My Nepal Quake Chronicle
Illustration by Zachary Borromeo
A Short Story
April 25, 2015
And now, I see oblivion. But I do not wish to believe that. I’m only seeing my eyelids from the inside.
And now, I breathe stones and sand. But I do not wish to believe that. I’m only breathing the thickest air, lungs could ever respirate.
And now, I drink my tears. But I do not wish to believe that. I’m only drinking my sadness away.
It’s finally happening but I wish it had not happened at all.
I’m not fine.
I start the day with a tenth-class breakfast course – a small portion of burnt bread “borrowed” by my ungrateful little piece of skin and bones, Melanie, and water that was carefully collected from the broken pipes of the neighbors, by yours truly. I am utterly amazed for having made a life out of the nothing that my Aama and Buwa unconsciously created. And then there I am, whose birth should have already given them a lesson.
Gorkha District in Nepal has been my home for the past 17 years, and I could not be any prouder to say that it has given me nothing but disgust, fury and resentment. I am condemned by the thought that I am alive and struggling to live. I sleep under the stars every night hoping that I wouldn’t awake the next day. I am a living corpse, and it is my absolute desire to disappear at the quickest possible moment.
My name is Melanie, the same name I had given my sister, but I go by the name Mistake. Or Mismatch. Or “Street Rat.” It depends on how people want to call me, honestly, so it changes every so often. I’m fine. At least I get to hear people use that name. Only — it’s my sister they would be calling. I’m fine.
The market is packed with moneymaking machines today, and I couldn’t be any happier! It’s that time of the month where I need to swallow my inexistent pride and lay out my blanket while singing and wishing for less arrogant humans to throw some coins or leftovers to eat. Melanie was supposed to be with me today, but she used her “sprained” ankle as an excuse not to. I told her sprained ankles could double the money we could get because it’s always and always pity, if not fame, that will make people like anybody. She insisted not to go and I insisted that humanity is the best joke that history has ever created.
“Mel, I’m back. I brought something to eat.”
“Diddi , a man came by while you were at the market. He said he wanted to adopt me after seeing me dance in the den last night,” Melanie worriedly told me what happened. How desperate can that man be?
“You should let him. You’d have a better life. “
“No. I know how it feels to be left alone. When Aama and Buwa left – “
“Yeah, okay. Then stop talking to strangers in the morning. Eat.”
My mother is the most influencial woman in Nepal, and I didn’t want to ruin her reputation. She has done all possible means to hide me and Melanie but Nepali people are not dumb. Melanie looks just like my mother – glowing in her perfectly-tanned skin, soft black curls, prominent cheekbones and light brown eyes that could drown any man in a glance. I, on the other hand, looked like Buwa, my mother’s chauffer.
I decided to visit her today.
“Aama, I was in the market today and bought this for you.” I hand over a woven turtle keychain and she takes it, adding it to her collection.
“Where is Melanie?”
“She’s in our place. A man wanted to adopt her. I would have let him, but she didn’t want to go.”
“Tell her to say yes. The man was my husband.”
One mouth less to feed. No more Melanie.
I go home and tell Mel about what Aama just told me.
I got a crying little child and two arms that tightly wrap themselves around my waist. I got sobs and eaten words and disheveled hair and a cracking voice that said, “Don’t be human, Diddi. Humans are terrible. Don’t be like them!”
Coming from a 7-year old, I find myself hugging back, shedding tears that have been stored inside for what seemed like a long, long time. What I felt now was not anger, not sorrow, not misery. I felt pain.
Melanie and I went to talk to Aama after promising not to leave each other whatever the consequences may be. I thought I didn’t care about her because honestly, the reason I kept her was because she was my only hope in getting in touch with my parents. Rude, I know.
In the office, we stood scared of what we were about to do. Holding hands, we saw Aama and oh, how deities love to play with my life.
The ground was drifting away from my feet and the earth was pulling me closer to its core. The violent trembling of the ground had me reminded of hammers hitting church bells and bulldozers destroying our first home a few years back. The walls were closing in on us and the ceiling has forced itself to be my cape. And then I realized, this is what I’ve always wanted. It’s happening now.
I saw little Melanie’s eyes for what seemed like the last time and in an instant I see her get crushed by substantial debris before my eyes. My limbs start to malfunction, and I seem to lose contact with the rest of my body. I look up to see pieces of glass welcoming me just too excitedly, and then there is nothing. What a terrible way to die.
Is this how the afterlife is supposed to feel like? I must have not pleased the gods if they’ve put me here. Is this how dying is supposed to feel like? I’m not dead! I must have pleased the gods if they haven’t taken me yet.
I try to move my arms but my fingers wouldn’t even let me. I try to inhale but there seems to be no air from wherever I am. And suddenly, I am reminded of what just happened. I saw Melanie, my sweet sweet Melanie, die before me. I cry and try to shout but my mouth won’t even open. I cry and try to shout because I can’t breathe! I cry and try to shout when I realized that my desire to disappear is but only an excuse to my horrible life. I didn’t want to die. Not yet.
My throat starts to dry. My whole body starts to dry. My lungs are burning for air and I try taking a deep breath only to have my head pounding as the pressure of the dirt increased every second. I start praying to my gods.
They say when one is close to death, a replay of the whole life begins to show. I must really be close to death.
I saw Buwa carrying me and swinging me high up.
“Cesar, be quiet! People will see!” Aama says.
“She’s beautiful isn’t she? She looks just like me.”
And then I see Aama taking me to the turtle farm.
“Melanie, I want you to remember that you are my little turtle. My favorite turtle.”
And then I see Buwa leave.
“Melanie, keep your little sister safe! I will be back.”
And then I see Buwa die.
And then I see Aama leave.
And then I see my little Melanie hugging me every night, stealing bread for us to eat, dancing in the den to get few extra rupees, kissing me goodbye for when she leaves and my Melanie getting defeated in the most cruel battle of life.
I start to feel the earth become loose. I start feeling fresh air occupy my lungs and I flash my eyes open to see blinding light and a commotion of people trying to pull me out.
The gods heard me. I’ve been given a second chance at life. Now I am determined to live, not just stay alive. I learned to appreciate life. No matter how wrong it is to me, it’s still life. And I’ve chosen wrong before. Now I’ll choose what’s right.