On Wednesday night, Shane and I got zero sleep. Actually, that's not entirely true because we slept for one hour on Thursday morning but I'm sure I don't even have to explain how that doesn't count. Shane went straight to work on Thursday after releasing the new Desi Outsiders website as well as Season 2 of the podcast if you remember, and I resisted the urge to take a nap all day by drowning myself in whatever work was leftover. I knew that a nap could completely mess up my sleep cycle and it would definitely not be pretty if we both ended up sleeping and waking up at different times. We honestly still don't know how we got through that day.
On Thursday evening, by 7 p.m, we were in bed and we passed out of exhaustion the second our heads hit the pillows. Because of this, for the first time since I resolved to wake up early, I rose at 7 a.m on Friday. I was mighty proud of myself because it happened without the aid of an alarm, and chose to ignore the fact that it was possible only due to the 12 straight hours of uninterrupted sleep that I got. I woke up feeling happy.
That's when I picked up my phone. There was a missed call from one my favourite cousins. She'd also left a message asking me to call her as soon as I wake up. She and I live in different time zones and because of the crazy time difference, we always schedule our calls. She's also a very busy person so we never call each other without checking first. But she had called me when it was around 6 a.m in Edinburgh and she knows fully well that I don't wake up that early. She'd called me at a weird time and left the exact same message only once before, and that was to pass on some bad news. So this time, the minute I saw her missed call and read her message, I knew something terrible must have happened. I was too scared to even find out and automatically started praying that my parents were okay. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw a message from my dad right below hers. But it was dad's message that crushed me.
He informed me of the untimely demise of one of his favourite nephews, a cousin I loved. I stumbled out of bed, called my dad, realised that he'd been crying, briefly spoke to my mom, and then sank into my chair. Then I did something that we as humans are experts at doing - feeling guilty. I sat at that spot for hours on Friday, repeating the words "I'm sorry" while shedding silent tears. I felt guilty for not having wished him on Christmas. I desperately wanted to go back in time to call him on New Year's. I wished that I'd sent him a message every single day.
Throughout this weekend, I remembered every tiny detail about him from the time I was a child. He was the oldest brother I had, 20 years my senior in age. And I was his youngest sister, and God knows he treated me like a baby. I loved that. Because that treatment was kind and full of affection. When I was 10, he was already a grown man. 6 feet tall and handsome. I always thought he looked just like my dad and a part of me loved him all the more for that. And at that age, he'd let me hang on to his bicep like a monkey and then he'd swing me around. That was our thing.
When I was around 12, he spent a 3-month-long holiday with us. He made me laugh every day with his quick wit and performed magic tricks that still blow my mind. I remember once we were sitting in my room and the fan was turned off. I asked him to show me a magic trick so he slowly lifted a finger to point at the fan. I jumped when it started working. He was nowhere close to a switch to turn it on so I have no idea how he did it. I wish I could ask him now.
He was raised abroad but was very fluent in Malayalam. So when I complained that I couldn't read or write in my mother tongue, he told me that if he could do it, I could too. He'd pick up our Malayalam newspaper and fluently read the headlines to me. Obviously, because I had no idea what was written in there, I believed him. But one day when he "read" the words Kelavante thalayil thenga veenu, palli uppil veenu chathu (A coconut dropped on an old man's head, a lizard died after falling into salt), I had to stop him and seriously ask him if he could actually read Malayalam. I bet he found that hilarious.
I could go on. Everyone I know tells me that he was a mischievous kid, and my dad and grandmother used to tell me stories from his childhood as bedtime stories. It's crazy how even his childhood that I was never around to witness, is still a part of my life.
These past few days have been terrible. I'm very grateful for Shane and his patience with me because I've been having trouble falling asleep and sometimes, randomly in the middle of the night, I'd wake him up to say, "Remember how we went on that long walk with him and I was wearing heels so my feet hurt like hell?"
"Remember how we watched those movies with him? Weren't they just the best? I'm so glad he introduced us to them!"
"Remember how we went to that other place with him and I was still in heels so he carried my flat shoes in a plastic cover just in case I decided to change out of my heels? He's holding that cover in every single picture we took that day."
"Can we please not order Kebab today because the best Kebab we had was with him."
"Remember how he helped me shop for clothes? Remember how we had a backyard barbecue? Remember how happy we all were? Remember..."
But why is it that memories I loved and cherished are so painful now? Why is it that I want to avoid revisiting those memories because they hurt now?
Over the weekend, I've heard other disturbing news as well, and the one thing this time of my life has taught me is this: It's possible for every single thing that you hold close to your heart to turn sour in your mouth. It's possible for the best memories to turn into things you want to avoid remembering. At least for as long as the wound is fresh.
Shane and I had the good fortune of visiting my brother not too long ago. And at the end of our trip, after we said our goodbyes at the airport, Shane started walking towards the gate and I followed. But I kept turning around to wave at my brother because I knew that he was going to be there. After every few steps that I took, I turned around and there he was, waving at me with his characteristic smile on his face. He stood there and waved till I couldn't see him anymore. That's my last memory of him and I like to think that in some way, we said our goodbyes to each other. I don't want to accept that goodbye but at least I got the chance to hug him not too long before I was snatched of that right.