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The Hello after Goodbye
My insides feel empty as I pull on my gloves and boots, switch off the dim lighting in my cramped room and step outside. The snowflakes fall like autumn leaves to lazily land on the ground that is covered with a white, white, blanket of velvety snow. The sun pours through a tiny slit between the heavily looming clouds, setting up a vista that looks like one of those perfectly themed settings at the photo studio. I lock the door lifelessly, feeling like a lost child in the expanse of the deserted, wintery village, wishing to hear someone speak. I have nearly forgotten how another human voice would sound.
My brain feels bewildered, thoughtful, in a nearly philosophical state, as I once again, for the thousandth time; try to make sense out of her mystery. Today, a year after dad died, and seventeen years after I was born, I have decided to talk to her. I have to, though I do not know what I’d say. Maybe, I’ll say nothing. Or perhaps everything, according to whatever everything would be.
I stick my tongue out slightly to catch a snowflake and feel it melt in my mouth; I’ve always liked doing that. It sort of reminds me of life: We all fall like snowflakes on earth, only to melt away at different times. And while we’re melting, we’re made to wonder about a hundred things we know will never be; maybe life was just designed to baffle us. She was lucky in that respect though, my sister Tansy; melting away so quickly that she never got an essence of challenges that accompany the luxury of existence.
My footsteps are soft and inaudible, but my footprints disfigure the snow. Maybe if she had been alive, she’d have been walking holding hands with me now. Would we have left behind identical footprints, identical thoughts, and identical hearts, like the identical twins we were born to be? Would she really look like the face I see looking at the frozen pond outside home; with the pale freckled face and raven black eyes? Dad had told me how everyone who looked at us had been sure that they were seeing double; we used to appear like photocopies of the same print, at least before we turned one. Thinking about it, I feel that almost all babies sort of resemble one another before their first birthday.
Our mom had died during childbirth, so dad, desperately clinging on to us, had named my sister Tansy, meaning ‘eternal life’ and named me Ashia, symbolizing ‘hope’. But the ‘eternal life’ in Tansy died, as briefly as eternal could never be, leaving only the hope, that is me, with dad.
Now that even dad has died, like the rest of my family, I’m just waiting for the hope in my name to leave me any moment. Maybe I should just jump off some cliff, off from this barren earth where there’s not a soul I can look to for comfort. That’s why I’ve decided to speak to Tansy, after several years, at her grave, before the thin sunrays in my life completely get buried by the grey clouds.
Finally I see the graveyard, the array of those who live in my sister’s world, which probably exists under those cold, ice-glazed, grey stones. I pluck a fresh snowdrop on the way to gift her, wondering if she’d actually ever know that I am her sister. Sisters are supposed be pillars of support for each other, right?
And then I find her headstone, solitary and impervious. Words rise up to my throat and get clogged there. Maybe it’s a unique effect that only all the years of pain, longing and wonder can bring about.
“Hello” I croak out in a whisper that gets carried away with the blowing wind. “Do you remember me? It’s Ashia. And dad? He’s also gone like you now.” Taking a deep breath and I kneel down on the snow. My entire body weight settles in my stomach like an ache. “It’s horrible here, all alone”, I say.
I expect tears to fall, but they don’t. Instead, all the welled up emotions flow out suddenly, loud and angry “Are you even listening?”
No reply. It frustrates me, but of course frustration is cathartic.
“Do you know how it hurts, to miss a sister I have never really known, and to miss you just because you are a piece of bewildering enigma! Why won’t you speak back to me, what you even doing in there, in peace, when I have to deal with all this? I’m a big joke! Even dad’s gone! I’m ALONE now, do you HEAR!” I break off, angry at the mute grave for being so nasty; nearly expecting her to break free from her sanctuary of peace.
But nothing, of course, happens. Even the howling winds go silent.
I place the nearly forgotten snowdrops on her grave, and then stand up in defeat, knowing what I was foolish enough to not accept till it was smacked on my face: I’d never get a reply.
I turn to leave. Another flake lands in my mouth and now, strangely, the snow looks beautiful to me. The tingling sensation on my tongue that I’d not noticed before sneaks a smile on my face.
I turn back. “I’m sorry. I know if you had a choice, you’d have stayed with me. I will always love you though I don’t know you, Tansy. Goodbye.”
I then break into a run, like a bundle of internal turmoil, not looking back once, as tears finally start flowing. I sprint madly, impetuously, not stopping till my doorstep is reached, by which time I’m heavily panting, my face wet with tears and red with the cold. The clouds have cleared way for the sun to fully pour into the ground now, like an overflowing pot of liquid topaz. The warm, sanguine rays seep into my face, drying my tears instantly. My eyes wander over an envelope on the doorstep.
Picking it up, I see the writing on the cover that reads “Come over to my cottage for tea this evening? I just moved in here”
Astonished, I turn back, to see girl about my age, smiling at me. She does not have the raven black eyes, or a pale freckled face like Tansy would have had, but she does have a nice smile and the warm human voice I had so longed to hear, when she says “Hello”
Instantly, a wave of illumination seems to conjure up in the atmosphere, sparkling like silver and diamonds. The silver and diamonds must be only just in my head, but the smile of the girl standing across me is still glowing, for real.
“Hello”, I hear my voice, smiling for the first time in weeks.
Somehow, I feel like hope again.