God I pray you know the burden of a troubled son.
Do you want to hear a scary story? What I’m about to tell you is true. Remember that. The story starts a long time ago, back in the 80s, not too far from here, in northeast Dallas, on Diwali night.
“Hey Buddy-Boy, did you get mom’s message?”
“Yeah, I got it.” It’s hard to forget a message from our mom, well, hard to forget her voice really. She doesn’t so much leave a message as yell at you from a distance. The first full minute of the answering tape was her saying, “PICK-UP-I-KNOW-YOU’RE-THERE,” over and over again.
“So what time will you be there?”
“I, uh…I don’t know if I’m gonna be. I already have plans.”
“Why would you make plans on Diwali? You know what it means to mom.”
“Well why does Diwali move around every year? Besides it’s one year, she’ll understand.”
“Will she though?! You know what it means to her.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Look, you know she does this all for you, well you and to spite Geeta Auntie. We’ve hosted this Diwali party every year all because she cursed you…
…Man Buddy-Boy she must’ve really hated you – HAHAHAHA!”
I let Bitu laugh because the curse cracks her up. It always has. It’s a certain kind of person that curses a baby, I’ll admit. I let her laugh because it makes me happy.
But I want to say, she doesn’t hate me, she hates mom. She hates the world, actually. Losing someone you love plants that kind of hate in you. Some of us just nurture it better than others. But I don’t say it. I’d rather try and forget it. So I just hang up the phone and try and remember Bitu’s laugh as long as I can.
Normally I wouldn’t miss a Diwali party. Not because of the curse but because there’s always something worth remembering. Like one year some uncle forgot to bring the candles so Dad went down to the corner store and picked up votive candles, only the Catholic kind. The candles that have pictures of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary on them.
And then, we used those same candles again the next year because, well, we still had them – that was Diwali in the 80s in Texas. And I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
But like I said I have plans. I’m tired of celebrating Diwali in the shadow of something I don’t understand or even remember. This year I’m gonna get answers and end this curse stuff once and for all.
“Hey Buddy-Boy, I just got off the phone with Bitu and she’s trying to figure out if you’re coming to the party or not. So give her a call when you get this. Oh and I got that old address book of mom’s and dad’s that you wanted. I left it in your mailbox. Alright, Rohit’s in the garage with the kids so I gotta go. See you soon, love me.”
“Excuse me, have you lived here long, in the neighborhood I mean? I’m trying to find my cousin and the only thing I have to go on is an old address of his.”
“Did you try asking at his old address?”
“No one’s home. Oh, sorry my name’s – well everyone just calls me Buddy.”
“Well nice to meet you Buddy, I’m Cindy. And sorry, we just moved in a few years ago. You should try the last house on the corner, the one with the bars on the windows. They’ve been here for years and they’re always home.”
“Alright, thanks. Have a good day.” Cindy was the third person to suggest the ‘house with the bars on the windows’ and in those exact words. With nowhere else to turn, I rang the bell just below the ‘no solicitors’ sign.
No answer. I rang again. No answer. I rang it again and got an answer. “Did you see the sign?! We’re not buying.”
“I’m not selling. I’m trying to find someone in the neighborhood that might have known my cousin. He used to live a few doors down, down that way,” I pointed. “He would’ve been about my age at the time. Were you around then?”
“Who’s your cousin?”
“His name’s Vikhas, Vikhi for short,” I said hopefully. “He has, had, an older brother named Nikhil – Nikhi for short. Did you know them?”
“I haven’t heard those names in a long time. They left, well Vikhi left a long time ago, 5-10 years mabye. It’s a shame what happened. No mother should have to bury a child.”
“Do you know where he went? Anything, would help.”
“Sorry no. Well…maybe…Hold on.” He closed the door behind him leaving me standing outside, waiting. It was only a few minutes but it felt like forever. It felt like I was close to something, closer than I’d ever been in my life.
“Here it is, hope this helps.” He handed me something I hadn’t expected, a Diwali card, “from your aunt,” he said. Like it was typical, normal. “I get one every year.”
I’m not sure the card helped in the end. Sure I had an address, a place to go next, but I had know idea where it would lead. I couldn’t know where this would end. And it’s too late now.
This is definitely rough, but it’s a start. The story played out differently in my head, but as I put finger to keyboard it started getting pretty long. So I trimmed it down and will post it in parts. Consider this the first 30 minutes of a slasher film, where everything is good, almost, and you get to know the characters – care about em. Hopefully it whets your appetite.
If you want to know more about the reason behind this post, check this out (and if you want some fun trivia keep reading).
- My nickname is Buddy, has been my whole life. And now thanks to Google Assistant it’s my name in my parents’ contacts list too. As, “Ok Google call Buddy,” is the only way to get that artificial (semi) intelligence to work.
- The fact about the votive candles is true, only those bad things last more than 2 Diwalis.
- My friend was actually cursed and as a baby, which make me happy – for many reasons.