"Confusing and Unexpected" by Sharifa Esha ('19)

He was wholly held, absorbed, by a feeling of confusion and deprivation. He continued to walk through the jungle, taking small steps, not realizing that his bare toes were digging small holes in the soft ground. He didn’t care about the thorns he got pricked by or the cold feeling under his feet, which turned out to be a snake’s body. It almost seemed as if the snake understood his moment because it didn’t bother him for stepping on it. Steven thought, or at least tried to stop and think, for a second. The number of words that popped out of his brain was zero. He tried again. Nothing. He tried again. This time he remembered that one moment when he went to a picnic with his parents to the riverside and later rowed a boat with his parents until sunset. He started smiling as he recalled when his father almost sank the boat by standing on one end of it. Tears ran down his cheeks and stopped at his lips. He licked his lips unconsciously and as soon as he got the salty taste in his mouth, his smile disappeared. As he tasted his salty tears, the memory of the ultimate truth rushed into his mind. The evil laughter, the tears in his eyes, the number of times he wasn’t taken to family gatherings, how there was no effort from any of his parents to try to stop him, and the horrible scene that he came across as he went to his grandparents’ house.

It was a bright sunny day. Steven was walking back home from school. He came to an abrupt stop when he saw some teenagers gathering around a homeless woman and poking her throughout her whole body with some broken tree branches. He watched the scene until one of the boys took a few steps forward and put a finger through a hole in the woman’s t-shirt right beneath her chest. At this very second, Steven ran towards them and punched a few guys, after which the cops came and took those kids away, leaving Steven with the homeless woman.

The first thing Steven did was look into her eyes. Suddenly he felt a connection to the eyes, to the woman. At the same moment, the women stood up and embraced Steven in a bear hug. When she hugged him, he let out a breath that he didn’t realize he was holding. A few seconds later, she pulled away from him a bit and started planting kisses on his forehead, his cheeks, and his nose. He felt taken aback by all that gestures, but for some strange reason he also liked it. He felt as if he was finally receiving something that had been missing from his life all this time. His train of thought was interrupted when the woman finally pulled away from him. Then they both stared into each other’s eyes. There was this familiarity that he found in her eyes. Her eyes were the same hazel brown color of his. Not being able to take all of these sudden emotions and thoughts, he shook off his head and took the woman to a restaurant to buy her some food. While she was eating, he went out to buy some new clothes for her. When he was done giving her the clothes and was about to leave, the woman pulled him by his arm and smiled at him. Steven felt his heart skip a beat at the sight and finally managed to leave.

The whole time he was walking home, he tried to figure out why he felt that sudden connection to the woman, why is it that there was this sign of familiarity when he looked into her eyes, and why is it that when he saw her smile his heart skipped a beat? As he kept thinking and walking, he didn’t realize that he had reached the doorstep to his house. As he was about to ring the bell, he heard loud noises inside, fits of laughter, cheers of drinks, and clicks of heels. He quietly turned the door and slipped in without anyone, specifically his parents, noticing him. Since he was unaware of this party in his house, his curiosity got the best of him. He hid behind a set of curtains and started listening to the conversation that his friends and some strange and weird looking people were having:

“Yes, yes Jamil. Now I can finally say we started from the bottom and now we are here,” said Boakye, Steven’s father, while laughing nonstop.

“Yes, Boakye. I told you if you help me with my task to kidnap that kid from the Anderson family, you’ll be rolling in money in no time,” said Jamil, the strange man.

“But you know Jamil, you still didn’t tell me why you wanted me to kidnap Steven from his parents and raise him.”

“Ahhh, right. I always forget to tell you. It’s a long story and I gotta go in a few minutes. But in short, I did that to take revenge on Mr. Anderson for falling in love and marrying my sister. I mean my sister loved him, too, but if it was only one sided then we could’ve controlled her, you know? But we couldn’t, so she eloped with him. In a few years, they had a baby boy and the family became well known and prosperous in the town. So I thought, what better way to take revenge than steal their new love, their son? So after all that hassle, you guys got Steven and wealth, and I am the most successful businessman in town.”

“I gotta admit Jamil, you are very clever indeed. But I just wanted to tell you that we don’t want to keep Steven anymore. He has been like a burden on us all these years and we have our own kids to take care of,” said Boakye while his wife nodded along with him.

At this point Steven came out from behind the curtain and went to the middle of the room. At his appearance, there was a moment of silence until everyone in the room just burst out laughing, including Steven’s parents.

In between his laugh, Boakye said, “Speak of the burden, here he is!” and burst into laughing again.

Without thinking for even a second more, he turned around and started walking away while his mom laughed and waved her hands to bid him goodbye.

He felt nothing in his heart. He kept walking until he reached his grandparents' house. There he saw a number of men and women dressed in different costumes and came to the realization that this was a playhouse. Hence, coming to the conclusion that all this time it was some random people who dressed and acted like his grandparents. He never could tell the difference because they used to have the same mask on every time he saw or visited them. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he exited the playhouse and started walking in a specific direction on barefoot. Nothing was going through his mind. It was as empty as it could be. He felt as if someone stabbed his heart repeatedly and teared it down to pieces.

After walking for about three or four hours, he found himself in the jungle. Completely lost and confused. Now at the age of 20, he feels like newborn baby duck in search of his family, his real family, his real mother. As he slowly started getting himself together and thinking about this, he started wondering about the homeless woman from earlier in the day, who made him feel that certain way that was indescribable and the familiarity he saw in her eyes. While thinking of her, he laid down on the ground under a big tree and drifted off to sleep not too long after with the thought lingering around his mind about “Who can that woman be?”