Where Are You?

by Shome Dasgupta

I felt like I had a dozen onions embedded in my sinus cavities. I don�t know what happened, but I was having one of those days where the slightest thing made me cry. It wasn�t even the slightest thing -- it was pretty much any thing.

It was morning, and I was at a red light.  To my right was an elementary school.  It was recess time, and I saw children playing on the playground -- flying on swing-sets, twirling on merry-go-rounds, chasing one another, hanging on the monkey bars.  I saw a boy and a girl holding hands, away from the rest of the children, and they seemed to be looking for four-leaf clovers.  So I was at this red light, and I just felt the tears rolling down my face like the Pacific waves, and I used my sleeve to wipe my face.  I looked at the passenger seat and saw seaweed and seashells. 

In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store to buy some shaving cream and marshmallows, and while I was standing in the check-out line, I saw a mother telling her son and daughter that they can each choose two pieces of candy.  You should�ve seen the look on their faces.  Their love for their mother could have been felt from the back end of the store.  I started to cry.  They saw me, both the children and the mother, and they tried not to look, but the kids couldn�t help it.  When it was my turn to check-out, the employee looked at me real quickly, and then she looked away and continued to mark the items.  When she handed me the change, she didn�t look at me or say anything.

In the evening, as I drove home, the sky turned purple and orange.  It was more than beautiful, it was overwhelming.  I felt like I was at the zoo in The Catcher In The Rye.  I felt like I was in a world inside a world, and for those few minutes, I was gone.  Nothing could hurt me, nothing bad could happen.  I was the prettiest fossil, hidden so far into the earth, I was floating in space. And before I knew it, I was using the collar of my shirt to dry my face.  I was seeing waterfalls.

That night, before I went to bed, I watched Modern Times.  I kept it on mute and watched the black and white flicker, echoing against the walls of my room.  I was supposed to laugh, and I did.  That scene, when he physically traveled through the gears of the machine caught me off guard.  It was so simple; it was so silly, but it encompassed the world for me.  Everything felt unreal that day, as if for one day, I had been taken away from my own and placed into shadows.  I didn�t dry my face that time; I just let the onions simmer in my head.

I woke up that morning, crying and rubbing my eyes, as if I was a five-year-old, and I slipped in the middle of a department store, embarrassed and surrounded by grown-ups.  I walked into the bathroom, robed in my winter comforter, and turned on the vent.  I turned the bathtub faucet from warm to bright red.  I stood there for ten minutes, trying to fry the onions in my head; I was trying to turn them into onion rings.

Later that day, I went to the bookstore and walked into the children�s section, which was much brighter than the rest of the store, with its colorful circus books about bears, mice, and rockets.  Here, there was a small girl and her father.  She was holding a book in her hands and skimming through the pages.

�Daddy,� she said. �Can I buy this with my allowance money?�

�How about this, sweetie,� he said. �How about I buy this for you and you can save your allowance money.�

Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to speak, but only gasps of small breaths of light came out.  She started to cry, telling her dad how much she loved him.  For those brief minutes, I loved him too.  Normally, I would have just smiled and walked away, but again, I found myself set in the middle of an ice cube, looking out.  I was stuck in a glass box, like a mime, speechless, trying to breathe through the walls.

Soon after, I walked out of the bookstore, got into my car, and drove home, surrounded by the muffled noises of energy.  I went to bed. I hadn�t stopped crying since I left the bookstore.  I lay in bed, thinking about my little sister, who died when she was seven. It was the first time I thought about her in ten years.  The day she died was the day I had stopped crying, up until yesterday.

Ten years later, my sister was back again.  She floated between the walls of my brain, allowing me to feel again.  She was telling me that she was okay; she was telling me that her death wasn�t painful, that the bullet went through one ear and out the other, instantly taking her away, without a thought.  She was telling me that it was okay to cry, to be happy, to feel again.  She said she was sorry for being away for so long.  She said it was too painful to enter my brain�that as much as it had hurt me when she left, that it had hurt her just as much, like I had left her instead.  We had a good conversation, and this ghost, my little sister, she lulled me to sleep with the most soothing dead voice.

The next morning, when I woke up, I yawned and smiled. I could feel movement in my head.  She was telling me good morning; she was telling me that it was okay to go play on the swing-sets at the park as we had done years ago.  I did as she said, and I didn't cry. 

BIO: Shome Dasgupta received an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University-Los Angeles. He lives in Lafayette, LA, and his fiction and poetry have appeared in print and online journals, including Word Riot, Cafe Irreal, DiddleDog, MeadoW, Magma Poetry, Chickasaw PlumSylvan Echo, and Shelf Life Magazine. Forthcoming publications include appearances in Paperwall, Abjective.net, Dogzplot, and Mud Luscious. He is a regular contributor to The Footnote.