I’m possessive, protective and jealous. These are the wonderful qualities that led me to that day I wish I could forget.
My mother is one of seven children, and they are all very close. Blood comes above all else, and whenever one of her brothers or sisters was in trouble, Ma would immediately be on a plane, on her way to stand by them. As such, all the cousins grew up- in some form or another- together. We are closer than average cousins. I would do anything for all 23 of them.
Note: Sibling rivalry comes as easily as love; blood comes above all else.
Well, the summer I turned nine, my cousins from America came for a holiday. We missed a week of school to take a massive family trip somewhere in Sri Lanka. I don’t remember our destination, but we were en route when we stopped at the Habarana Lodge for lunch.
There were at least 25 in the clan, and as we walked to the hotel, I was holding Charith’s hand.
He was just about 5 years old, and the cutest little kid with his American toddler talk. My other cousin Heshika (with whom to this day I have a tumultuous love-hate relationship) was about seven. She came up and took his other hand- without asking me. So obviously I swiftly told her to let go, in all the authority of a bossy, snotty nine year old. It was my turn to hold his hand.
“I don’t want you to hold Cha’s hand” I commanded. I don’t know exactly what logic made this exclamation. I just didn’t want anyone else to hold his hand, especially not her.
When she refused to let go, I pulled her hand out of his and started running; pulling him along faster hoping she couldn’t catch up.
“Pavi!”I heard. As I looked behind me I could see Giri Mamma, who had evidently been watching the whole incident walking behind us.
“Why did you do that?” Nothing.
“Don’t be mean to Heshi, let her hold his other hand.”
At this point not only had my authority been questioned, but I was being overruled by my aunt, in front of my cousins from America. I was enraged. I knew what I did was mean, and being called out on it made me furious.
I let go of Charith and started running. When I came out of my crying, running stupor I was near the bus stand half a kilometre from the hotel. I stood there unsure of what to do next. A large truck roared by, and some men yelled unintelligible profanities at me.
“Fuck you.” I muttered.
The power of those two words said out loud spread over me like sunshine. This thing called freedom, where I can say the forbidden words with no consequence was amazing. I knew in that moment I was never going back.
I walked to the bus stand, and watched while bus after bus went by. I was waiting for one in particular. I checked the signs of every single one- K-A-N-D-Y. I had stopped crying, and I was thinking of what I would do when I get home- because obviously that’s where I was going. I would watch TV all day, and eat all the ice cream in the house. No one would miss me; there are so many kids they won’t know until they came home. I chuckled to myself.
I was still in this day dream, when I heard the door slam.
My uncle is 6’3” and weighs about 200lbs of pure muscle. He has a long moustache that till this day I have mostly seen in an upturned smile. He wasn’t smiling.
“Where the hell have you been?” He roared. Before he opened his mouth, I had already started crying again. He picked me up off the seat and pushed me towards the van; not before a solid smack on my backside. He plopped me down next to my older cousins who were uncharacteristically silent looking at me, partly with horror and partly with admiration. I had definitely beaten the record of who can make our parents the angriest. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse I saw my mother flying over to the open van door- murder in her eyes.
Five minutes later my uncle had to drag my mother off of me. My cheeks were burning, all four of them. That is the most embarrassed I have been in my life, till I was 16 in a very different situation with very different people.