I remember standing in the middle of the nights, holding the grill and wailing for my mother.
It happened every night. Each time I’ll wake up to see her not next to me in the bed. I’ll be left scared and sometimes, when I don’t have the courage to walk to the hall, to the grill, I’ll just cry in the bed.
The only person who could listen to my wailing was my twin brother but he too was young, and he too couldn’t do a thing about it.
Sometimes I’ll get up in the middle of the night and turn to see my mum not there, I would stare at the dark ceiling and try not to cry. I get goosebumps of bad things, and dark figures lurking at the edge of the bed. And then I would see a silhouette of a car’s beam, dancing on the walls of the ceiling, as if giving me hope that she’s coming back.
But many a times, she wouldn’t and I would cry myself to sleep.
I thought she was cruel for leaving us alone like that in the middle of the night to go to work (she worked during the night shift at a sock factory). I was only 3, and it’s quite scary when your mum leaves you alone in the middle of the night.
I would cover my whole body with a blanket and try to sleep.
Somedays, I would pick the courage to go to the front grill, not making note of the darkness that was engulfing the hall (and I was too little to turn on the light myself), I would stand by the grill and call out to my mother.
She would never come.
I would start wailing and sometimes, if I’m lucky, a neighbor would come and console me.
Come to think of it again, I find it funny. But the memory haunts me even to this day. I realised, I was not afraid of the monsters lurking in the dark or the darkness itself. I realised I’m afraid of losing people I love.
Sometimes, when my dad’s taking a nap in his room, I would observe his stomach to see if he’s still breathing. And if it doesn’t move, I would wake him up and he would ask, “What’s wrong?” I would say, “Nothing.”
I guess he knows.
My first real experience with death was when my grandmother passed away. I was only 10 and I still remember that pale sunken face of her’s, lying still like a log on the wooden bed.
And that smell.
I hate that smell. It was not the smell of the decaying of the body that freaks me out. It’s the smell of the ointment they use, to mask the smell of death. And when these two smells join together, I find them very disturbing.
I still remember going to her body, scared and sad at the same time. I observed everyone else touching her legs. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel like touching her. I was afraid.
I’m afraid of death.
Sometimes when I sleep, when my body goes into a deep slumber state, I would wake up with a jolt. Because that feeling of your body slowly crawling to sleep reminds me of death. And there were many times when I would wake up in the middle of the nights thinking I’m dead.
My body would feel light.
When I was 8, I had a pet bird. Her name was Yellow. It was a beautiful little thing, with yellow feathers. But because we bought it later than the other two (I had two more before Yellow, a green and blue one), the both of them used to peck Yellow whenever she came near them.
And because of this, Yellow’s health slowly deteriorated. She stopped eating and she grew weak.
She was so weak, that you could actually remove her from the cage and place her on the floor and she wouldn’t fly.
That whole week I would sleep with her, keeping her company.
Sometimes, she would doze off on my tummy. She would just fall onto my tummy while she’s standing. It’ll freak me out and I would use my fingers to slowly pat her head to see if she’s still alive. She would wake up and remain standing.
She died one evening when I came back from school.
Mother didn’t tell me about it, she took me to the prayer room and led me to where Yellow was.
And there she was, still, motionless, not moving. She was still beautiful.
I laugh to myself when I think of this. I believed in Heaven and Hell back then. And I knew sooner or later Yellow would die, so I took a piece of paper, tore it into an even smaller piece and wrote in pencil the words, “Please send this bird to heaven” and stuck it onto her body.
It’s funny. I mean, think of it. Yellow would stand out in heaven thanks to the note I wrote because she would be the only bird with the note on in heaven.
Yellow’s death was painful. Sure, she’s a bird and all, but she was part of my family.
I released the other two birds and never reared anymore birds after that. Birds are not to be kept as pets. They look better flying out in the open.
But I guess, we’re born to learn to live with death and realise that in the end, we would lose things we love because nothing is ever permanent. Death is inevitable.
I don’t know how I would react when the day comes when both my parents leave.
I guess death is scary because we keep ourselves attached to the world.