IMAGE: JACOB KARLIN '17
WORDS: NESMA YAZID
We were in June. It was a Saturday. One of those sunny days, you need to go out or you’ll know you’ve been wasting your time and feel depressed. My family went to this gigantic park, so vast you couldn’t walk everywhere in one day. On one side you could lay down and enjoy the sun. A bit further there was a pool, and on the other side of the park there were those big rocks you could climb on and see the entire place and feel powerful. We were on that side of the park.
My brother and I were pedaling in the cycling path. My father taught me how to bike right here, on a Saturday. It was three years ago actually, I had just turned seven.
My parents walked behind us while we raced. I could smell my mom’s ginger perfume that would make me feel so safe and comfortable. I sped up and flew passed my brother leaving him in a cloud of dust. After a while I arrived in front of a rocky hill and stopped. I turned around to see where my father was. I wanted him to carry my bike up the hill so we could all rest and enjoy the view, but when I looked in the distance, no one was there. Actually, there were a lot of people—families, friends walking, old people holding hands—but my father was nowhere to be found. My mother and brother weren’t around either. I felt proud that I had arrived before everyone else. I thought, okay, I’m going up and they’ll join me whenever they arrive. I held onto my bike tightly and started climbing the highest hill I had ever seen. My father had always carried my bike when we were here. Usually I just had to walk next to him and it was pretty easy. But I decided that if my father could do it, I could as well.
And I did. I was at the top. I put my bike next to me and let myself fall to the ground. I still couldn’t see my family in the distance. I would wait for them right here, so that when they arrived they would see what I had done and be proud of me.
My father always told me that I was a big girl. ‘Biggy,’ he said all the time. He was the only one who could call me that because I knew he wasn’t talking about my physical appearance. It was only because most of the time I was able to do things on my own. I could always do things on my own, but I was daddy’s girl. I liked when he helped me sometimes.
I looked around me. The landscape was amazing. It was green everywhere, and there were those gigantic old trees surrounding the whole park. I had never noticed that they had white flowers on them. In my head, heaven looked like this. Big trees surrounding a beautiful place, protecting those inside and forcing the evil out. The sun was blinding, but it was okay. It was warm and it felt good.
After waiting for what seemed like hours, I started to wonder where my family had gone. I got up and decided to go back to where I had last seen them in case something had happened.
Maybe my brother hurt himself and I had been stupidly sitting here, waiting for them to arrive when they couldn’t move.
I carefully walked down the hill. I almost slipped a couple of times but managed to stay on my feet. I was clumsy that way. I didn’t even know how I had managed to climb up without breaking my neck.
I walked with my bike on my side. I didn’t want to miss them if they had moved from where I had last seen them. I was looking all around me, but still nothing. The sun was blinding me even more than before. It was starting to bother me. I needed to be focused to look for my family.
This is when I saw them. A man, a woman and their son. They were surrounded by all these people wearing blue uniforms. At that moment I thought that I already saw those men once. I don’t know where and when.
“How is it possible?! You have to do something. She MUST be somewhere! Do your job!” The woman yelled at one of the men wearing a blue uniform. The expression on her face was indescribable. I had the same face the day I lost my favorite doll. Her name was Daisy. I also saw that expression on my brother’s face when he threw his ball on the road in front of a car. He scratched himself on his shoulder falling down trying to get it back. A little moon on his neck.
“Please calm down. I’m sure she must be somewhere. I told you I’ve warned all the agents of every exits of the park to look for your daughter...”
“This park is enormous, you need to put someone everywhere not only on the exits!”
The woman said before the man was finished talking.
I walked further towards them and it happened. She saw me and the look on her face changed. I had a new doll.
We looked at each other for a few seconds. She had stopped yelling. I was hot now. The red sleeveless shirt that I loved so much and that I was wearing wasn’t pleasant to wear anymore. It was burning my skin.
Suddenly she rushed over to me. I didn’t know why. I was over there, nothing had happened to me, they knew where I was. I mean, I thought they knew where I was. So the woman ran toward me and lifted me off the floor and held me in her arms. She held me so tight
I couldn’t breathe.
“Where have you been?? Oh my god where did you go?? Why didn’t you wait for us or at least tell us where you were going??”
“We sent people to look everywhere for you ! We got so scared, honey!” She held my hand really tight.
“I was on the hill waiting for my family.”
“You didn’t tell us where you were going ! Thank God you came back I thought someone had taken you from us!”
“You are not the ones I’m looking for. My mother had a white shirt and your shirt is yellow.”
The men in blue uniforms started to look at each other.
“Oh honey, you’ve been in the sun for so long. It’s us. Don’t you recognize us?”
She looked concerned. The look on the faces of the men in blue uniform were changing.
“C’mon Biggy what is happening?” The father said tapping on my shoulder.
I recognized that. My father calls me that. Only my family knows about this. A cloud hid the sun at that moment. I felt better. The light wasn’t bothering me that much anymore.
“Don’t call me that in front of strangers! They don’t get it.” I said laughing nervously. Even though hearing this made me calm. I felt like my senses were coming back now.
The men in blue uniforms were calmer too. They stayed with us for a little while and then left thinking they had done a good job.
The family was all hugging me so tight. Then the mother kissed me, put me on the ground, and held my hand.
‘Let’s go honey. Everything is okay. You are with us now. You found us. Everything is okay. I’m sorry you got scared like that let’s go home. Everything is okay.’
The father took my left hand and we walked toward the exit of the park. The shadows that the trees were making were bigger now. The trees had big shadows. I didn’t see those shadows when I was up the hill. I didn’t like that. The son, next to us, was on his bike-more quiet than usual. I turned around. We forgot my bike. The parents didn’t take my bike. My parents were always so angry whenever I wasn’t paying attention enough to my bike. My mother especially. It was scary sometimes. Why would my parents forget to grab my bike?
Their car was blue. My car was also blue. The father put me in the car, behind the driver seat, which was were I sat. The mother sat in the passenger seat, which was where my mother usually sat. We started driving, and I looked around me. I looked at my mother and she had blond hair, just like my mother. The boy next to me had brown hair and the father too. Only my father called me Biggy. Only my family knew that but still: something was off.
We were now on a highway, I couldn’t read the signs because we were driving too fast.
We drove for a very long time. It was night when we finally stopped. Home was usually not that far away from the park.
The mother took my hand again, and we walked inside the house. She took me upstairs to a pink room with teddy bears that I didn’t recognize. The mother wouldn’t let go of my hand, even when she sat me on the bed. She looked at me.
‘Dinner will be ready in thirty minutes. You have time to freshen up a little. Just don’t make too much noise.’
She closed the door, I heard a click, then nothing. I went to the door, tried to open it. The door was locked. I looked around me. This was not my room. This was not my house. They were not my parents.
. . .
I opened my eyes. I was in the bed that had become mine for the last few weeks. The ceiling had little shining stars that I’d grown to like. I hated it in the beginning. I was scared of the darkness during the day. It was not natural. Night time was the only moment I could be in the dark. The sky was dark so why would it be bright in my room. Mother told me I insisted on getting them up a couple of years ago when I started having interest in the universe we were living in. I did not remember that. I did not remember a lot of things actually.
Father knocked on my door and I heard the click I would hear every morning and every night.
‘Morning Biggy! Ready for this day?’ His salt and pepper mustache wasn’t as big as it used to be.
‘I asked you to not call me that anymore. I need you to stop this please.’
‘Alright I’m getting tired of this now. I don’t know what’s been up with you since that day but this act needs to end. You keep doing this to us I don’t understand why.’
I didn’t want to talk.
He gave up. He turned around and when he closed the door, he whispered ‘It’s for your own good.’
Every morning. Either mother or father would come into my room and wake me up.
Sometimes I didn’t feel like faking it. I didn’t feel any connection to this family. I felt like a stranger in this house. The look on their faces when I burst into tears was heartbreaking for me.
But I knew they were not my family. They ripped me away from my heaven that day. I couldn’t get how and why they wouldn’t see it by now.
The boy who was supposed to be my brother stayed away from me.
“Mommy she is doing it again! Tell her to stop!”
He should’ve been able to show me the moon. He should’ve been able to answer me.
I got out of bed; looked through the window. It was a sunny day. The same as the last time we went to the park. There was a gentle breeze that made the leaves on trees dance.
The rhythm of those movements were escorted by the singing of the birds. I wanted to go back to the park. I needed to find my true family. Maybe they were still looking for me. I was their daughter. If it hadn’t been that long. They were probably still trying to find me.
I put on the same clothes I had that day. Everything had to be exactly the same so that they could recognize me. I loudly knocked on my door to be heard. I heard footsteps in the corridor. Someone was coming to open the door. Click. Mother looked overjoyed when she opened the door. The doll wanted to play with her.
“I want to go to the park ... Mom.”
She looked confused. The ginger smell was different. I could feel something else on the top of it.
“Honey, you know you can’t go outside yet. You’ve been through a lot since last time we were there I don’t think it would be a good idea. We could play in the garden together if you wanted to though!”
“No. I am fine. I know now that you are saying the truth. I know that I was wrong treating you like strangers and I am truly sorry about this. I need to go out and if you really love me like you say you do we will all go together there.”
“I’m really not sure about this... Your father has to work and he told me what happened this morning I think you still need to rest a little bit.”
“It is just that I’m a grown girl now. He can find another nickname if he wants to! ... Mom I promise I’m fine now!” I almost betrayed myself here. Hope she didn’t notice.
After a long talk with the father, they both came back. Click.
“Okay we’re going to the park today! But no bikes. They’re staying here today. And you’re walking next to us. We don’t want to lose you again. God knows what could happen this time.”
My whole body shivered. What bike was she talking about. We left mine at the park that day. We only came back with one. I knew it. I couldn’t talk. I just faked a smile to respond to their overjoyed faces . The wooden floor in front of the room made noises as I stepped out.
There we were. The entire drive took place really quietly as no one really wanted to talk.
The parents would sometimes look at me and then looked at each other wondering if they had made the right choice.
We were all walking next to each other next to the cycling path. The sun was shining. I had a hat and sunscreen today. I got sunburns last time. The sun couldn’t hurt me even if it wanted to. We stopped at a water fountain. The brother was thirsty. I looked all around me searching for my real family. They had to be somewhere. The parents started talking about where they could take us tonight for dinner. They were looking for a place near the park so that we could enjoy the day as much as possible and directly go there when we were hungry.
I started stepping back. Slowly. Bigger steps. Then I suddenly turned around and started running. The hat fell down. I was racing against the wind that had become stronger now. I heard my name in the distance. They were calling for me.
I reached it. I was now in front of the rocky hill, ready to climb it. I turned around, no familiar faces were around. I sped up the hill to reach the top quickly. I could have a better vision of the park from up there. I breathed heavily and I let myself fall to the ground.
I was looking everywhere around. They had to be somewhere. They would find me here. I would wait here for as long as it takes.
The trees all around were still majestic. The sun was caressing my cheeks. I was safe here.
My family would find me.
People were running towards the hill. I couldn’t see their faces. They were too far from me.
My heart was racing and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. They were closer now.
Three people running towards me. And some others behind them. I could see a man, a woman and a child next to them. The persons behind were wearing blue uniforms.
They were in front of me. They all ran up the rocky hill, almost fell down a couple of times.
But they got to me. All of them.
“Oh my god! Where have you been? We have been looking everywhere for you for so long! Oh my god sweetie are you okay?”
I felt it now. They found me. My parents found me. My mother was hanging on to me so tight. It was hurting me but I didn’t want to let go. It felt good. My father was next to her, asking as many questions as my mother. They had a look on their face. I didn’t get a new doll. I found the one I lost.
“We always come here together you should’ve told us you wanted to be here!”
“I knew you were coming for me. You didn’t give up.”
“We would never. Just don’t do that again, sweetie. We were so scared for a while!”
She gently touched my cheeks. I could always recognize those hands.
We said goodbye to the men in blue uniforms. I know I saw them somewhere already. They had done a great job this time. I knew this car. The drive back home was shorter. Just like I remembered. Looking through the window I could see all the lights turning green as we drove up to them. I knew those faces. They found me.
We walked inside the house. Went up the stairs. My mom didn’t want to let go of me. I was relieved I found them again. No noises as I stepped into my room.
We sat on my bed. I could only look at my mom’s face. I knew my dad was just behind her, and I felt good.
‘I’m gonna make dinner. It will be ready very soon. You have time to freshen up sweetie.’
They walked out my room. I was smiling at them. They closed the door. Click. I felt good.
I looked around me. It was the same room. I could see the stars now.