uniforms with their hard, cold eyes and they took me crying and screaming away from our little home. They put me in a big car and drove away as I screamed.
Four days ago I arrived in this big house that is too big, too shiny, too filled with things, too much. I asked them when I could see my mother again. But they didn't answer.
There are three people here. A woman with shining golden hair that comes down in waves and tries to hide the fact that her smile is too happy, too bright, too piercing. I like soft smiles full of love. A man with dark curling hair that contrasts against his light face. A girl a few years older than me. They told me they were my family now. I would be staying with them now.
I didn't want to be staying with them. I wanted my mother, I told them this but they could not hear me. It was like I was talking to a dark void. I remember screaming. I remember crying. But it was all for nothing. They didn't listen.
They gave me a place to sleep in. And it was cold there. It was lonely. It was terrifying. Back at home my mother and I slept on the same bedroll, not having space for more in our single room house. I missed her warmth beside me. And I let myself cry myself to sleep.
When I woke up the tears were gone. As if I didn't have the ability to cry anymore. But the grief stayed. It only got larger. I woke up disoriented, wondering where I was and where my mother was. But then reality set in like a blade through my throat. And I knew that it was real. All of this was real.
They gave me food to eat and it tasted like nothing, like chewing through cardboard. I felt nauseous but I forced myself to chew and swallow because my mother had told me I needed food to keep my strength up.
I asked again if I could go home. They said that this was home now and I had to learn how to live in it.
I don't want this place to be home. I want to go back to my real home with my real family. I want to be in my mother's arms. I want her to sing me to sleep softly. I want to be hungry with her, be sad with her, be hopeful with her, be happy with her.
These people will never be my family. They are kind enough, and for that I am glad. I appreciate all their kindness and all their efforts to make me feel welcome. Though I'll never admit it, they have done many things to soothe the pain and make me feel at ease.
But they can never replace my family. And the sorrow remains. Thick and cold and dripping.
I floated through the big house the third day, not talking to anyone, being all alone. They didn't make any effort to talk to me. That fact cut deep as well. They were keeping me here without making an effort to get to know who I really was. Without forming a connection with me. I floated like a ghost. I felt like a ghost. Felt like a spectre of life lost in this world without any life at my core. I felt dead.
I asked them where my mother was. What was happening to her. They didn't have an answer for me. Rage built up deep inside my chest and burned me from the inside out. I swallowed it down into my gut and drowned it with sorrow.
On the fourth day I stayed in bed all day. It felt good not having to do anything. Not having any expectations. Not having to fight through my grief to be up and about the world. I tried to tell myself stories but each story I made up reminded me of my mother and how much I missed her. It reminded me of all the stories she used to tell me. It reminded me of the stories we used to make up together. It reminded me of the simple, soaring joy that I felt during those times and how bright and soft and perfect the whole world felt.
I don't think I'll ever be able to tell stories again. But I want to though. I desperately want to. I just don't have anyone to tell stories with.
On the fourth day I drifted in and out of sleep, exhaustion setting deep into my bones. But even sleep was disturbed, disquiet, troubled. I didn't dream. Thankfully, I didn't dream. But the unease was still there. And in the dark of the night I huddled into myself, frozen in fear as the shadows danced around me.
This morning I was tired. I was angry. I was silenced. But they were having a party. And I had to attend. I was grateful that they were making an effort to include me, however small. I was grateful that they wanted me to feel welcome at the party. It soothed my wounds. But it didn't close them.
I drifted through the party, trying out all the amazing food that they had. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. I thought about the food back at home. It was plain. There was never enough. But my mother and I were together. She would eat smaller portions in order to give me bigger portions. We would talk during meals. Quietly. It was home. I wished my mother could be here and try this amazing food with me.
I felt hatred in my heart. Why should these people get to eat such great and rich and flavourful food while people like my mother had to eat plain and simple food? Why did they get to live in such a big house with many rooms while my mother had to live in one room? Why did they get to have everything, even me?
They shouldn't get to have me at least. They should leave that one part of the world to my mother.
I didn't let my anger show on my face. I didn't let anything show on my face. I kept it blank and emotionless. But I felt my anger burn corrosive inside me, eating away at my chest and my guts and my throat and my head until all that was left was a hollow shell.
I was exhausted. After all the secret battles racing in my mind I was exhausted. Didn't have any fight left within me. Just the infinite, all-consuming hurt. I don't know how I'll live like this. How I'll live through this. I don't know if I want to. Life without my mother is not life at all.
And that brings us to the present. I am watching a movie with a group of people. We are all crowded together in the living room and I am glad that at least the space is not empty. Because the space inside me is empty. It's an interesting movie. And I never thought I'd get to see anything like it in my life. There are flying people and explosions and cool laser guns.
But it's nothing like the stories my mother and I used to tell. It lacks heart.
I don't know if I have any heart inside me left either. I'm getting hollowed out by my time spent here. I am decomposing from the inside out.
A lady I don't know strikes up a conversation with me. I like talking to people. I genuinely do. But the things I want to say the most are the things I can't say. I want to say that I miss my mother. That I want her. I want to ask where she is, what she's doing, if she's okay. I want to ask when I'll see her again. If I'll see her again. But I have to keep all these words inside. Swallow them down as if I'm swallowing a rock.
Still we talk. And it smooths over my hurt, somewhat, to not be alone anymore. But her voice has just a little too much hardness to it. Her eyes have just a little too much hardness to them. My mother's voice and eyes were always so soft and tired and etched with sorrow. It feels like this lady is forcing herself to speak to me.
I feel like everyone feels as if I am a stranger. Everyone feels as if I am out of place. Yet still they force me to be in this place. I don't want to be a stranger. I don't want to be here. I can tell that everyone else is not comfortable with me being here either. Not with my strangeness and my blankness and my pleas to go home. So I wonder why they still keep me here after all of this.
The party eventually fades out into blackness and I'm stuck with another night huddling all alone in the dark. I try to think of anything else except my mother. But I can't. She loved being with people. She didn't love being with rich people like the people here.
I miss my neighbours and my friends as well. I miss visiting them. I miss them visiting me. I miss talking to them and sharing my stories with them and finding new stories from them and learning how their lives are going. I miss the way that community felt like a community. Felt like home. I miss the way everyone there felt like home.
When I wake up in the morning I have a little sliver of hope in my heart. I ask if I can go see my old neighbours again. If I got to see them again I'd get to see them again. I could even ask them about my mother. I feel just the slightest spark of excitement. But the family crushes that small sliver of hope. They say no, I cannot see my neighbours again. I ask them why. They say that I belong here now, and I need to eventually get used to it.
I don't think I will ever get used to it.
I sit in a corner and think. How can I escape? How can I escape? How can I escape? I don't think there is a way. I've been trapped before. Trapped in poverty and scarcity and hunger. But I've never been so trapped before. So unbearably trapped before. So all-consumingly trapped.
But there's no way out of this. And no way to live with it either. I can't live with this. I can't bear it. But I will have to.
Time slips away and I have no idea how it's passing. How fast or slow. The world seems to melt and warp around me. I feel as though I am a few steps back from the world. Trapped in a glass cage, banging at the thick walls. Looking into the warped and unreal reality from the outside.
That night I have a dream. My mother is lying beside me, holding me close. I hug her back. She sings me a song. A song that she made herself, that she sang to me many times before.
The stars shine soft and the moon shines bright.
You are here in my arms tonight
I love every single thing you are
I'll always hold you in my heart.
I wake up. And I'm all alone. And alone in the blackness, all the tears I needed to cry but couldn't spill out.
The next day bits of memories constantly plague my head. Us baking together, the dough wet and sticky on her hands. Me telling her of what new adventures the little buddy in our stories got up to. Her telling me that she's tired and scared and me running my fingers through her hair. Her tying my hair into tight braids.
Asking our neighbours how their day was. Them telling us about the flowers they saw growing up out of concrete or the birds they saw soaring through the air. Them telling us the stories their parents and loved ones passed on to them, telling me to pass them on to my children when I have the chance.
Me talking about what the stories mean with my mother or my neighbours or my friends. Finding infinite meaning from the finite space of the tales of history and legend and religion and fiction.
I remind myself that I have to remember the stories. I have to remember all of them. And I have to pass them on. When I have children I'll make sure that they're never taken from me. However I can. And I will pass on the stories.
The next day I hurt. And I swallow down the pain. And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after that. My life is a continuous process of constant grieving. Constant grieving and constant longing.
Human children were not meant for this. They never are meant for this.
The family, who both are and are not my family, tells me it will get better with time. I will get better with time. But that is a lie.
As time passes and I find myself longer and longer separated from my original family the hurt only increases. Only multiplies. I do not get used to this. It is not something children can get used to. It is not something people can get used to. It is not something me or anyone else was ever meant to endure.
I find myself drifting farther and farther from the world. Getting more and more hollowed out. Until I don't know how I'm still alive. Until I want to not be anymore.
But still I hold on to the stories. They're all I have left.
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