The water was inviting. The noise still echoed in his ears; no, they were still arguing.
He shut his ears and focused on the patter of the rain and tried to ignore all that was happening. He wondered what made it pour so heavily.
Maybe the sky was laughing too hard.
He remembered the time his mother tickled him to the extent that tears started to pour and soon the fun turned to pain, which the mother didn’t realize.
The thought of paper boats and splashy puddles bubbled up more excitement in him. His little body began to shake like the fizz in a soft drink bottle. A smile lit his face. His breath fogged the glass; he was yearning too much. Too much, too hard.
The door was right there, staring at him, tempting him to break free of the bonds that held him in his solitary room.
Mother will be mad.
But the desire was a little too strong. He took his steps and advanced to the hall. The door was only a step or two away. Exhilaration palpitated his senses and the uncertainty of the adventure awaited him. The moment had come.
A door opened.
“No more. I promise,” the boy’s father said to his wife who was weeping.
He held her and she shook him off. The boy watched as his mother went to the table, took a glass of water and then put her head down to cry a little more. He looked at his father; he was sulking, still near the bedroom door. He went to his wife and sat next to her.
“No more. No more. This is the last time,” he said and held her hand. She looked at him with the fear of another lie. She was hurt; she had lost her trust, so she cannot put it in him anymore. Yet, she faked a smile and then looked at the mess they had created. She lowered her head and took a deep breath. They talked with their eyes, as if sensing the presence of their child. They looked at each other and kept looking still.
The boy was so lost in this silent talk that he had forgotten what he was to do, but remembered before long. He could hear the falling of the rain sing to him; he had to be there. He clenched his palms into tiny fists and tightened his chest with a strong breath of determination.
The couple was still at the table, talking not in words. His mother rose and walked into the child’s room. She groped away through the crayons on the table and the toys on the bed. Tears streamed down her face and the husband seeing this, let out another annoyed sigh. He stood next to her and gently stroked her hair; trying to calm her down.
In all these moments, no one spoke.
The boy’s mother looked at him and all the thoughts of a rainy undertaking were beginning to dissolve. She only looked and stayed silent.
The phone rang. The father pointed at it; signalling that he had to leave. She looked at him and he replied the glance. She nodded and he went towards the door. He walked right past his son, not even bothering to say goodbye.
As the door opened, the boy could hear the rain from across the hall; it had started to rain harder. The idea of a day in the waters of joy re-emerged. He clinched his teeth in a bid to suppress the delight. The father had left the door ajar which meant he still had the chance for an escapade.
He finally mustered up the courage and held the seemingly huge wooden door and pulled it open. Just as he aimed at a step, a voice called to him.
“Stop! Where do you think you’re going?”
He turned around to see his mother walking towards him with her arms on her waist. She gave him a look and his face turned morose. He grimaced and the day was over.
The previous night, he had a dream of a rather strange nature. He was in his bed, surrounded by water in a roofless room. He could see a cloud floating above him, letting it rain on everything but him. The more he tried to reach out to it, the further the cloud escaped. He concluded that to feel the dreamy rain, he had to experience the one that teemed outside. He looked about to see his mother sitting silently and reading. She suddenly arose and left the apartment to the boy.
He stood in amazement and glee and had only one thing in mind- the failed attempt. Without wasting another minute, he wore his shoes and bolted to the door. The hallway was deserted. He looked out the huge window near the apartment door and saw the road below being washed down by the rain. He smiled. He drew close to the elevator door. Being just a boy of eight, he was rather afraid to use it. He barely went out of his house and that left him uneducated on the topics of everyday life.
After a few more moments of perplexity, he ran down the stairs. The placement of stairs in the apartment was very strange. The stairs of a floor began at one end and to reach the floor below, the route was on the other end.
He made it to the floor below his apartment. He was walking to the stairs when his path was cut short by a hoarse bark of a dog. He stopped still in his tracks and turned to find a grown dog staring at him with big black eyes and growling. The boy’s limbs began to tremble and shake and he started to think that it was a bad idea to sneak out of the apartment for a secret adventure.
A command came from an open door. An old lady, about eighty years of age, called the dog back into its rightful place, next to her. The dog paused a moment and then returned to its possessor.
The boy was retracing his steps back to his apartment when the lady asked for him.
“Come in, boy,” she called with a jubilant smile and a weak voice.
He shook his head; the woman pressed on.
“Come in. Don’t let the dog scare you,” she repeated.
“Mother said not to talk to strangers,” the boy said.
The lady chuckled and then said, “It’s alright. Your mother and I are friends. You see, I live right below your house so that makes us neighbors in some sense.”
The boy began to wonder what it could be. He stood there in confusion without anything to say.
Suddenly, he heard the elevator on his floor make a sound.
“Mother!” he uttered and ran back, leaving the old lady without a reply.
He ran back up the stairs he had descended and sneaked back into the house without a sound. The mother was in her room, not making much noise either.
The boy was back in his room, sitting in disdain.
This was not supposed to end this way.
He felt bad for the old woman who he left behind. He didn’t feel much scared as the lady was quite serene looking- her wrinkles made it look as if she was always smiling. In addition to that, the smell coming from her apartment was very inviting. It smelled of cinnamon and coffee.
After another day, the rain was still inexperienced and the dreams still vague.
A week had passed since the previous try. The mother was in her room and hadn’t made a sound in hours.
She’s is probably in deep sleep.
The boy tip-toed his way to the door and stood there for a while. He slowly opened the door and slipped out. The premier notion for the day’s outing was not to reach out for the rain but to deliver apologies to the old lady at the floor below.
He knocked on the door he was at a week ago and waited for an answer. The door opened to the old lady and a smile on her wrinkled face.
“Boy!” She exclaimed and welcomed him in.
“I’m sorry about the other day. I didn’t mean to run away like that,” said the boy while the lady returned from the kitchen with a slice of cake and some cookies.
“Oh, it’s alright, dear,” she said and relaxed on her armchair. “Aren’t you the boy from the top floor?”
“Yes, ma’am. I am,” he replied as he relished the confections brought to him by the woman.
They both sat silent for the first few minutes but then got to talking. The lady narrated stories that she had been telling her grandchildren and said that she was “happy to say them over and over again.” The boy just sat beside her, listening faithfully and was joyous that he had finally someone else in his life.
She said that there was no noise of a child’s laughter in the whole apartment building. The boy was astonished at this fact, for he knew children lived in the same building as him; having played a number of times with them.
Maybe she’s just too old. Her hearing must be weak.
It was late when the boy realized that he had forgotten to go out. He was not much bothered but a disruption in the talk reminded him of time. He said his goodbyes and walked out in the hallway to hear an ongoing commotion occurring on his floor. He could hear a lot of dull screaming and it was not long before he realized that it were the voices of his parents.
He ran up the stairs as fast as he could to see many people dressed in white, waiting outside the door. He walked past them and into the apartment. There were three people inside- the mother, the father and a man dressed in white. He stood by his mother as she ignored him and refused to even look at him. He remained there crying while the man in white took his mother away, sided by his father who was repeatedly apologizing. Throughout this incident, no one looked at him. Everyone appeared a little too busy to condole a child.
The door slammed on his face and he heard the noise travel from the hallway to the elevators and then to the floor below. Soon, the boy was alone in his still apartment. He was there confused and hurt and completely lost.
The door opened suddenly and the father appeared. He was crying.
“Daddy? Daddy?” he cried to the man. He stayed silent while the boy continued, “What has happened?”
He did not utter a word and made his way to the bedroom. The boy followed him till the door was shut, yet again.
Too hurt to do anything, he retired to his bed and cried himself to sleep.
The episode that took place was still fresh and still perplexed in the boy’s mind. And to add to the pain of it all, he received the news that the old lady from the floor below had died. She passed away in her sleep.
He was left all alone- with an absent father and a missing mother. All he could do was choose to either break the dream or try and pursue it. The rain was still a tempting escape to all the melancholy of an empty life. It seemed to be the only thing that was worth trying for.
He made his way to the hallway, and then down the stairs. Just as he was passing by the old lady’s door, he heard the dog bark at him. The dog looked just the same- with a wagging tail and a drooling tongue. He was being nudged by the dog to enter the lady’s house. He was hesitating when a voice shook him to the core.
It was the old lady who had just died. She stood there, awaiting the arrival of the boy at her doorstep. The boy rubbed his eyes, trying to understand the situation.
How is that possible? I heard she had passed away. This has got to be some kind of a joke; if it is, then it isn’t funny.
“How are you here? Are you real?” the boy asked, standing a good distance away.
“Yes, I’m here. Real or unreal, you can decide,” she replied, her arms outstretched for an embrace.
“How can I see you? You’re dead!” he boy yelled and the lady smiled.
“Yes, I am dead. So are you.”
The boy’s knees went weak; he trembled with fear and felt faint with confusion. Her words had dropped him into the pit of perplexity and doubt. He never believed that it was possible to see ghosts.
“You’re lying,” he uttered, completely aghast.
“No, I am not. You are a ghost that is why you can see me,” she replied calmly.
“But my mother can see me; she is not dead. And the children of the building know me.”
“Yes, your mother is not dead but she is institutionalized. She can see you because she is delusional. Some people have that power. And the children, they are dead too. They’ve been dead for years.”
The boy broke down with tiredness and dread. The woman came to comfort him and took him inside. Everything seemed to come clear now. The people in white were people from the asylum and he finally understood why his father never spoke to him- because he was never there. He was a ghost, dead and cold.
The lady told the boy that he had died of leukaemia about six months ago and his mother claimed that she could still see him. The father had no other choice but to commit her. Life, or after-life rather, came out clear to him.
So, what now? The boy thought to himself. There was nothing he could quite do or understand. But he had one thing he knew awaited him.
The rain was yet to subside. And there was nothing that stood between the boy and the joys of rain. He walked down the stairs to the entrance of the building and stepped out.
The first step into the rain felt refreshing and like the sequence of a long-cherished dream. The sensation of the drops on the fingertips, the smell of it all, the different color of everything and the heaven-like touch on the forehead- all felt right.
Finally, the dream would be lucid.
He smiled to himself, trying to live a life he knew he could never have.