Home In A City That Wasn’t Home

Some days are truly unforgettable and hard to comprehend. They leave you in a sea-saw with whirling emotions and memories that appear to be both, scarring and medicinal. This story is a memory of one of such days.

It was a horrible day, to begin with. I had just finished my classes in college and went back to the flat I was staying in. The previous night wasn’t so pleasant either. I remember crying all night as I was called a “whore” by a family member for breaking up with my toxic ex-boyfriend. I was made to believe that I had ‘too many expectations’ and wasn’t capable of nurturing and sustaining any relationship. I lied on my bed revisiting these lines in my head repeatedly, as I shook with my phone’s ringer. It said ‘dad calling’. I reckon a chill down my nerves as I prepared myself for the worst as I answered his call. I was ready to hear anything but what he said.

“Abhishek has passed away.”

Just four words. Four words that are life-altering. My heart skipped a beat and I almost galloped for breath. Numb, quiet, blank, overwhelmed, or grief-stricken. I don’t know what’s a better word to reflect how I felt. Let’s just say, I felt. I felt deeply. Abhishek was 5 when he became an integral part of our family. He was my sister’s best friend, but he spent most of his time with us in our house. He was also planning to spend his senior secondary classes, living with us as his parents were planning to shift elsewhere. He was just 13 and died of a heart disease that we didn’t even know existed in the first place.

It all felt unfair and unjust. It felt like everything was wrong. Nothing seemed to be on track. Do you get what I mean? That moment when you feel you’re in a dark tunnel that seems to be getting darker as you walk ahead. It was so strange that he was with us one moment, and the next moment, he was gone. Forever.

Abhishek was the second brother I had lost the same year. I had already lost one brother in May and I couldn’t even attend his funeral because it was in Henderson. What pierced my heart was not being able to attend Abhishek’s last ceremonies because of my college. I was alone, away from home, and trapped in a mental maze of self-defeating thoughts. I felt home-sick, not just physically, but even emotionally.

I knew my entire family was in a bad place after the sad news. But, they had each other. And, me. Well, I had a roommate who asked me to keep my volume low as I sobbed as it disturbed her conversations with her boyfriend. It is moments like these that make you realise what a deep dark hole loneliness is. It drives you through the bottom, sulking and harrowing.

I picked up my phone to call my friends Mansi and Debo. Mansi left her class early and took me to a coffee shop nearby. Both of us sat there in complete silence. Oddly enough, that silence too was comforting. No awkwardness, no need for justification, no explanations, and absolutely no conditions. After a while, Debo joined us too and they began to chit-chat about the most random things. Slowly and smoothly, the silence was replaced with a warm conversation. I don’t even remember how, but this conversation somehow led all three of us to engage in a paper boat making competition with one another. After several hours of trying, we realised that we had forgotten how to make those properly. No award, praise, or position, but what I gained that moment was a smile. Yes, even on such a bleak day, I remember sitting there with them and smiling. After all that, all the baggage that I carried to that cafe, they still managed to make me smile. And if that’s not magic, then I don’t know what can be.

When it was time to leave, they booked my cab addressed to our friend Crystal’s house as they felt that I shouldn’t be alone that night. Crystal and her mum made me feel like family and even though I cried myself to sleep, I slept feeling at home in a city that wasn’t home.

Everyone indeed has tough days, months or even years, and although the only person who can make things better is you, having friends to give you an extra push, or to just be there for you, is almost essential. It’s a boon. I am ever so grateful for these three God-sent angels who stood by my side that day as they have done from the moment I met them.

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