“I will do it.” I took a long long at the skinny, shriveled up excuse of the girl I turned to. My Chemo was scheduled for today. It was three fifty in the morning and sleep was out of the equation.
I went down to the kitchen and saw dad’s face drawn as he held a glass of water in his hands and stared at nothing.
“Can’t sleep,huh? Grab your shoes kiddo.” He said, his eyes yet unwavering from the water. Unsteady of his purpose, I obeyed him as we stepped out with darkness as the Lord. Was it a sign? Was darkness truly my “Lord”?
Dad moved left toward the Hills. I realized with a pang of pain that I hadn’t been there in a year and a half. My place of serenity and secrets. My place of immortality. I could be in the hidden gardens of the Hills forever and be more than happy. I used to walk with my dad here ever since my first memory. That’s what it’s worth.
The melody of the birds and lyrics of the bees as the flowers swayed in the gentle care of the breeze was my very first memory. I spotted the swing dad had made out of Banyan roots and leaves. Skittering up there I swung, grabbing for the moon as I used to for the sun when I was little. Although my feet reached the ground now, dad pushed my wagon for old time’s sake.
Together, we made floral wreaths out of Myrtle and Poppies as Lady Dawn arose lazily out of her slumber in robes of pink. A ray of gold kissed my hand as dad excused himself. I walked up to the stream with Myrtle adorned in the little locks I had, feeling weak already.
As I dipped my feet in the cool stream, a tear, as if on cue, slipped out unpermitted. This is what I sacrificed to Pestilence. These whispers in the stream and the ruffles of the leaves. The purity of the soil beneath me; the virginity of the these buds. I sacrificed my innocence and my oblivion to living for what seemed like an undying hollow. What is the worth of such an existence?
After crying myself to numbness, I climbed uphill between the crest; just as the sun rose mighty, cruelly mocking me. I realized I could not make it to the top and just as I was about to give up and sit down hopeless, I saw the shadow of a hand of support. Graciously, I caught the hand and was surprised to feel it soft. It wasn’t dad’s. Upon lifting my eyes, I saw my mother smiling warmly as her sunkissed hair glinted kindly. She was a vision of beauty. We held hands and made it to the top where a picnic table was set. Breakfast in the hills; I realized as a smile crept up wider within my heart than on my face. Dad stretched out his hand by the final rock as he helped me up.
We sat under the trees as the breeze played a melody of mirth and the light played with the shadows of the leaves. It was one of the best moments of my life. I had to reach the hospital at nine, I reflected sadistically. I was a free spirit. Not even disease can claim me. How can I exist that way then? I decided to not go for chemo. I sipped on apple juice as I considered this slowly. The Gardens of the Hills is my identity. It is my hope. It is my escape. I will not let go of it ever again. I just can’t.
“Mom…dad….” I started rustily.
“It’s half past nine honey. We know” mom said as her eyes gave in to water and a ghost of a smile showed itself on her face.
And in that moment; as the three of us sat silently succumbing to fresh beads of tears and hugs; emotions and freedom washed away my numbness. I found my peace. I found my Undying eternity. But above all, I was gifted my hope back. In that moment; I was serene. I was immortal.
Darkness can never be my Lord.
[Photo credits: Yash Mishra]