Humanity seemed to be rising from the remains of all that had been lost to the earthquake. Earthquake in Nepal, three years in Shook & Still Shaky.
He opens his eyes to the bleating of goats nearby. Not a good night’s sleep; no, because within these tin walls sleep is a daily ordeal. In summers the heat radiating through every molecule of the wretched metal threatens to roast you alive and the winters, after hours of tossing and turning you sort of freeze to sleep. He pushes himself out of bed because not doing so will have consequences, after all a boy’s gotta eat. It’s been three years he functions as if on autopilot now. In this household every meal is a struggle, every bite plagued with a single thought, will there be enough left for the next meal? But nothing has been enough around here for three years now and it probably will not be for a long time.
Her eyes open to the smell of fried eggs and she lets out a yawn. She didn’t get a lot of sleep, the party lasted late into the night. Breakfast is brought to her in bed. She declines, shrugs and goes back to sleep. The school bus will not get here for another hour. As for eating, she’s still pretty stuffed from last night. Breakfast will have to be chucked out along with the leftovers from last night. If she gets hungry she’ll have someone cook for her again.
As he makes his way to the construction site an old man asks him why he’s working instead of going to school. He freezes at the word, staring off into the distance as if pulled away into a different time altogether; somewhere far away. “Kids come help me in the garden”, his mother calls out to him and his sister. He whines looking at the sleeping figure on the bed, “Mom why can’t dad help?” His mother yells back, “He came in late from work last night, let him sleep in peace.” He sulked his way outside and onto the dirt patch just as the first tremors hit. He heard his sister scream and followed his mother’s horrified gaze to look behind him just in time to see the house come crashing down. His father had had the most peaceful sleep of his life, one he would never awaken from.
The old man’s voice brings him back to the present. “Son, are you alright?” He wipes away the moisture glistening at the corners of his eyes, smiles and slowly walks away. Caged within his thought the question that triggered the memories is forgotten.
She walks out of the school gates with her entourage; chatting away like there’s no tomorrow.
The days fly by in a blur. Between passing notes in class and gossiping during the breaks things like studying and paying attention in class are forgotten. Responsibilities are an alien concept and Tumblr, the official rulebook of life. After all, you only live once right? Her parents want her to become a doctor and she couldn’t care less. The family has enough money to buy a medical college of their own should they want to, getting it should be a breeze.
Life is spotlessly perfect except for the few cracks in the walls, the only mark that earthquake left in her life. She scoffs thinking back to how scared she’d been then. It was but only three years ago. The days she’d spent living in a tent on that playground not too far from home are a fading memory now. She remembers sitting amongst people from all over the city, people from all walks of life who would have otherwise never been seen together. At that moment she had thought that everyone had now been brought down to a common ground and would have to trudge back up the road that is life-as equals.
As the driver takes her to the party she’s attending tonight she looks out the tinted windows and sees him. He’s dressed shabbily; appearing more disheveled from hat must have been a long day of getting his hands dirty. She shudders involuntarily at the thought of actually having to do grubby work for a living, or any work for that matter. She laughs at herself for having entertained the outrageous thought that they could ever have been equals; people like him and her. He looks up at her with tired, hollowed eyes and she quickly looks away. He sees her speeding away, probably some spoiled kid off to another party. There was a time when he envied these kids but that has long since stopped. He knows now that he doesn’t have the privilege of being carefree and acting his age.
The earthquake has brought responsibilities crashing down onto his fragile shoulders and he’s had to shrug off his whims to make room for them. He had been sentenced to this life and it was up to him to make things better not only for himself but for what was left of his family.
Those kids could cave in, to the excitement life had to offer today but he would not. He was driven by an instinctive sense of something we find admirable- larger purpose. Determined to reach his destination, he would dedicate his time to making life better. He had wanted to become a doctor and though the fees would not have been affordable, he had dreamt of studying hard to procure a scholarship. All of that ended that fateful morning three years ago when the foundations of his future cracked and collapsed. The pillars he needed for support gave away and came crashing down, crushing his hopes and aspirations. A cold breeze suddenly blew as if reminding him of his harsh barebacked reality. He dreamt no more.
For that short time before the aftershocks stopped people had come together as if having realized that life was more than the forts, they’d built to keep others out. Humanity seemed to be rising from the remains of all that had been lost to the earthquake. The rich and the poor were huddled in a tent to keep warm and wait for the worst to pass. In those times of need, the walls seemed to have tumbled down and bridges created to let each other in. But it was all too good to be true. Three years into the earthquake and all that has been reconstructed is that wall, the wall that will never let us get over everything that happened. The rich are unaffected and the poor falling deeper into the pits of poverty. Restoration is sluggish and the recovery, painfully slow.
The aftershocks have long since halted and yet are foundations are still shaky. Whether this is acceptance or denial it’s hard to tell but if we don’t get together and get rebuilding, the slogan we so adamantly belted out for days after that fateful Saturday now haunts us as a question. Will we rise again?
This was a lovely but very poignant piece. I think I shall be pondering on it for some time. Thanks so much for sharing it. I look forward to reading more of your work.