By Nethra Jaygopal
The other day, I laced my shoes and zipped up my jacket to walk along the chilly canal in the town I now call my home. As I stepped out the door my friend said to me,
“You look so much like your mother.”
I was taken aback. I had always told myself I was nothing like her.
When people would comment on how similar the shape of our eyes were, on the shared delicacy of our button noses, and the similar crooked corner in our smiles, I was astounded. I sneered and scoffed. I denied and refused. With a desperate vehemence in my voice, I disagreed that I was anything like her: I was my own person. The shape of my eyes, the softness of my nose and the crooked hinge of my smile were all features that were mine.
No one else’s.
This time, I once again sneered and scoffed. I denied and refused. And with the same desperate vehemence in my voice, I yelled out that I could be nothing like her.
And so I decided to turn my attention to the canal. I gazed upon the fiery amber and verdant emerald of leaves. The marks of cotton candy pink in the sky. I found myself stopping and staring at every plant I saw. The anonymity of a blade of grass and the unfamiliar site of a blooming flower despite the coming winter, which captivated me. I stopped at every junction, cuckooing at the bird flying past me or remarking at how cold it had become.
I ran past a cohort of people. None of them greeted me with a friendly nod or a warm grin. Their dispositions, as grim as the weather, compelled them to continue their stoic march. This wasn’t abnormal. I turned my attention to some of these personalities; an old man fishing or a couple yelling vociferously at their dog. This wasn’t abnormal either. Yet the very nature of these mundane peculiarities simmered a formidable dialogue.
Was I mistaken in thinking that the weather in Reims had once been warmer? Had the leaves, green from the summer sun, stooped to a tired silence, just as the city had? I couldn’t help but wonder if it was normal for people to walk past in gloomy, gray coats. They all seemed content to disappear into their isolated realities—was I absurd for wanting to show off the crook in my smile?
Once, detesting the comparison to my mother, and the way our eyes lit up the same way in the warmth of the sun, I wondered if familiarity was all that bad.
Was it wishful thinking to yearn for flourishing forestry and a friendly smile amongst my town? Was it naïve to yearn to be an apple that falls close to the tree? To yearn to have my eyes, nose and smile remarked on again? To share myself with strangers, and be known?