In an apartment complex, there lived a teenage girl with her not-so-stable family. Zoha, her struggling mother and younger brother, lived in a one-room apartment, with no warm water in a place that stayed mostly cold throughout the year. They were not able to afford any luxury that enabled them to live an easy life. Her mother worked three jobs in order to make the ends meet.

Her younger brother was still studying in school while she had completed her high school. Due to the difficult financial situation of her family, Zoha was not able to enrol in any college. Though she did pass high school with good marks, she was not able to score well enough to get a scholarship. So, she shook hands with fate and started to work at the age of 17. From working as a fast food chain attendant in the morning, to working as a caretaker in the evening, Zoha had experienced it all.

And it all went fine until one day, everything came crashing down upon her, like a train falling from the sky, in broad daylight.

In the early hours of a Wednesday, when it still seemed like night outside, while her mum and her brother were sound asleep in the single room the three shared, Zoha was alone in the living room. All that could be seen there were her cheeks flushed with a deep shade of red, accompanied by the gloss left over it by her crystal-like tears.

Zoha’s routine was to get up earlier than expected and invest her time in her favourite hobbies. She read, painted and watched TV. But that morning was out of the ordinary — she wept and wept until she couldn’t anymore. Her eyes hurt as if a thousand needles had been sunk into them. Zoha felt suffocated as if she was at a loss of oxygen.

“Why me?” Zoha whispered softly to herself. Not wanting to wake or worry her small family, she kept her broken state hidden in all the ways that she could.

Like a thunderstorm, there was chaos in her mind. Thought after thought flooded her mind, more toxic than the previous one.

Talking to the many parts of herself inside her head, she uttered the words, “Why does it hurt me so much when I see students studying and living their lives to the fullest? It wasn’t bothering me before then why does it hurt so much now? Why am I bound to be the central part of all that is doomed?” This was followed by a soft sniffle.

The many parts of herself in her head, sighed and stayed quiet. Zoha spoke one last time and that is when the silence broke.

She said, “It’s not like I am an advocate for the worst luck award, this is s-so not fair….”

A clear laughter rang inside her head, which she quite could not get. She remained clueless, until one of those voices inside her head, spoke the words, “So, you are really going to use a Harry Potter reference after crying in the worst way possible?”

Zoha was still trying to comprehend the words. Another voice said, “And you expect us not to open a whole damn circus inside your head?”

And it was after this that Zoha’s mouth broke into a grin, laughing quietly, but wholly.

Zoha had stopped crying as she kept laughing her heart out at her own mental remark. By now, the soft light of dawn had crept all around and from the window of her living room, she could see another window of someone else’s living room. From that particular window, a woman in her 40s was looking at Zoha crying for half an hour straight. She personally knew Zoha and her family, which is why she became concerned when she saw the poor girl crying. Zoha had not notice her neighbour peeping at her through her window.

It was uncommon for the neighbour to be awake at this hour, but since she woke up with a dry throat, with no water by the bedside table, the woman had gotten up from her bed and headed towards the kitchen. It was at that moment that the woman saw Zoha and noticed from the windows across. The woman had obviously drunk water in between the half hour that she kept an eye on the girl, making sure Zoha had stopped crying before heading to her bed. The woman chose to not call Zoha in order to respect her privacy, but the motherly love enclosed in the woman’s heart compelled her to watch over Zoha, even if they were windows apart.

The woman was puzzled to see her laughing all of a sudden, after a heart wrenching, 30-minute episode of constant crying. “Oh Lord, kids these days worry others so much,” uttered the woman in her African-American accent. With a soft smile and a less-confused expression, the neighbour whispered, “But I am so grateful to the Lord for putting an end to this child’s grief!”

Glancing one last time at the girl, the woman closed the curtains of her living room and went to her room to continue her sleep.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 28th, 2020

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