One day, when it’s all over, and the books have been cleared away, and the table that played host to the laughter of the children who were your friends first, and only then my distracted students, is finally bereft of the clutter of decades of use, your mother and I will leave this place. You were happy here, but you would have been happy anywhere. I do not think we will find you here.
When we’ve settled in our new place and met new people and found new favorite places in the garden (for there must be a garden and a banyan tree like the one you nestled for hours under with your books and your doll), your mother and I will take a trip. There will be no need to discuss where we are going, because we’ve already resolved this during our many silent morning teas.
At five in the morning, we will take a taxi to the station. Aboard the train, I’ll choose the window seat. For I’ll want to look out into the waking landscape tinged with red and pink and perhaps I’ll see you racing by the train, your feet knee-deep in the fields, your plaits swinging towards the sun.
We will get down at a little town that is always asleep. Ignoring the outstretched hands of the beggars who would arouse your pained sympathy, we’ll make our way to the large, crumbling house whose disheveled lawn is always kissed by the sun. Once, it had been kissed by you.
We saw you here so many years ago. You were barely higher than my knee then and amidst all the sadness and pain, your face was bright and full of life. Indeed, I knew soon that you lightened the burdens of your many friends there. Orphaned yourself, you were their confidante, their helping hand, their mother.
When we saw you, you were dancing. Your face was turned towards the sun and your faded tunic seemed to glow. And then you turned to look at us and perhaps you mistook the wonder on my wife’s face for sorrow. Or perhaps you could see the sorrow that moved behind her eyes, the sorrow that had made her older than her years. You ran to her and wrapped your arms around her and ever since then, you were her beauty.
You were our gift for the years we had you, you were our sunshine and our rain and the cloud that softened our path. They told us your name was Tara. Tara, as I’ve often told you, means star, and I knew you would always be our star, illuminating our quiet life.
You were cheerful and yet solemn. You were kind and full of grace. You knew when we were unhappy, and in a thousand little ways, you tried to make us happy again. When we quarreled, as you grew up, you were the first to make amends, following me about the house piteously, your favorite doll clasped to your waist. I could never bear to see you unhappy and so I was always amenable to your shy peace-making.
As you grew older, you were both our delight and the pain of your coming goodbye. You were in no hurry to leave, so devoted were you to us, but we knew that a star could not forever be chained even by the most loving bonds. You had to leave and make the world beautiful with that whimsical, crooked smile that always caught at my heart and yet seemed so close to tears.
Sitting in the bus, you looked back at us. You smiled. We saw you often after that, but that is perhaps how I’ll always remember you, filled with a thousand hopes and worries and fears and expectations, looking forward and looking back, and yet in the midst of it all managing to enchant the woman seated next to you. I think you reminded her of her daughter.
I do not know why we fussed so much about your departure. We knew we would see you again. But when you left us last year, taking with you your mother’s smile and the quiet joy with which I looked out at the garden so dear to you, you did not say goodbye. I know you wanted to. You didn’t get the chance.
I know that you now play on some vast green lawn, one that extends into the sun-kissed horizon, a lawn bordered on one side by a crumbling house that is only slightly kin to the grief that you freed us from. You and your playmates, however, live in the sun, only returning to the house’s darkness when it’s time for a blissful, dreamless sleep. Your new playmates are happy children. But I suspect you are their deepest joy.
You remember us. But we are not your sorrow. We, too, are your joy and, even now, seated here in the darkening garden, I can feel your eyes on mine. They warm me. Your mother often goes over your playthings, or takes to the shelter of the banyan tree you were so fond of. We are often apart, for we remember you in such different ways. And yet we are always together, lit by your love for us, and our love for you. And even when it grows dark, I can feel your mother smiling at me from her end of the garden.
But if there is a part of you on earth, it must be at your first home, in your first happiness, in your first encounter with the sun that was your dearest friend and beloved sister. Perhaps that building is only an extension of the building that witnesses your play in the heaven we’ll never see, having long lost the innocence that was your constant, ardent guardian. Perhaps, unknowing, when you wake up, you’ll slip into this world once more, and a weary man and an unhappy woman, brought to your feet by magic, will be enchanted with a happiness that was never their due. Perhaps it will be us once again.
Perhaps we will not see you when we reach that crumbling building and its untidy lawn. Perhaps you’ll not be among the faces that turn slowly to us with doubt and suspicion. But we’ll look up into the sky and search for the brightest star and when we find it, we’ll find you between us, one little hand snug in each of ours.
And, once again, we’ll be complete.
Adreyo Sen is pursuing his MFA at Stony Brook Southampton. His thesis is a novel that incorporates fantasy and magic realism.