The little girl in the yellow summer frock looks up at the floating fluffy clouds. Wide-eyed, head tilted back, smiling at the gliding, feathery edges of the dense mass. The curly scattering of bits and threads of lengthening vapour make her sway on her feet. Two older boys, friends of hers, walk up to her from the middle of the playground. “What are you looking at?”, they shout. “Look, look,” she cries, “I can see a face… and there,” she points excitedly, “there, up there. Long wavy hair on top.”
Years later, she recalls this scene, and how the two teenagers had grinned at each other, and had set about to tease her, that little girl, as they so often did. The girl loved these guys like brothers, felt safe with them. “That's God”, one said. “God?”, she asked. “Yup”, said the other, as he leaned to put his left arm around her shoulder, pointing with the right up at the sky. “See, see up there”, he said, “see that square window in the middle of that cloud? He is looking down on you.”
She remembers now how that little girl of so long ago had scanned the thick circle of cloud. Slowly, a clear frame of a window had appeared in her mind's eye. With her arched, aching neck forcing the breath in soft puffs through parted lips, she had gazed deeply into the white mist. Suddenly, an image, an outline of a face, had formed itself upon her wondrous leap of faith. “Yes, Yes! I see the window. And you know what?”, she had stumbled over the words in her excitement, and had screamed, “I can see God, …the eyes, and hair, and… and beard, and….”
She had stopped, puzzled. The boys were laughing hard, silently. Bent over, clutching their bellies. Walking away from her, back to the playground, wiping tears from winking eyes. She had stood there, staring at their backs, rooted to the spot. She had looked up once more. Mysteriously, inexplicably, God's face was still there, looking down upon her benignly from his window in the sky.
Tonight, years and years later, she looks up at the dark canopy of myriad dots of pulsating light. There is peace in her heart, a sanctity of place in her home. Serenely, she remembers in vivid detail of sensory reflection how the little girl had instinctively opened her lips to swallow a light curl of His breath. It had come flying down softly as a dove's white feather in a winding, downward spiral on the tip of a thin wispy cloud.
The little girl had felt the misty sweetness of God's breath, felt it tingling on her tongue. And, clutching her secret tightly in her heart, she had skipped home alone in the velvet hue of approaching sunset.
Rebecca Haque is Professor, Department of English, University of Dhaka.