He woke up in the morning today, yet again, with a pang of pain. The sight of the empty hallway that once used to be lively, made him clutch his heart in sorrow. How was he supposed to adjust this quick? It had only been one year.
One year since his life had drastically changed. One year since he hadn’t woken up to her shouting curses as she would speed down the hallway when she would get late. One year since he had heard her voice telling him how messy his room was. One year since he had bid her goodbye. If only he knew, he would never hear her voice again, he would have recorded it and kept the tape close to his heart always.
She is not here now. She is long gone.
He would be turning 18 today. Yet, his eyes held no excitement, they seemed dead. Would life ever be the same without her? Would this perpetual pain in his chest and this knot in his stomach ever dissolve or would he have to live with it for the rest of his life?
He would often find himself reminiscing the old memories, which would play in front of his eyes as a glorious roll of drums. Sometimes he would cry, sometimes he would smile.
It was hard not to love her, who wouldn’t love her? The beautiful sound of her laughter would often ring in his ears, making him wish for it to be the only sound he would want to hear for the rest of his life. Her eyes would always shine, with that abnormal gleam of mischief and liveliness. She had that aura, which was so positive that it would light even the darkest corners of people’s heart, a smile so contagious, that her happiness would spread like wildfire.
There is a vacuum. A vacuum created in his life, since she was gone. For, she was the first born, she was the one who stood by their mother with her little hands spread out, a smile etched on her face, excited to see her little brother. The moment he opened his little eyes, he saw his mother and then the 2-year-old little girl, who was caressing his head in the gentlest way. Would he ever be able to feel the warmth again?
At this moment, all he wanted to do was run to her and tell her how much he loved her for everything. He wanted to lay his head on her lap and sob and beg her to never leave him again. He wanted to embrace her tightly in his arms so she wouldn’t be able to leave. He wanted to kiss her forehead and tell her that he would keep all the promises he made when she used to tie that silk band on his little wrist, ever since they were kids.
So he would often go to her room and sit there, staring at her table, where her sketches were left untouched. He would often open the door of her almirah, just to inhale her scent that would still linger in the air. He would look at her shoes and smile at the memory of him making fun of her gait.
People say he is strong. But when he finds himself sobbing endlessly just at the sight of the empty hallway, he begs to differ. He doesn’t think he is strong- when in a moment of nostalgia, he lets a tear slip. He doesn’t think he is strong when he sometimes cries himself to sleep.
But he is strong.
Oh, how he would trade his life, to listen to her chide him playfully again. He’ll do anything to listen to her witty remarks on his funky outfit. What he’ll give to receive those warm hugs when his adolescent heart would break. What he’ll give to laugh with her over the most trivial matters ever, just for one last time.
He wants those times back when they would run around the drawing room, giggling, knocking things down, and earning glares from their parents. Those times when they would indulge in a water fight at the pool. The time when she would play the “I am the elder one” card on him. The time when she would get hyper and hit anybody who would pick on her little brother. The time when they would play pranks on people, being the partners in crime they were. The time when they would make the happy Diwali and happy Holy hangings together. The time when they would laugh at each other’s Facebook posts. The time when they would fight over who had more likes. And the time she would be the most supportive sister ever.
There was a connection of hearts and now the other end is not reachable anymore. That half of him has been ripped off. The other half of his heart belonged to his sister, who now rests in the heavenly abode above and his life would never be the same without her. Time may make things better for him, but there will always be that missing piece of puzzle that completes him, which belongs to her, only her.
He often thinks how ironic it is that a person who was such a main character in his story, has suddenly vanished? Her very existence has gone. But she lives. She lives in his heart. She lives in their parents’ heart. He would one day tell his children about her with a proud grin on his face and then she would live in their hearts too. Various places in his heart would then get occupied by his loved ones, but nothing can ever shroud the spot where his sister has made a permanent abode.
He has often seen his mother’s eyes that lost their shine and his father’s eyes that often seem lost in a world of darkness. He tries to stay strong for them. He is the only child of theirs now. There were two and now there is one, yet the word one sounds so foreign to them all. Life is not the same, he has secretly, many a time, caught his mother crying in agony with the picture of her daughter clutched to her heart and his father staring into nowhere with tears streaming down his eyes. Dinners are not the same, they eat in silence. They seem to have lost their appetite with their daughter. The reason behind their silence breaks him apart.
They want nothing more than to clutch him to their heart. They fear that he’ll go away like she did, leaving them and rendering their lives futile.
His eyes get clouded with tears when he thinks that next year, he’ll be as old as she was when she died. He would have then lived as much as she did. And honestly, he doesn’t even want to live more than that because she was supposed to be the older one, remember? He would have to live the rest of his life with a part of him missing.
But then, just like every day, he stands up and looks beside him. Images of them holding each other’s tiny hands as their tiny feet carry them down the hallway, play in his mind. He holds an imaginary hand and starts walking. He knows that the little arguments weren’t worth it. But he knows that she is and will always be there to guide him, to get him through it.
When he reaches the end of the staircase, the sound of laughter rings through his ears. Sounds of sobbing were common but he had gotten over the habit of waking up to laughter in the house. He rushes to the source, only to see his mother crouched down to the level of a little girl, their neighbor, engrossed in a funny conversation. When his mother’s gaze shifts towards him, she smiles, the best she has smiled in a year. Of course, it didn’t reach her eyes and held immense pain behind it, but it did give him hope. A smile made its way to his face. She’ll get them through it.