In the dimly lit living room, heavy with the aroma of foods cooked for special family gatherings, he heard them speak. Of a city divided, people choosing sides and many looking on with regret. Grandfather, who now only spoke in broken sentences, like a broken record, who Grandma said, still had a mind as sharp as a whip, kept muttering-
Time’s moving backwards, backwards…we’re…..backwards…..
The child asked-
Can time move backwards?
Suddenly, they were all quiet. Too quiet, he thought. Even Grandfather, who with his head bent over a bumpy back, like he was hiding a backpack under his loose-fitting shirt, was quiet. He always heard you and he always muttered, whether you asked him a question or not. They could all ignore him and with a smile go back to their conversation, like they often did at these gatherings, but grandma, with her dark forehead frowning, answered-
Yes, on the wings of hate.
Her eyes had that look, that old people have. You know, they’ve lived so long, they’ve seen it all before.
Time moving backwards, he thought about it later tucked in bed. He thought of a funny thing he had seen on T.V., an army of playing card soldiers, marching backwards, away from the enemy lines. That was funny, but today everyone in the living room was grim. As he tossed in bed, he heard angry voices on the T.V. downstairs. Angry men chanting, claiming something. But he was tired, too tired in fact, even to go down and complain why the house was never quiet enough for him to sleep. Or why adults didn’t have the same bed time as kids.
As his eyelids drooped the chants stayed with him in the room. Their words, cold, soaked in bitterness, colored the child’s dream a poison blue. He found himself in another time, in a strange place with no cars, no lights, no i pads. A terrifying, giant eagle with burning wings, burnt everything in his path. Till everything was swept up in flames. Was the eagle flying restless, in pain, or was he trying to burn things? He didn’t know. Things burned in the night, lighting up the skies until all went dark and cold again. He saw himself standing alone, shivering. Waking up, he ran to his parents’ bed where dad was still awake.
Why are you still awake dad?
You woke me when you came in.
Dad lied. His restless mind was full of many things. Today, after years, he thought of that little boy in school, who was a different color. And when other boys sneered and repeatedly asked him where he was from, his mother had said-
Stand tall. Look them in the eye and say-
You don’t get to ask me questions.
You know why, ‘coz they don’t get to define you.