They would be back again.
Carrying their blueprints and tape, marching over the paved brick road in their work bootsthey would be back again.
The old houses on the street were all going down. A spanking new development was to take place. Shiny new cinderblocks would be replacing the crumbly old walls and memories. The developers were ecstatic. For years they'd haggled with the landlords to hand over their property. Times are changing, the developers would say. You can't live in these houses anymore. You need to be modernized…
Most of the neighbors were leaving. Some would stay behind until the bulldozers came, but most couldn't bear the pain. Vans and trucks and minibuses loaded down with boxes and trussed-up furniture were trundling down the street, while families stood outside the front door and watched in silence as laborers and developers kept streaming in and out to view and assess the construction sights.
My house was going down, too, the little, two-storey brick fort that I had lived in for my whole life. The overgrown garden with its wild tangle of flowers and gnarly old trees would be gone. So would be the bougainvillea that had taken over most of the east side of the house over the years. I watched as our caretaker swept the last of the fallen leaves for the day. He had tears in his eyes. He saw me watching and looked away. He couldn't bear to see the bougainvillea go, either.
I leant out the window of my second-storey bedroom. The whole street lay before me, bathed in the last of the daylight. The trees were bent, the untidy gardens a mess of weeds and shrubs and flowers. Bicycles lay abandoned on the sides of the street. Neighborhood cats paced up and down the walls, mewling pathetically, pawing the bricks and looking from side to side.
Across the street, the little marsh that had fascinated me when I was a child was a swirl of greens. The algae had taken over the pond that used to be there, so the water was mossy now. But to me, even this mosquito-ridden swamp meant memories. I remembered falling into it when I was three, losing my first kite in its tangle of trees when I was five, and the picnic my neighbors and I had tried to have on the banks, something that had ended in disaster.
I wondered if there would be picnics where I was going. Picnics…what, on the roof, amidst concrete and bird droppings? I shuddered to think of it.
Light was fading now, fading fast. The neighborhood kids streamed outside one last time to take away their bicycles and their cricket bats. Some strayed further along the road, silently watching the other houses, while others sat on their lawns and looked around. There was some laughing, as kids reminisced about the hundred and one antics they'd shared, and some batted back tears. I, too, felt teary-eyed, though I didn't want to show it. It was after all, only a street….
We left the next day. I didn't get to see the bulldozers.
By Shehtaz Huq
"Excuse me, sir? Sir?”
John started. There was an old lady in front of him, quite elderly, something odd about her he thought without thinking if you know what I mean. He peered at her, mixture of inquisitiveness and trying to maintain a distance. She was wearing a printed dress, ankle length, adorned, he noticed later, with flowers. There was also a small name tag pinned to her chest which revealed her to work at the local Star and Garter, the initials saying MG. She was looking at him now, with a peculiar expression, what on earth could she want?
“Err… I was wondering if it is possible for me to borrow this book, it seems a tad bit action-packed for my old palate but then always try new things I keep saying…”
Her voice seemed almost hypnotic to him, it droned, almost dropped to a whisper then picked pace and pitch, until he remembered where he was.
“Oh, I'm sorry a mind such as mine tends to wander, so is it a McNab book?”
As he went through the same monotonous routine of checking the book, registering it, completing the lending cycle out by wishing the old lady a nice day.
He sighed as he watched her stride briskly out the door and into the bright May sunshine. Was this all there was going to be in his life? Work in this small-time library as a lonely librarian, dustier then the books, finally transformed into a small time pensioner?
He snapped his head up sharply to look at the clock. It was already 6 o' clock. He had been off work for half an hour.
John quickly gathered his possessions.
He felt surprised that the time had all gone. He felt sure he had just been in his office at about 5:30 but the time had all disappeared. He was just sitting there… no it must simply have been his imagination. He checked his jacket pocket for signs of his wallet and other items. His phone was gone. He sighed and decided to let it go, he would simply waste his time trying to find it. He made for his car but it was only halfway to the car park he realized he never had one. Anyway, he was almost there. The car park was filled with several old people. John felt slightly out of place and, almost, afraid. So many pensioners, why? He decided to think nothing of it but as he turned to leave one of them bumped into him.
“Oh my, excuse me I didn't notice you there dear, you should really be more careful.”
The person who was chiding him in particular was the same woman who was borrowing the book from the library. She seemed to have changed though. She no longer was dressed in her flowery dress but was rather garbed in a darker skirt with a black top, ready to mourn…strange that, he thought.
“I'm sorry I'll be more careful…” He mumbled as he left the area. He looked back at the lady and then the car park before continuing to walk.
He felt as if time itself was becoming a strange quandary to him which no longer could be managed.
He had worked at the library for a very long period of time. It had really become his life when his mother had departed. He always believed that it was wrong to think that she was completely gone. At times he thought of her and strength just seemed to flow into him. It was difficult to believe that she was gone and just how little he had motivated himself to achieve things since his mother's death.
He missed his old life, his mother and himself.
The rain was starting to fall, falling down from the sky causing an almost reflective mood to pervade John's mind. He never liked the rain; it reminded him too much of his mother. The calm and tranquil serenity it created reminded of how he felt he she was around, safe calm and happy.
He entered the cemetery from the north entrance. There it was his mother's grave. He sat down and looked at it. The headstone was made out of glass, a sort of mirror, and by the lights in the graveyard he could see the name:
By Ishan Reza Islam
Canned audience laughter, followed by a telephone ring. The volume was swiftly muted, and her daughter gushed, 'Hello?'
She knew because she had her ear glued to the door. She heard her daughter turn up the volume. The tinny voices drowned out her giggles and exclamations. She leaned in closer, and shot the maid (who was eyeing her suspiciously) a dirty look. The maid scurried off.
She tried to listen in, but it was getting more difficult. At the other end of the house, her son was in his room watching yet another movie. It was a regular routine, really. Come holidays, and bothersome children load themselves with DVDs and barricade themselves in their rooms, emerging only to shower or return dinner trays. She couldn't remember the last time they had a family dinner. Of course, she could insist on having her meals with them, but she'd only garner exasperated looks and sighs. Besides, she never got American humor.
Her daughter seemed to be changing DVDs now. The volume was turned off again, and through the shuffling and tossing around of DVDs she could hear her daughter say, 'I know! Isn't it so annoying?' She wondered what her daughter was talking about. 'Maybe it's me,' she thought, her hand tightening around the doorknob, 'Maybe she's talking about me!'
She barged in. Her daughter was in front of the computer, her face a fluorescent blue-green in the darkness. DVD cases lay scattered about her and on screen a boy and a girl were standing by a river. It seemed to be one of 'those' scenes, the ones her children always fast-forwarded if she came along.
Her daughter turned around to look at her. One hand held the cell phone to her ear and the other deftly reached out to press a key. The boy and girl froze in mid-confrontation. 'What?' her daughter asked. She kept one hand on the knob and one on her hip, 'What are you watching?'
'It's PG 13,' and in an undertone, 'I thought you knew I don't watch X-rated stuff.'
She pretended not to listen. 'Who called?'
'Why can't you watch with the door open?'
Touch you, I shall
By Adnan M. S. Fakir
Somebody save me
I watched as people hurriedly crossed the streets in the pouring rain. Feeling the blowing wind against my wet clothes, I shivered. Glancing at my mother, I saw her struggling to keep herself warm, sitting under the huge tree. Seeing her suffer made me feel so worthless, because I couldn't do anything for her. I couldn't even keep her dry and prevent her from catching a fever. How I wish I had been more grown up instead of being a seven year old kid! Suddenly from the corner of my eye, I watched as a group of young kids walked out of a nearby building. They came here quite frequently, probably had some classes or something. As if I really cared. Yet, I watched them as they talked and laughed. I noticed that each of them had their cars waiting for them as usual. Why didn't they leave? Just looking at them made me feel sorrier for myself. However, leaving was the last thing that they had in mind, it seemed. I watched in awe as all of them raced to the middle of the now empty streets, jumping and shouting. They looked so happy. Unable to look any more, I turned my back to them and wondered how some people had the luxury of making such choices.
By Nayeema Reza
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