Friday, October 1, 2010

The Way Back Home

At the age of eight, there were many things I had yet to learn: Earth is the third planet away from the Sun; salt consists of sodium and chlorine; wrong things  aren’t always wrong; happy endings are of stories that haven’t ended.
 Language was not one of them.
    A heavy cover of fog shrouded the place. When I was young, I had a childish notion that fogs are made when a giant sighs. So in my head, I saw a giant man resting his head against a tree and sighing. He was tired. Giants couldn’t be tired, a voice of thought interrupted. But that was something I couldn’t make sense of. Some way or another , everybody had to be tired. When dad came back home he was tired.  When he hit mom she was tired. And when they told me we would move to another country, I was tired.  
  In the fog,  I could see a faint trail of how every road began, but the ends were still something of an enigma to me. Everybody headed somewhere, that was the only thing I knew. I then looked at mom. Though she was only thirty-two by then, the skin around her eyes sagged. She cried a lot. I thought that tears drag your skin down with them; that’s why I never cried. It was years later, when my skin sagged just like hers, that I learnt, to cry, you don’t really have to shed tears.
   She waved goodbye and started to fade away in the fog. I felt a tingling feeling in my stomach that rose up to my chest adding to every breath a chill. I dragged my legs and entered the school.
   I was at a loss. It seemed to me that the fog was only in my eyes to blind me. I feared that I would stumble if I walked any further. After long minutes that felt like forever,  I summoned my power and asked about my class.
  When I entered, they had already begun. I had a petite figure, so when the teacher didn’t ask me about my name, I just thought she didn’t see me. I noticed how when she shouted, a nerve in her neck shook in a funny way. So I laughed. She then heard me.
 “What are you laughing at?” she said.
  Shivering, I answered, “Nothing.”
“Well then, I want you to write ‘People who laugh at nothing are stupid’ and bring it to my desk tomorrow”
  When the break came, I asked where the roof was and ran all the way up there. I felt mortified and didn’t want anyone to see me.
   I could see the ocean from there. Out of my pockets, I got out a small map and unfolded it. Back home, my friend told me we’d only have the Mediterranean  in our way. I asked how I would cross it. She smiled and said, “You just swim.”
  My eyes fell on the river. Back then when I used to stroll by its side, it'd looked so vast. But now, it ran down the map like a scar. 

 “Hey,” a voice came from beside me.
I didn’t answer.
“You know why Mrs. Peanut Head shouted at you?”
I then looked over my shoulder to find a boy my age. I understood who he was talking about and was interested to hear his explanation.
He sighed and said, “Will you just look at your hair,” he then held it in his hands, “She’s jealous of it.”
I was truly puzzled and had to ask him, “Why would that happen? Her hair is quite good”
“Finally, you’ve talked!” he sighed, “When Mrs. Peanut Head was a young girl, she went to the zoo and stood beside the monkey cage. They all thought she was a huge peanut and wanted to eat her. By the time the security came, all her hair was chewed. What you see is a wig.”
I knew that was intended as a joke, still, to imagine the whole scene in my head, I couldn’t help laughing.
He stretched his hand and smiled. “Mark",  he said.
I stood up and shook hands with him. “Cecil,” I answered.
  Looking at his face, I learnt my first lesson in language; that language hardly spoken by the lips. Beyond every word, there’s always a thousand word that translate according to the listener. So there is not one language, there’s a million that may share the same words.  And those that are never spoken, are the most powerful.
  I wished I could tell mom before she packed her clothes telling me she was going home, and dad when he didn’t come from work and people told me that his soul went home, what I heard in Mark’s smile that day. It whispered to me, “Home is not that far away.”


  1. all i can say is your writing is outstanding!

  2. That was beautiful in its poignance. That image of the giant and the fog will stick with me.

  3. wow...that is a very subtle use of the muse--but i see it in the fog of well placed words.

  4. wow - what a story maha - the giant breathing fog and then mark, who changed the hopelessnes with a few words and a warm smile - enjoyed every word..great write!

  5. nicely played starts off rather like a fairy tale...but becomes oh so much more...

  6. Sometimes that fog is the best place to saty and so not see what's about around us...
    amazing story...

  7. Maha, this was another spellbinding creation.

  8. I almost started to cry at this. I really don't think there's anything to say beyond that.

  9. Very nice. To cry you don't need to shed tears... is that how you said it?

  10. just, ohhhh.

    this is so beautiful words escape me.

  11. I wondered for a minute if the boy was real.

  12. I love this! So beautiful.


  13. WOW!

    "You don’t really have to shed tears." You know? I think I´ve just learnt this from you!

    And you are very right... the words that are not spoken, the language behind every face, are the most powerful expressions in this world.

  14. This was very poignant, Maha. The images are vivid. My favorite line is "...those (words)that are never spoken, are the most powerful."

  15. I like some of the scenes you have painted in this story. I realise that English is not your first language, and I wish that I could write this well on a subsequent language. This reads like tribal myth.

    Nice ...

  16. this was spellbinding. i love the many ways you used fog imagery - the giant sighing.........magical

  17. Ah I'm struggling with this one and may not contribute this time round but nice to see a less literal interpretation.

  18. I love the idea of the fog being the giant's sigh. It helps you get into the mindset of a child.

  19. The last section of explanation is unneeded... It was beautiful and well-understood to that point... Very nice imagery, feeling, and writing. Kudos.