Updated: Jun 13, 2021
By Bakhtiar Ahmed -
"Why are you crying?"
"I am not"
My father and brother turn to me. My eyes tear up by themselves.
"You are. You're trembling, too."
My hand is, it always is, I hide it in a pocket of the jacket I'm wearing.
"What is wrong with you? It isn't us, it's something else, tell me."
"It's nothing, I'm not crying, I'm not trembling, Mother." The last word betrays me.
My father makes an odd sign with his hand, my mother drags me inside the house, locks me in a room, dreadfully alone, with her.
"What is it?"
That is all she says, her hands caressing me as her mother caressed her, a geological affection, her eyes are both weary and anxious, she has been through this before, with me of course, and has little desire to be reliving it everyday. But she does, because she cares. So do I, which is why I never tell her anything, or my brother or my sister. They always ask, always grasp a flailing limb, often the hand, and bring me to themselves but I never tell. My father never attempts, he cares, that is beyond doubt but he also knows. The futility of it all. We stay there for an hour, enough time for her to be convinced of her efforts, enough for me to convince them I'm trying.
When she leaves, I stare at myself in a broken vertical mirror that seemed to have creeped up in front of me, I had never noticed it before. The years haven't been kind to me, the skin parts a little more, the hair less healthy although I never was more than a footnote when it comes to beauty. I tire, and am also a little frightened of myself in the mirror, so it is to the roof that I go, with a book I adored in my childhood, the copy a gift from someone I hardly cared for. It reads well, even now, but is a little dated, everything looks a little dated in this city. There are no seeds, no sprouting plants, only trees. All the roads are broken and marked with potholes, all the buildings decaying and tremble in the sun, incapable of resisting the day. It is a city that was never young, a people that were never young. My childhood, itself, looks more and more to be a fabrication, one of those elixirs of yore that I concocted in my adolescence, only wanting to know, to belong. Made from this book, from the proud proclamations of being a precocious child, who had seen everything, read anything, while doing nothing at all, or nothing that can be remembered. I told my father this, he listened patiently, never letting an emotion come to his face. He then went into his closet and brought out a box of pictures, my pictures he told me, the first I had ever seen. He gave them to me, and told me stories of how I'd been as a kid. I never believed him, the child was too beautiful to be me and I can always tell when a man only wants to reassure himself. It shakes me to the core, this epiphany that I was never was what I was supposed to be , and I never will be what I should. My head lies in my hands, I am afraid it will fall off.
“Why are you crying?"
Bakhtiar Ahmed is a law student who tries to write but mostly fails.
He can be found on Twitter @bktahmed.