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My parents were not like yours. The sight of anything but an 'A' in any subject resulted in a tedious and pointless lecture, and an even more torturous castigation upon mentioning the b-word: “boyfriend”. Leaving the house would get me abducted and killed, yet I watched, straining to keep my temper under control, as my scrawny, unjaded brother elatedly jogged out of the house with not so much a cell phone on his person. My friends couldn't take me out to the movies unless they picked me up (so they could get a good look at them) and often times, they summoned me back to the drab pile of bricks surrounding five rusty windows which couldn't open anymore to let in the sunlight. I regretted to call it my home. At age fourteen, my cynical father and my querulous mother agreed upon my husband being doctor born into our race. As a happy couple with no internal problems, my Indian husband and I would live close to them and bear children within five years of a pompous marriage. Instead of auditioning for a part in the school musical, I auditioned for classical dance miles from my home. Instead of sleeping in on a Sunday, I was to be woken to study material I knew would not help me in school. Despite my prospective future, I decided to do something different. Something to make them mad.
The harridan to whom I forced myself to answer all questions to was my mother. Every morning she woke me with a screaming bell with a caustic, spiky din. I wished, even throughout the lambaste ruckus it created, one day it would drown out my mother's monotonic voice. It never happened. Her hungry ears needed to know absolutely everything about me. From usual questions like if I had eaten breakfast last morning to bizarre topics like if I had asked any boys out the other day. To most of them I would reply with a certain firmness that seemed to pacify her tongue for a moment, but my temper toward her never abated.
She hated to leave her work, and picking me up from pre-school made her hate it even more. She kept an austere face with her eyes darting across the mirrors in a frantic frenzy, not paying even the slightest attention to the monstrosity of curls teasing her by dangling themselves in front of her face. Realizing I had the same curls, I touched my own, which were thick and clumped together, never looking the same daily like my mother's did. Being young, I envied her for everything she did, trying to do better than my brother to show her what I could accomplish at my young age. I watched the blue lines under her skin pop as she tightened her grip on the wheel, furrowing her eyebrows on a few shirt-less teenagers advertising a carwash. She made a small 'hmph' and reminded herself of the naivety of youngsters in America. I looked down at where my right hand rested quietly on my leg. Pulling it into a taut fist, I tried contracting my muscles, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't see a hint of blue. Defeated, I sat back in my seat, disappointed at my failure.
“Mommy?” I pondered in a humble voice, rubbing the palm of my hand in an attempt to erase the indents of my nails. “When am I getting married?”
She didn't answer for a few moments. Her small hands tightened further on the wheel, making her veins seem to prick out of her skin. “Whenever you want, shonala.”
“I want to get married in America,” I continued, overjoyed in her immediate response. “I want to wear a big and poofy dress like Cinderella did.”
“No.” time she answered firmly, with a certain stiffness. I quieted, expecting a long lecture. “You'll be married in India.”
I waited a few minutes, tarrying for another statement from her. When she didn't say anything, I objected, “But I want to be married in America.”
“You will be married in India. You are Indian, no?” she replied rapidly.
“But I want---”
“Aarushi,” she advanced, struggling to keep her temper down. “you will wear a dress just as pretty as Cinderella's and you will marry an Indian man more successful than Prince Charming.” she inspected my facial expression in the backseat as we halted at a red light.
“I guess.” I muttered, hoping for just a warning. To my luck, she calmly turned around, satisfied with my reaction. Her eyes went about their frenzy once again, that time focusing on the image in each mirror, studying each and every detail. The fact that she couldn't see me in any of them disheartened me.
To ease myself of pain, I didn't cry; I wrote. Although I was no Charles Dickens when it came to writing, I loved to record things at the time. I distinctly remembered hauling around a fat crimson notebook (college ruled of course) which imprisoned every affair of my life in story form. From awkward conversations with my mother to the cute boy who spoke to me at school to weird dreams I had. I took special interests in my dreams, however. The fact that a part of the brain functioned by itself while all the other parts rested fascinated me. I soon learned my interest had a name.
“Nyoo-rah-la-gee.” I pronounced, squinting at the computer screen.
“Neurology.” A deep voice interrupted my dream research, and I swiftly spun to meet my father after he returned from his office. His personality contradicted so much from my mother's, especially his voice. It reminded me of a crunchy leaf. Although the small damp-looking platform seems unworthy, once it has been encountered, the chance at a sweet crunch forces me to take another step out of my way. I hugged his black suit which smelled not of Axe or any other expensive cologne, but a refreshing mist I deemed priceless.
“What are you doing, shonala?” he pondered with a calmness I could never draw from my mother.
“Homework.” I lied. My father spilled extensive details of my life to my mother, and I deemed researching dreams not on her 'good job' list.
“Dreams, huh?” he pressed, even when I had closed the window right when he crept into my room. Eyes of an owl, he had. “ That could be a good job.”
My ears deceived me.
“I can study dreams...?” I asked slowly, completely astonished.
“Of course!” He laughed heartily as he lowered himself to my bed, creaking it even more than usual. “As long as you like it.”
So commenced the journey through my dreams. In time, I became able to substantially control my dreams, and it soon became a hobby. Amidst my free-time, fabricating a story sequence with a happy ending became a past time. At night, reviewing the story in the perpetual sector of my mind would ensure the story to become a dream. As I matured with age, my “dreaming skills” developed, and with concentration, I could dream of anything.
I remembered hating innumerable features of my life before Andy. The congested yellow box that was supposed to be a ride home appeared to become increasingly popular amongst the freshmen. Sophomores as well as the occasional junior detested the insipidly laborious and often embarrassing attempts to scoot in two chatty strangers every day they didn't have track practice or couldn't loiter around in the commons. Most of us had no fresh options. I hated the nature of my harridan of a mother, how she strained her voice to the highest possible note she was capable of. Her dwarf, wrinkled hands had power beyond imagination, often times turning my dark skin red for something as small as listening to the radio while finishing my math homework. What I abhorred the most was the way my father coerced me to believe his agreement and siding with me, but under all the falsifying cover he was the most skeptical and scornful person I ever knew. Everything I disclosed must be carefully dissected to uncover any material that could be to my disadvantage. I hated how they thought I would never be good enough.
Then I unearthed Andy. Andy cordially coaxed me to his seat, patting the leather rapidly until I noticed. With the cutest dimple, Andy sweet talked my mother out of her attacks and she heeded and revered his speech skills. My father loved Andy, and insisted him to stay for dinner, something he would never do for a young boy alone. He appeared when I strutted down the carpeted stairs in a sleek, black gown teeming with rhinestones, glittering like the first snowfall of the year. My father snapped a quick photo sporting a grin across his face as I descended blissfully in my homecoming attire. Andy had presented me with a crimson rose and led me out the door without a single objection from my parents. He protected me from the gundas who stole and killed every living thing in the latest Hindi horror movies. From bullets to the chest to romantic moments at sea, Andy came to my aid. I could only pick up miniscule and trivial details to his advent when I woke up the following morning, but I was content. Andy seemed to make my life a little easier. When I woke, however, I would graciously fondle the pencil waiting eagerly upon my decrepit desk to be lifted and written with every morning.
I vowed to pursue a career in neurology and study and observe and research and discover and emulate and perhaps even find out who Andy could be. I reproduced my dreams' detail with even more thought and memory, aspiring to detect any significant objects that I could relate to reality, putting on a recorder to see if I spoke anything of value during the night, cascading every detail into the increasingly crowding red notebook.
I knew abundantly of their intentions after they discovered all the papers. My mother would throw at me so myriad and unnecessary questions she wouldn't linger a moment for. I hated her for her futile efforts to punish me. Her failed creations of punishments resembled the small case of malaria I came down with on a trip to India. I became accustomed to it, therefore immune. No matter how hard she tried to abase me, I endured, not budging even an inch from my position or altering my expression in any way. Worry on her part was not my concern, but rather identifying the enigma of Andy. Only in the dreams bhagwan from the heavens gifted me with liberated me from harsh reality. I thanked Him over and over for my Andy as I turned into a rebellious teenager, for if it hadn't been for Andy, I may not have been who I am now.
As I retired to my room after a dramatic and tiresome day at the high school and a nearly successful attempt to rid myself of the endless Mount St. Helen of homework amassed across my desk, my sharp ears caught a whiff of my father's voice. Pivoting on my heel in the middle of the narrow hallway, I surreptitiously crept down the carpet who just didn't want to shut up. With every step I took, that pessimistic carpet complained of my weight. It seemed to whisper amongst its neighboring khaki walls, conversing at how annoying and obstinate I behaved. I ignored the imaginary mumbles and continued my tip-toe toward my father's deep voice.
They were discussing Andy. Hushed voices prevented me from hearing the conversation, but I fought to find who they deduced Andy appeared as. Father spoke with a certain intention, not unlike the way he mad business calls, whereas my mother reacted with her signature uncontrollable, startled reply. He accentuated every vowel of the last word, I noticed as the carpet screamed in agony at my shift in weight. He opined my mother to stifle her noise, and I took his advice as well. He had found my papers and was discussing Andy with her. Both of their voices were calm and understanding, something I had not expected. Suddenly my mother got up from her chair and appeared to make a dash to save her tea from overheating on the stove. In a desperate retreat, I tortured my creaky carpet as I made a hasty break for my room.
Andy became my savior. Someone I looked to for comfort, knowledge and cheerful pleasure. I wish someday he'll appear outside of the night, so I can see his face with the dimple I giggled about. Perhaps someday they'll accept him for what he could do for me. Perhaps then they'll let me rule my life. Until then, I'll always believe in my Andy and persist to solve the thriller God gifted me with. The mystery of the human mind.