He stopped dead in shock. His gun clattered to the ground. The sight of that little yellow van took him back agesâ€¦ Not ages, just eight months back.
He was teasing his 10-year-old sister. He ran off with the van. She laughed and tried to catch him. But all she caught were a few hundred pellets.
He looked at the gun and wished it wasnâ€™t there. He wished he could pick up the van for his sister instead. Maybe after todayâ€™s attack he might meet his sister in heaven, he thought. And he picked up the gun and walked.
She would have waited by the telephoneâ€¦
It was a daily ritual â€“ to call her from the pay phone near their house. Every night at 9. She would laugh, she would fret, talk about her studies, her friendsâ€¦ Every day.
But today they didnâ€™t get through to her. The hostel phone was engaged every time they tried. And they tried the full half hour of â€˜phone timeâ€™.
He was upset. He wasnâ€™t sure if that was because his daughter would be disappointedâ€¦ Or because he couldnâ€™t hear her happiness and enjoy feeling her joy engulfing him in a hug.
She sits there every day with her knitting. Waiting.
For the children who were playing there just a few days back.
Just the day before the shooting.
They all ran away... (didn't they?) Even her own two...
They must still be scared and hiding.
So she waits for them to see her and come to her.
"It's been two years," says her husband.
"It was just yesterday," she laughs. "They'll come when they see me.".
"Banana," he said.
"Banana," the boy repeated.
"Green," he said.
"Green," the boy repeated.
And he was taken back in time. To a land covered in green -- leaves, grass, blue skies, colourful flowers... He remembered the fruits, his father picking them off the tree, and him eating it right there.
But now it has all changed. There was no green to be sighted anywhere. Unless it was Government Manufactured (GM), of course! Everything had to be a GM trademark these days.
Which is why this bunch of green banana that he cultivated had to be a secret..
"I can't breathe," she said.
"Oh don't start that drama again! Of course you can breathe," he replied.
She looked out the window, at the breeze playing with the trees. She yearned to take a breath of that luscious fresh air.
She looked back at him puffing away... at the smoke swirling up. Her breath fell short, and her chest heaved, again. Surely that was cigarette smoke she was smelling through her oxygen mask?
Bed-ridden after her lung cancer treatment, she wondered if her subconscious was becoming accusatory. 'Passive smoking' was the culprit here, she told her brain.
"It's positive," she smiled, as his hand gripped the stick, and his eyes gripped her soul.
Her heart trembled deep within, and she knew his would be trembling too... Her courage faltered... What did fate have in store for them this time?
She had never had any problem conceiving... Three years, three pregnancies... and yet they were childless...
And here they stood again... wondering whether that pink line would finally mean something more this time...
Fear gnawed at their insides... Yet, they hoped...
Hope. Their only refuge; their only strength....
Familiar faces, familiar hands. Familiar from a distance, strangers up close. Their lives are entwined, just like those many strange hands. Their lives are familiar too... Little do they realize...
It's those hands that speak volumes... Clinging on for dear balance. One loose grip can hurtle a fellow face off the train... Or maybe, those familiar strange hands nearby might manage to grab that life back...
A hand; a life. Holding on... to sheer hope more than anything else...
A hope that seems far away today....