Stephan C. Hmar, 08/11/2014
The winter sun moved up the midday meridian and bathed the cold mountainous landscapes with its warm light. Below the bright sunlight, you could see canyons and the blurry mists and fogs pouring out from the gorges, and slowly flowing into the deep chasm below. I looked at the beautiful scenery from my bamboo hut located on the side of the steep village. Sunlight penetrated my window and I could feel the chilling winter air being blended warm in the sunlight. Along the road next to my hut, I could hear children playing, chasing thin fogs that were receding quickly into nothingness.
I lay over the bamboo floor, my back subjected to the warm sunlight, and in no time I was overtook by the spell of unprepared nap. The pleasant warmth quickly seized me to deep sleep. I did not know how long I slept when I was woken by a continual twitch on my legs. I straightened my neck and opened my eyes. I could see my only son, looking intensely into my eyes, murmuring, ʻDaddy! Daddy! Wake up. I am home.' I then realized that I had slept for over three hours. I looked at the face of my five year old son and I was filled with happiness and more, with pride. His straight, glossy hairs matched suitably to the hue of the blue skies above, and his round mystic eyes were an exact copy of mine and a sense of satisfaction on how he could have such a perfect delicate nose was overwhelming for me. I looked at him speechless. My son said, ʻDaddy! Don’t stare at me like that. You are making me nervous,' and he giggled with a sound that was most pleasing to my ears. I stretched out my arms and he strode toward me, and I gave him a long kiss on his soft cheek. I whispered in his ears, ʻYou are the only world I have…Son! What did you learn at school today?ʼ
ʻYou know, dad…I learn addition and subtraction. I also learn twinkle, twinkle, little star, and my teacher said that I am very good.ʼ
I said pridefully, ʻI know it. My son is the best in the class, the best-looking,ʼ and I held him tighter. My son, too, held me with earnest longing and asked me the most bizarre questions he ever asked. 'Dad! Can we touch the sky? My teacher said that the stars are bigger than the earth. Dad! When we die, we will go to heaven… no? Dad! I miss you so much. I was thinking only about you at school today.ʼ Secretly, my mind was pleasured up by the undisguised nature of my kid, that he openly asked questions and answered himself satisfactorily. But I could sense something not quite right, the way he held me, the way he longed for me was mixed with incompleteness, as if he could foresee the incompleteness in our upcoming future. To add to my uneasiness, he asked, 'Dad! Will you promise me that you will stay with me forever? '
I held him up, and looked at him in surprise. 'Son! I will be with you forever, like we are here today. I will not leave you.' He fixed his eyes to my eyes, and I could see gloomy face, and his small Adam's apple convulsed with overflowing bile, and misty tears collected in his eyeballs. I then said, 'Don't think of what will befall. Everything will be alright! ʼ Something had been just different. My son never looked at me this close. I never looked at my son so depressed as this.
In order to break the silence, I asked him to change his school uniform. He curtly negated my command. 'Dad! Let me wear them for a while. If I change them, I will soon leave for the sky. ' I said, ʻYou better change your dress fast. I don’t want you to make them dirty. You are going to wear it again tomorrow.' He did not move on my request, and fixedly said, ʻDad! Please, let me wear it for a while. I will not dirty them.' I could not understand the quick change in the nature of the boy, nor the inexplicable emotions he had. However, I reacted indirectly, hiding my real feeling and continued with my raw command as an ideal father should. I said, ʻThis is going to be my last request. Go and change your dress.' He looked at me for a good three seconds, and after acknowledging my seriousness, he whimpered, thumped his feet on the bamboo floor, and lazily walked in the direction of his back, towards the room. Along the walk, he fixed his eyes strongly to mine, and the revulsion in his looks was nothing natural, but daunting. I could hear the sound of his murmuring complain and I was wondering at this sudden change in the boy. The sun had way crossed the meridian and obliquely shone over the trees standing on the mountainous landscapes.
To my further surprise, my son walked out of the room, dressed in his Sunday attire and standing in front of me said, ʻDad! Let us go to the market now, as you promised.' The smartness of young kids is marvelous, they can keep it in their heads any promised you made to them. Last week, I had made an unmindful promise that I would take him to market if he acted well, and he still remembered that. Now that I was held in custody by my own promise, I had to take my child to the market, whether I was prepared or not.
Soon, we were on our bicycle, my son sitting pillion and holding tightly on my waist. The mountain road was scanty of people, we did not come across any people, except the hanging leaves and twig of trees by the roadsides. Along the way, he said, ʻDad! I really miss you.' I retorted, ʻI miss you too, dear. I miss you more than you do!' He held me tighter, and silence followed. This time, my uneasiness was made worse. I felt that the strange way he acted was some sort of omen, of something bad. I asked him, ʻSon! Why do you always say that you missed me?' He quickly replied, ʻI don’t know, Dad. Drive slowly, if we reached the market sooner, I will go to the sky sooner. Dad, I don’t want that. So drive slower. ' I could not stand his spooky prediction any more. I said, ʻDo not repeat those unbelievable crap anymore. You will not go to the sky. I will not leave you. Do you hear that?' The next silence made the journey along the only mountain road more lonelier. My son held me tighter, not having the bravery to talk more, and I drove the bicycle with a heavy, pessimistic speculation.
I believed in omens, birds can know nature's language and bring signs to us. Maybe my child too, knew something of the future. He heard and saw things in a different perspective. Deep down, I tried to know in my own way about my present, and what the future would entail. I was at a loss. So, I chose not to listen to my son even though my mind was clear that something unexpected was to be expected. I blamed myself for this. Why couldn't I be undisguised like him? Why couldn't I tell my true feelings? Why didn’t I have the courage to ask what he really knew? Why did I ignorantly curtailed him? But these contritions were irreparable, I continued to hide my real feelings and always tried to corner him and told him about the market that awaited us, promising anything he liked.
The local market was small, located on the top of a flat mountain. As we were early for its timing, the market was bare, only nine or ten shops were open, and few vendors strewed in some corners. My son walked ahead of me, holding my hand, leading me to the shops one after another. He would stand in front of one shop, stared the saleable items, and would walk me to the next shop. I remembered my son to be fond of toys and eatables whenever we happened to be in this market, but today he acted differently, detesting anything. We walked about like that, staring shops from a distance until out of compulsion, I asked, 'Son! Just tell me what you want, we will buy it!ʼ But he was silent, and again walked me up to the sixth shop. We stared for a while and then pulled me to the seventh shop where they sell mirrors. We saw mirrors of different sizes hanging on the walls of the shop, and then I could feel my son's shaking hand. He stood still, looking at the one mirror that reflected my face, and my sight was fixed on the mirror that reflected his face. We looked at each other in contemplation for a few seconds, and he said sadly, 'Dad! I am going to miss you a lot. Dad! Don’t ever forget me. Dad, I love you.ʼ I could not control my emotion, I squatted before him, held his face close to mine and asked, 'Son! Please tell me anything you need, letʼs purchase it and go back home!' He said, 'I don’t want anything. And I want you to remember that face in the mirror. And sorry, dad, it's time for me to leave. Dad! Please say that you will miss me, please say you will remember me. '
And like the mists receding quickly into nothingness, my son changed into mists and slowly disappeared into nothingness in that lonely market. My son disappeared before my own eyes never to be heard or seen again.
I felt a twitch on my leg, and suddenly woke up. I saw the face of my wife saying, 'Wake up! It's time. You'll be late for office.ʼ I looked around the room, the ceiling fan revolved like the wing of a helicopter. I variously looked for the hazy mists, mountain canyons and the billowing clouds through the gorges, they were all gone. I only saw the sweet face of my wife, my reliable auxiliary, who walked with me through all the immeasurable miles of sufferings. And then, I knew I was back from dream to reality. And then I also knew that my 'dream sonʼ will be forever twinkling in my heart, like that 'twinkle, twinkle little star,' my 'dream sonʼ rhymed about in a school in my dream.