The sudden jerk of my neck woke me up. I grunted indelicately as my brain struggled to make peace with the cruel ending of the most glorious dream. I came to with a gasp, relieved I hadn’t drooled over the train window my right cheek had been plastered to. Blinking rapidly, I looked around, thankful no one was watching me.
I looked out the window, feeling that sweet headache coming on when you wake up too quickly. The hypnotic rhythm of the train made me nostalgic for the landscape of childhood – childhood that was retreating as quickly as the train carried me to my new destination.
This was the first time I was leaving home for an extended period of time. It made me both nervous and excited. I had imagined I would be bawling my eyes out but after the initial choking as I waved goodbye to my family, I had been fine. It made me feel proud and all grownup.
My phone buzzed once. I checked my watch. So mom had managed to refrain from messaging me for a whole hour – a new record for her! I messaged bhaiya, telling him I had won the bet. He was none too pleased.
I quickly replied to mom with my rehearsed ‘I am fine, stop worrying’ line which I had repeated…I am not sure how many times. I sighed a happy sigh, looking around at the empty (of my family) bogie.
I was far away from home, travelling towards my future. With that nervously exciting thought, I went back to sleep.
This time it was my grumbling stomach that woke me up. Without turning, I raised my hand, wanting to tell mom I was hungry. When my hand met nothing but air, I turned around, panicked. Oh! Obviously she wasn’t with me because I had told her I wanted to take this journey alone.
Fool, I admonished myself.
It felt like between yesterday where I was home, packing the last minute laddoos mom had made for me somewhere deep inside my suitcase (bhaiya had warned me about securing my home food) and today where I am alone in this train, I grew up.
How did that happen? When did that happen? Why did nobody warn me? Why did nobody prepare me?
I felt that same onslaught of tears and choking. I couldn’t do this. I was alone and away from home…home that had been my safe place for eighteen years. I was only a child! Yesterday I had been a child. How could I be expected to adult today? Today? Like shouldn’t I have become an adult after college or something?
I could not believe that only minutes before I had been nostalgic about childhood, all ready for being a grownup. What bullshit! I wasn’t ready. I was NOT…
My panic was cut short as I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Mom was calling. And suddenly, just seeing her name flash on my screen broke the panic. It got with it the fragrance of home, of the kerchief mom had doused with her perfume so I could smell it if I missed home.
“Hey mom,” I said, smile and tears in my voice.
Hearing her voice, I was home, safe, given a few more moments to be a child again.
For December, I will be writing stories based on prompts I have gotten from friends, family, friends of friends and some generous people on Twitter. Thank you Mom for this prompt.