It’s difficult to see in front of me, the heavy rains of monsoon season falling in sheets. The road is muddy, my feet sticking each with each step. I have no umbrella, my clothes are soaked through, clinging to me. I can make out the turning in the near distance. It’s just where I remember it, the tall tree still there marking the small path that leads off into the fields. Past the fields is the house that I grew up in. My long journey finally at an end, but still not knowing what I will find when I get there.
I left 20 years ago. One morning, while it was still dark I decided to leave. For months I had been planning my escape, and that morning I finally had to courage to go. I’ve not been back since, not spoken a word to all that lived in the house. I left because I was tired, tired of life living in fields. I was tired of not being appreciated, I wanted to learn but they wouldn’t let me. My father said education is of no use to a woman. She should stay at home, work and have children. My mother said nothing. So I left.
I headed to the city and found work. I used the money to go to night school and learn to write properly. I learned about new places and new people. I saw the closed world I had lived in for what it was. People would ask me if I missed home and why didn’t I go home on the holidays. It wasn’t my home. It was a place where I had a use but it was of no use to myself. I didn’t want to spend my days wondering what might have been. I saved my money and became successful, opening my own small restaurant. Perhaps the food my mother taught me to cook was a use.
I became completely detached from the place I grew up in. The long days of cutting weeds and tending to animals, cooking food for my father who would never appreciate tucked away at the back of my mind. I had persuaded myself that I never grew up there, my past reinvented. Until last week. A woman came into the restaurant, her resemblance to my mother was striking. My mother was the only guilt I held. As the woman are her food images of home appeared in my mind. Unless I go back my past will stay tucked away, hidden but never gone.
As I turn on to the small path everything is as I remember it. The rain still falling, as though the clouds waited for me to come back and were now emptying everything on top of me. Each drop a memory to be washed away. At the path’s end the fields turn into an opening and there stood their house. Exactly as I had remembered it. Standing on stilts to protect it from floods. The roof made from straw, the walls a patchwork of metal and wood. The rain stopped, as if a tap had been turned off.
Up the wooden steps and into the house. I don’t know what to find. Outside there was a bike, but it was rusting and old. Inside there was nothing. No furniture, nothing on the walls. In one corner there is an old blanket on the floor, next to it a picture leaning against the wall, a candle to the side, burnt out. I walk over and pick up the picture. It’s of me, I kick the blanket, underneath is a shawl my mother used to wear. She had waited, she had waited for the daughter who abandoned her. A tear rolls down my eye and the rain starts again. I hope she didn’t wait too long.