An apprehensive feeling overwhelmed me; a fear of unknowns robbed me of peace. These feelings had been dragging since a week ago. I alienated myself from the circle of friends. An appetite had been reduced to mere survival. The concentration in the class evaporated from me inviting the glare and scolding from the teachers. I got severely tangled in the net of confusion.
In the night, I would lay awake battling with the sleep. Something was devastatingly eating me from inside. I would wake up sweating profusely and trembling terribly with the dream of wars and bloodshed everywhere. Then I would weep till the last tears were squeezed from the eyes. Something was definitely wrong, but I couldn’t figure what.
With the red swollen eyes, I would proceed to the class like a robot. My best friend Sonam would ask me every time I see her “What is wrong with you, Pema?” As usual I would shrugged off and move my head horizontally without uttering a single word. Wished I knew what was wrong with me so I could tell to Sonam about it (I wanted to tell but I didn’t know how). Nevertheless she always stood by my side. One by one friend started distancing from me due to my coldness yet Sonam stood by me cheering and narrating her favorite soap-opera show she watched in the home and sometimes listening to my silence. She would bring snacks in the school and share with me, though I hardly ate.
During weekend, we would study together and take tuition from her father in her house. I felt bad when her father scolded her for being careless in studies and would feel guilty when he asked her to learn from me. The moment her father went outside, she would naughtily wink at me and we would giggle. Her mother would bring us tea and snacks in the interval and we would enjoy heartily. Those were the pinnacle of our friendship.
That particular Saturday when we were studying in her house, Matron came looking for me and said that my uncle had come from village to take me home. I knew something was wrong and it was right. Hesitantly she added that my father passed away. Fighting the tears that blinded me, I gathered my books and stood up with the heaviness in the heart. Sonam blankly stared at me and hugged me tightly and whispered in my ears “Will you come back?”
I couldn’t answer her as I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back or not. I burst out in Sonam’s shoulder with shuddering sob soaking her blue t-shirt. Matron gently tugged me to move forward. I made my way never daring to turn back to her.
As I saw uncle Tashi, I ran and embraced him with the hope that ma’am might be wrong. His freshly wiped eyes told me everything. On the way, he told me that father had been sick for more than a month and had asked them several times to bring me home. I wept openly remembering his face vividly and voice clearly calling me ‘Youngmin’. I was the only and pampered child. Like a jigsaw puzzle, whole things fitted perfectly in the frame; the sleepless apprehensive night of mine and the yearning of my father to see me once before his last breath.
We walked miles and miles with the sun waving goodbye from the farthest horizon and at dusk we reached at house where home was shattered.
.....to be continued.....