It was Saturday evening. The sun was about to bid adieu to the city, only to return tomorrow. I watched over the street which had an orange tinge full of content. Sipping some coffee, I tried to figure where the kid’s ball would land after he had swung his arm in full circles before bowling it. I thought it would be a wide and the other kids would tell him to stop the nonsense and get done with the over. But it wasn’t, it was a clean bowled and they won the match. And I reassured myself for my incompetence and lack of knowledge when it comes to sports.
“What are you doing out there in the balcony Akash?” I shut my eyes tight for a second and tightened my grip on the cup.
“I said nothing, I am doing nothing.”
“Then come inside, the mosquitoes have started to hover around.”
[Everyone’s in the habit of shouting that they can’t even understand soft voices anymore.]
I was always fond of silence. But a complete silence was impossible to find and a rather frightening endeavour. It could accentuate your heartbeat to the volumes of drums, filling an empty room with sheer panic. And the sadistic result of this silence would be an even harder throbbing of the heart. The sun had set in the eyes of the sky and the stars were starting to shimmer, for it was their time in the night sky. I felt a sharp sting at the outside of my forearm near the elbow, it was a mosquito. I hurried back in for dinner.
My father suggested ordering pizza tonight. But Mom had grown sick of the free home deliveries. She made her point clear about having dinner. It was either something cooked at home or a dinner outside in a restaurant. Dominos was just around the corner and the perfect place, in my opinion. We walked to the pizzeria which lit in its warm red and blue squares, circled white. Saturday evenings were a time when pizzerias were stocked with people, endless conversations and of course, pizzas.
I stood behind a girl who had every intention of testing my patience tonight. She and her guy-friend were fidgeting through the pamphlet, perplexed about the effect of mushroom toppings on the taste. I reached inside my pocket and took out my phone. It was a strange habit that we had developed as a generation to swipe a screen every five minutes looking for the time and rather check for a message. The thought of checking the time would cross as soon as the screen went blank and we would check for the time again, only to find it written in a mocking white colour at the home screen. A few seconds later I had the honour to place my order.
Dinner conversations always seemed like heated news debates to me. Only this time they were not on a Prime Time show but premiering exclusively in a pizzeria. My parents had an uncanny way of turning the recital of their experience into a harsh rasp of bad drivers, unpunctual people and the summer. I noticed a few heads turning towards us. For them, the tale of a rickshaw puller’s near-death experience with my father’s car was a savoury seasoning over the dough. For me, it was as unsettling as hummus on the pizza. The conversation finally reached the Academics Avenue. This street was filled with questions on my course, teachers and college. Soon the family behind me had been enlightened with the fact that I had a test on thermodynamics in the next week, that my Mechanical Drawing professor had taken a whole week’s leave and that my college had established a new rule banning shorts and skirts for boys and girls. I was glad that we had finished the pizza before we reached Downtown Politics.
I was watching Home Improvement with Tim Allen attempting to chop off wood by using Karate. He swung his arm and the result was predictable: an agony in the palms of the typical American male and a bruised ego. A couple of seconds later I heard my father’s piercing yell.
I was shocked. I felt a sudden weight in my chest, but I stood up and darted towards his room. His scream had been as terrifying as a lion’s roar heard by and unarmed man. I felt a slight twist in my stomach and tried to push away the grim images gushing in my mind. I pushed the door and it sprung at once.
“What happened, dad?”
“Oh! Could you please get me a glass of water, and maybe mix some orange concentrate in it as well? And switch off the tube light as well while you’re standing there.”
I was dumbfounded. In a matter of seconds, my heart and mind had been flushed with horror and for what? Because my dad wanted an orange drink before he went to sleep.
“Why did you scream so loudly for a glass of water as if someone had stabbed you in the chest?”
“Oh, what’s happening here? Why are you father-son always in a fit?”
“Did you not hear his scream Mom?
“I did, but why are you making a fuss out of it?”
“The two of you are unbelievable. If you create such a havoc on the top of your lungs for a glass of water God knows what’s gonna be the signal in a real emergency.” I placed my fingers on the side of my head mildly gripping it.
“How much sugar do you want in the drink Dad?”
“Just one teaspoon would do.”
I went to the kitchen full of cupboards, boxes and cylinders of different sizes. The orange concentrate bottle was empty and placed near the sink. Mom always found these ones useful with their hard plastics to use as water bottles. I reached out for the topmost cupboard, faintly gripping the handles with my index and middle finger and pulling it open. I reached for another bottle, but this one was yellowish-green and not orange. The label read ‘Lemon’. I poured some of the concentrates in a glass and went for ice. The ice tray was stuck. I looked for a screwdriver to unhinge the bottom of the tray from the freezer. It was a simple twist and the tray cracked away.
[Now what? Another glass of lemonade. Why can’t they… not strain their vocal chords so much.]
I poured down some of the juice in another glass, added some water and two cubes of ice. I reached for the box of sugar in the upper left cabinet and added a teaspoon in both the glasses. I was walking towards the room and heard a wheezing sound. I saw Mom’s hands, one on Dad’s shoulder and the other rubbing his back.
“He just had an Asthma attack, where were you?”
“I was in the kitchen making your drink.”
“Why did you make two glasses, he only wanted one.”
“I thought you wanted one too.”
“Are you out of your mind Akash? Your father just had an Asthma attack and you were making lemonades in the kitchen?”
“You just said it the same way he did, shouting on the top of your lungs!”