Going Home

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.



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