By Sabrina F Ahmad
The pebbles skip over the murky surface of the lake, creating languid ripples. Then they sink down, even as the dead fish come floating up. You remember the tales your parents told you about the shady green parks, the sparkling lakes, the individual houses with their front lawns and dogs. Fairytales! You raise your eyes from the glassy green (not of the good kind) lake, and all you can see are tall buildings clawing their way up the sky, obscuring the sun.
As your little break ends, you get up to head back to coaching classes.
School, coaching classes, homework. The pattern of your life seems to be stuck on permanent replay these days. You have to wonder at the hypocrisy of a system that keeps your nose to the grindstone, and then complains when you don't seem to have time for anything else. Speaking of which, if you ever manage to track down your parents' colleague's friend's daughter (her of the straight A's and endless ECA's and lovely looks and perfect personality), the one they keep comparing you to, she's got it coming to her for making your life miserable.
Endless classes and a quick rendezvous with friends at your favourite fast-food joint before you head back. The questions and exclamations greet you as soon as you enter.
"Is this any decent hour to come home?"
"What in the world is that horrid outfit you're wearing?"
"Have you been smoking?"
You bite down your retorts. It's no use. They will never understand your need for self-expression, just as the generation that preceded them never understood the need for bell-bottoms or big hair, or shoulder-pads, or whatever was in vogue at that time. They've probably forgotten the times when they themselves broke curfews. You've long given up trying to defend your image.
On and on until you manage to crawl back to your room, the only place where you feel sheltered, safe. Tuned to the music channel, the television blares, churning out your favourite tunes. Punk rock, hip hop, fusion, metal, trance; the rhythms, the lyrics, the melodies channel your emotions, your inner turbulence… And then one of the grown-ups hollers 'TURN THAT NOISE DOWN!"
Sighing, you lower the volume and flop down on your messy bed. Your gaze travels over your room, skimming over the posters splayed over your walls, the little bookshelf studded with ratty paperbacks bought from the second-hand shops (the only thing you can afford on your meagre allowance), and DVD's of your favourite movies and television series, and finally, your PC, your portal to the world around you. There is comfort in the clutter, even though it drives your mother nuts. In this mess, in this disarray, you reign supreme.
You close your eyes, reliving your favourite memories. The concert you played at, where people clapped and cheered as you sang about a better tomorrow. The funds you and your friends had raised from that went to fund the treatment of a young child. The road trip you made with your buddies to the beach; an entire weekend of fun and frolic. You came back burnt black, but utterly sated. Those addas at the tea-stall, passionately arguing politics and theology with complete strangers. They dismissed your views as mere idealism, but they could never shake your belief. That one kicking football match in the rain where you twisted your ankle while scoring that last goal. It had hurt like anything, but the victory you brought your team was worth all the pain. The long nights spent whispering sweet nothings over the phone.
Elsewhere in the house, the grown-ups are seated at the dinner table, having given up calling you for dinner, knowing you'd come only when you felt like it. Feeling slightly rebellious, you linger awhile, lost in your thoughts in your room. In your kingdom of dreams.