They come for them, one by one. Little girls, ages 5-10: they will be groomed to birth little boys who’ll be men who’ll dictate our every move. Our #village is near passion and pain and thrives on the broken hearts of others. Our motto: “Let us ruin your lives for free.”
Originally shared via Twitter as a response to the prompt word “village.”
My young ones, our young ones, the Young Minds of Medium never disappoint. They rise to the occasion, responding to challenges and calls for submissions in such a way that leaves me in awe. I have been doing this for four years now and I can tell you that it does not get old. I love this type of work. Over the next three weeks, I will feature three young ones from Medium who responded to this month’s challenge, “What Do You Miss Most During This Pandemic?”
First up, is Mr. Anto Rin. Anto is the first member of YMOM and was seventeen, almost eighteen years old when we first collaborated on Medium together. I have watched this young man soar to higher heights and with each piece he releases to the world, he is growing and revealing more of what he can do with words. His work, The Last Homecoming is our feature for this week.
The Last Homecoming
Young Minds of Medium Missed Things Call
Sushil turned towards the window and looked outside at a city whose squeals of hustle had eventually died down, inconspicuously somehow, until what could be heard were only the echoes of his own thoughts. It was weird at first — for his ears to not be able to distinguish from the air the sounds that had always been there. What he soon came to realize, however, was that the silence was as deafening as the clamor.
The pandemic separated him from his family. His mother and sister were in his hometown alone. He knew he had to be with them — these troubled times were sure to have them terribly worried. After two weeks of being in quarantine, Sushil finally arrived at a decision.
He concluded that he couldn’t wait a second more.
He packed a bag full of biscuits and water, and he set off. He was going to his hometown, no matter what, even if it meant he had to walk around 400 km.
It took him half a day just to reach the limits of the city, where the highway rolled out like a glass ribbon that seemed to shift shapes under the blinding light of the April sun. For days he walked, eating nothing but biscuits, two at a time. He knew he wouldn’t be able to buy anything until he reached the next district, so he rationed carefully. The heat was stifling — he rested whenever he could in the shades of trees.
His legs began to feel heavy, the muscles lining his shins possibly torn beyond recognition. His ankles were locked as if tightly screwed, and whenever he sat down by the side of the highway, his knees made sounds that would have made a biology student uncomfortable.
The first two days had been the easiest since he was at least in complete possession of his senses during that period. It was a challenge, but nothing a man of his strength couldn’t do. During the third day, after he had grabbed a short nap, he woke up into a state of delirium, not knowing where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. He panicked reflexively and, fearing he might have a sunstroke, he emptied an entire canteen of water, which roused his body to a state of alert that helped him walk the farthest distance yet without stopping.
His sandals were almost burnt after miles and miles of rubbing against the road, and at times, his feet slipped forward from the loosening clasps of the straps, grazing against the simmering tar. It scalded his toes. He had to waste some of his water for treating them because walking with a burn felt to him like walking on molten metal.
His phone died the fourth day, although he couldn’t have known in the state he was in. It would have hardly made any difference to him. The heat had become intolerable, so he stopped moving so much during the day. At nights, he felt lost, the lights from the posts shifting the shape of everything around him for every step he took, the road studs deceiving him with their scintillating lights. But at least, he could walk at a pace and keep to it.
He lost a sense of days soon enough. He couldn’t keep track of when he slept, or when he woke up. At one point, he woke up again in delirium, so much so that he couldn’t even remember going to sleep, or that he had done so in the middle of the road. His body was burning and he was sure that he had a fever. He felt breathless, but couldn’t quite feel his heart. There was a slight pain in his chest, which spread in an outward manner until he could feel it in his ribs.
“What’s the matter?”
Sushil raised a blurry eye.
“Who — who are you? Where am I?”
Sushil could see the faint outline of a woman and kept his eyes riveted to her. Since there wasn’t any reply, he said, “Have I made it? Where am I? Who are you?”
“Why, it is me, son.”
“Mother, is it you? Where’s Shreya? Is she alright, mother?”
“She’s fine. You know I will take care of her.”
“I am not very well. But where are we?”
“You blacked out. You are home, son. Come, put your head to rest.”
Sushil managed to drag himself over to her. His feet were still scalded and felt like they were engulfed in flames. He went to his mother and laid his head on her lap. A surge of cold instantly came over him, and he felt relaxed like he hadn’t in days. An inexplicable tiredness washed over him. He knew he was delirious, but for a second he believed he had made it because there was no other explanation for it.
He closed his eyes deliberately with a sense of relief as if he was finally ready to let go.
*Inspired by real-life events: click here or here to read further.
you are yearning to
go out while I
simply want to stay in
safe from the fevered patients
I screen, often misdiagnosed
pneumonia is a lie
doctors tell them
to keep from testing them
and I pray for my friend
recently the owner of
results that will
take a quarantine period
away from her family
a mountain of
I channel my
and send it to her
one of my cousins
found my Great-Uncle
dead in his home,
his flimsy body
riddled with pain
shut-in, cast off
from others, a virus
claiming his soul
you are yearning to
go out while I
simply want to stay in
I see the numbers
I tally the cost
rising in smiling faces
with tearful eyes,
and tossed about like
privilege smells like
piss in a dark alley
day old and sun baked
my cousin does his rounds
at a prominent hospital
in Queens, his colleagues
dying left and right
from the very thing
I ask God to cover
him just as he’s covering
me. how would our
people take two deaths
if it touches your family,
claims your friends,
& piles up in every corner
where you turn,
tell me, will you still
be so eager to go
What I do for a living? I register patients for various imaging scans and invasive procedures and one of the scans we are doing far more of than we ever have before? Chest X-rays. Many patients are being tested for Coronavirus COVID-19, many of them have been diagnosed as having pneumonia. While most of those diagnoses have proven true, some of them have not.
My Great-Uncle was found dead in his home by one of his children while at home recovering from something people still believe doesn’t exist. A good friend of mine recently tested positive for COVID-19. When you see what I see, live what I live, and work where I work, you don’t need the news or a politician or a doctor telling you what’s going on, you experience it for yourself.
All of you, please take care and be well. If I’m not as active on here for a few days here and there, that’ll be because I’m exhausted and flitting between many emotions. Peace.
I mother no one. There’s no one for me to mother. To hold, to kiss, to shelter away from every storm . . . I want the one thing I cannot have and this damn global pandemic is making it worse. I missed the opportunity of spreading love to my own, of carrying on a bloodline that would have my eyes for years after my death. What it felt like to learn, to know, to be told that had I pursued attempting to have children, I would not be successful: I had no words. But my mother — she took a chance on bringing me into this world. No one had a say in if she would or would not do it. She wanted to. I hear my mother’s voice — the phone is an okay replacement, but it doesn’t give me the full view of her.
There’s no surround-sound Angie.
I want to see her in animated form, in her bold and “say what I want to say” presence. My mother doesn’t care about the thoughts of others — how one may view her, viewed her, will view her . . . She has always been matter-of-factly, no-nonsense, and vocal. She is a spark — she’ll light up any room.
Every year, I am given another three hundred sixty-five days to grow with her and learn her too. She is sometimes fearful of what to say around me, though, of how to say what she wants to say. She tells me, “I can’t say things the way you can. It won’t sound the way I want it to sound.” I encourage her to “just say it, Mom.” And she does, no holds barred.
I envy that — the courage to speak without fear. To be brave enough to open my mouth and say what I truly want to say, but most times, I cannot. I have to write it, instead. And the thing I want most is the opposite of what my mom wants. If we traded characteristics and did things differently, we wouldn’t be who we are. I lift her up when she needs it. She makes me laugh when I need it. Have you ever heard anyone cuss better than a sailor? You haven’t heard my mother . . . She can hopscotch with shit, plant marigolds with fuck, and damn anyone from North Carolina to Texas without flinching.
It is not her use of vulgar language that I want to highlight. It is not her boisterous ways or her inability to care about the thoughts of others when pertaining to her, no . . . it is her undeniable source of strength and never-ending love for me. To have a child who ventures out into the world to a job that exposes her to a threatening virus daily and not lose your mind takes resilience. It takes a healthy dose of sanity and resistance to breaking. I will never know the pain she knows. I will never feel the emotions piling up on her wondering, praying, and hoping for her child — for her children.
I am ordered to call or text her when I get home. If I am off, I am asked to let her know this. My whereabouts are simple; work, home, and the occasional errand run if needed. Before this downward spiral of our world, we spoke almost every day — her calling more than I would. Now, I make it a point to pick up the phone to let her know when I have made it home and when I plan on venturing out again (if I need to). I am covered by her love. I am surrounded by her prayers. I can feel her tears. They are all a part of every breath I take when I step outside my door.
I have not seen my mother since mid-March. I have not held her. I have not hugged her. I have not dwelled in the welcoming fragrances of her home in two months and I would be lying if I said it is not affecting me. It is. I have lived farther away from my mom than I do now, but that was by choice. I needed to be away from her. There were circumstances then that had proven best for the both of us for me to be as far away as I was. Now that we have grown and significant changes have taken place on both our parts, I would not want to be that far away again.
The simple act of a hug, an embrace calls to me more than it ever has before. I yearn to hold my mother and I cannot. I yearn to stand near her, to welcome her into my home, and I cannot. The last thing I would want to do is put her in any semblance of danger given my place of work and what I do. If I did not have my wits about me, I would pull my hair out. I never thought I would miss something as small as a hug — the physical act of showing someone you truly care . . .
This Mother’s Day, I cannot do what I want to do most — hold mine in my arms.
*For mothers yearning to hold their mothers. Mothers who have lost their mothers. Mothers who are mothering their own without being able to mother them. For mothers yet still holding on to the power of not letting go. Happy Mother’s Day.