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Transparently Opaque

By Maya Joseph

  1. Crystal Lies
    Crystal Lies
    By Grace Tran
          I looked down at the faded sleep lines that covered my arms from my awkward napping position against the taxi’s window, and the mid-day sun was spilling onto the seats as the car slowed to a complete stop at the end of a long driveway.

          After paying my fare, I watched the car leave. It cruised down the unfinished pavement and I let out a deep breath, and finally looked up to glance at the lone house on the top of the hill. My old house.

          It was a long journey to get here from where I have moved. Despite it having been years since I left without a single glance back, it didn’t look like anything has changed since then. The old tire swing suspended from the tallest tree in the yard, the yellow rocking chair on the front porch, and the wind chimes that clattered against each other near the door, producing feather-light noises that followed the constant beat of the wind.

          I was at the front door before I knew it, and an empty feeling settled in my stomach as I knocked on the door. I felt sick. And there was this, too--the lingering thoughts of feeling like a stranger at my own home never changed. 

"...nothing had changed...and the wind chimes...producing light noises that followed the constant beat of the wind..."

          The door was pulled open abruptly and I saw my older brother, Andrew, who met my gaze with a soft, yet tired smile. “Hey, you made it,” he greeted me, stepping back to make space as I lugged my suitcase in. “It’s been...forever,” he added awkwardly, and I nodded in agreement. He pulled me into a side-hug that didn’t last long, before leading me down the corridor.

          My brother stopped in his tracks and turned towards me, I still hadn’t said a word, and I could tell he felt extremely uncomfortable, being the type of person that needed someone speaking to him at all times. “How have you been, baby sis’?” He cringed immediately once the words fell out of his mouth and he shook his head, waving his own question off. “You know what, I’ll just take your stuff to your room.”

          “Thanks,” I responded, passing him my belongings. “I’ve been okay, by the way, big bro.” I cringed too, but my brother laughed, his entire face lighting up before he hauled my suitcase up the stairs.

"...the lingering thoughts of feeling like a stranger at my own home never changed."

          Once I was alone again, I took in the portraits on the wall. My eyes fell onto a photo of my younger sister, who despite not having arrived yet, was the person who had gathered my brother and I back here.

          The pain from my stomach shifted to my chest as I remembered why I was even here in the first place, and I shut my eyes and tried to breathe, I selfishly wished things could be different.

          “You want to see her, don’t you?” Andrew asked, he had came back downstairs, and in this brief moment, it was like he could see right through me. He didn’t wait for a response before continuing, “Go. She’s in her room. She’s been waiting for you, too...all this time.”

          I was rushing down the hallway in an instant, past the photos, past my brother, and navigating through the house with my heart thumping in my chest. I found the room I was looking for, and knocked gently before pushing the door open.

          Once I entered, my eyes fell on my mother immediately, looking so small and tired in her bed. Our eyes met and we said nothing for what seemed like hours, but it was probably just a couple of seconds.

​ “You came,” my mother spoke first, probably knowing that I was struggling to come up with something to say myself. She always had that sixth sense or intuition, always knowing exactly what I needed from her. “What? You can’t blame me for being surprised, I thought you fell off the face of the Earth years ago.” She tried to sit up in her bed and I went to her side to help her. 

         I bit my lower lip with shame. “I’ve been busy with work,” I pointed out.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re here now.” It was my turn to be surprised, and I looked down to meet my mother’s earnest expression. “I just hate the fact that I have to be practically dying for me to see my children again, is all.” 

"Did I even have the right to grieve?"

          That’s right. My mother is sick, and when I first got news of it last week at work, it felt like my world stopped spinning at that point.

          The doctors said she had a month left if she was lucky--her sickness progressed far, due to the fact she lived alone and too far from any hospitals, it was my youngest sister who finally pushed her to go, as my mother kept complaining about headaches and nausea. I felt guilty. I closed myself off to my family, too caught up in my own issues. Did I even have the right to grieve?

          “I-I’m sorry I took so long to come back,” I managed, I looked around for a distraction, anything to steer the conversation in another direction and my eyes fell on an empty glass on her nightstand. “I’ll go get you some water.”

          “Stay.” I felt a firm tug on my wrist, and looked into my mother’s pleading eyes, and I felt a wall I didn’t know I had up, tumble down. “We need to make up for lost time.” And I finally felt at home again.