Readers Write In #286: The Meeting

Posted on October 20, 2020

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(by Iniya, the 15-year-old daughter of Aravindan R, a regular reader of this blog)

Author’s note: I wrote this in 40 minutes in my English exam for the question: Write a short short story titled “The Meeting”

It started when I was three. At first, it was hushed whispers behind locked doors, growing louder in the dead of the night when they thought I was fast asleep. And as the months passed that caution and restraint flew out of the window along with their awareness of my presence. I could never comprehend what they were yelling. I only knew that they were. It never progressed beyond words. There were no hits or objects flung around. But that was because there was no scope for it to happen. One year later, I found myself on my fourth birthday -in a frilly purple frock my friend had lent me- sitting in a courthouse.

As my parents’ steady hand drew looping signatures on the wretched piece of paper, I could feel myself being split apart like they were. From then on, I’ve always been two people, ever since I can remember. My parents never met once after that day. My two personalities never met once after that day.

I stare out the window of my father’s car, desperately wishing he would turn on some music to  drown out my looming thoughts. But I knew my father better than that. So I recline in my seat, shielding my face from the afternoon sun that’s beating down on me, rolling down the window just the tiniest bit so that I can breathe.

“Breathe, baby” my mother kneels next to me, stroking my intricately braided hair tied back with two hideous blue ribbons. Back stage, annual play, grade four. I was always my mother’s baby. I loved how much she cared for me. But, she always held my hand every step of the way like I would fall if she let me go. It didn’t occur to her that I was capable of being independent, not because she thought I was weak, but simply because the thought that I could be strong never presented itself to her. I tried a few times to make her understand, but it was like explaining to a mountain kid who’d never been anywhere else, what the sea was. So, I just gave up and resigned to the fact that I would always be my mother’s baby. I was young and vulnerable, and even threw tantrums sometimes (that was an advantage). I basically came to my mother for everything. I was like the sea around her, lapping at the shore always. We both never talked about the fact that there was another direction for me to explore.

And, then there was my father. Ambitious, driven, and easily misinterpreted as unfeeling. He was everything my mother wasn’t and nothing my mother was. He always pushed me to aim higher, never offering to help, insisting that I would figure it out on my own. I loved that he believed in me so much, in my strength and capabilities. But there were times I just needed to be weak. And, I couldn’t turn to my father then. He never offered help simply because the thought that I needed support never presented itself to him. I was like the sky around him, reaching higher and higher everyday. But we both never talked about the fact that there was another direction for me to explore.

As my father wedges the car in between a narrow gap, I push the door open and run barefoot out onto the beach, feeling the soft sand fly back as I kick through it. My father smiles as he slowly catches up to me. I’ve grown up in a city my whole life and never once seen the sea, or the sky for that matter. I pull out the band holding my hair, and laugh wildly with the chorus of the waves as the salty breeze plays with my free locks. And then I hear it. Her voice. “Baby!”

My eyes immediately zero in on her smiling face as her lips go thin at the sight of my father. I’m going to figure out if I like coincidences or not. There’s no anger, no bitterness from a decade ago. Just shock. And my father mirrors her expression. As my mother walks to us I slip away slyly, not wanting to see how this goes. I walk to water and put my feet in as the waves lap gently. I look up at the sky, splashed with sunset streaks of pinks and oranges merging in the blue.

And then I stare out as far as I can out to where the crimson sun dips lazily. At the meeting of the sky and the sea. There’s a meeting.

I turn back to look at my parents, and to my surprise and utter joy, they’re smiling. They’re not holding hands or hugging. But, at least they’re talking. And I’ll take it gladly.

The smile doesn’t leave my lips as I turn back towards the sea and the sky. There’s a meeting. And it  has a name.

I whisper the word, savouring its feel on my tongue. And, how it sounds in the wind.

“Horizon.”

I’m no longer the sea. I’m no longer the sky.

They meet.

I am the horizon.