Blazing Fire

written by: Sanzida Begum

I remember wanting to go home, wanting to go back to New York where my siblings were, where my friends were, where my nephews were. I remember feeling out of place because I was always confused about doing things my cousins have done a million and one times before. I remember struggling to speak in bengali, struggling to make my cousins understand, struggling to hold up a conversation with my aunts and uncles. I remember the looks I got when I stayed to myself when my cousins were at school, because I felt so different. I remember refusing to accept this place as my own. I remember refusing to become a part of this village. And while I enjoyed my time with my cousins, I remember counting down the days till I would be on a plane with the final destination set as home. And I remember the one rainy day and burning night that changed it all.

I remember the hot sticky air of the morning and afternoon even though the rain was pelting down hard on the tin roofs. I remember my hair sticking to my face as beads of sweat gathered on my forehead and on the bridge of my nose. I remember the uncomfortable feeling of my clothes sticking to my body. I remember wanting to run into the middle of the yard as the rain poured down and left muddy puddles into the ground. I remember drinking as much water as possible since the heat has left me parched. I remember the sound of rain hitting the tin roof, the pitter, the patter and the calmness the sound brought with it.

I remember the boredom I felt from being stranded inside without no one to be with. I remember not knowing what to do because my cousins and all the little children were at school. I remember listening to the chatter of all of the aunties who come together right at noon. I remember just sitting there with a book in my hand, waiting for my cousins to come back from school. I remember the sadness I felt and how I missed them even though they were only a few minutes away. I remember wondering, how will it be when I’m thousands of miles away. I remember wondering if we will keep the promise to stay in contact or will we slip away from each other once again like every single time I leave. I remember wondering if my last week would be full of tears or laughter, or even a mix of both. I remember the confusion and not being able to tell where was I at home. But what I remember the most from that time was the cool night that followed the rainstorm and was spent around the blazing fire.

The fire danced in our eyes and the cool air embraced every inch of our bodies as we sat under the night sky. The stars shone bright above and the moon illuminated the entire darkness, something I never experienced back in the big city of New York. There I was, sat in a circle with my cousins, huddled around the warm bright fire that my uncle made before leaving us in the yard of our village home in Bangladesh and I was at peace. For once, I didn’t worry about disappointing people. I didn’t have to worry about feeling out of place a bit. I didn’t have to worry about my weird accent that my cousins always teased me about. There were no worries. There were no wonderings. There was no counting down the days till the six hour journey to the airport, where I would leave this place for who knows how long. There was no thoughts of the days to come. It was just my cousins, myself and the fire.

We spent much of the time from when the light blue sky, that followed the greyness of the rainstorm, had darkened into hues of pink, purple and royal blue to the early AM’s doing the one thing we rarely get the chance to do: be us. Moments like that one were the ones we lived for. Moments like that one night was the reason I kept going back to the place I was once uncomfortable even setting foot in. That one night, two years ago, I felt myself become free and in sync with that moment. All I thought about was the fire and how it brought us closer together. All I could do was watch the glowing eyes and illuminated faces of my cousins, the ones that were holding me together.

The fire danced right in front of our eyes and it was incredible to just sit there and listen to them tell stories about what goes on when I’m back in New York. I told them about what I do in New York. We shared funny stories and memories of the stupid things we did in the short two months that I was usually there. We talked about our childhood. We talked about our fears. We talked with no care about whether someone was listening in on us or not. We spent hours talking and drinking tea and coconut water. We spent hours playing games and laughing. We spent hours just sitting there, in the middle of the yard as our parents and the kids began to fall asleep in the little tin houses. It was dangerous to be out in the middle of the yard like that but we were so into that moment that we simply forgot about the dangers of the world.

After a couple hours of sitting out there on our own, we found ourselves joined by some of our older cousins and then our parents. We all talked, which is something we don’t usually do. We were never a close-knit family as we tend to shy away from telling each other things, from sharing our feelings. It was usually the cousins talked to each other about things, and the parent’s talked to each other about things. There was a system as to how our family functioned but that night, it was as if all the roles and rules were left abandoned. Even if it was for just that one night. There were no filters, no boundaries, no walls. There was nothing to keep us separated and pushed into categories we always seemed to put ourselves in. And for that one night, we let ourselves be what we always wished we could be: one big happy family.

We played board games, something we hadn’t done since I was a little girl. My older male cousins let me join in on a game of carrom, patiently teaching me how to play even though we all know I really was a lost case. We let some of the younger kids play ludo with us. A game that was the result of lots of betting, cheating and laughter. My aunts brought out photo albums full of pictures from all of my visits to Bangladesh. We passed around the books amongst all of us and looked through the books of memories in the fire light.

We listened to our parents talk about a time much happier than our. About a time of morals and unity. We let ourselves transport back in time, back when our parents were in their prime and they were learning about family and love. We listened to their stories of when they were much younger and they were learning to fight their own battles and discovering who they were. We shared our own memories of our childhood and we laughed about the moments we stupidly chased after chickens and provoked the swans. We talked about the teachers we hated, the games we loved to play, the piggy back rides our fathers would give us and the stupid fights we would get into.

We reminisced about a time much simpler, a time when our only worry was what games to play and what clothes to wear. We talked about a time when we were oblivious to what growing up really meant. We talked about a time when we didn’t have any battles to fight or struggles to overcome. We talked about a time we felt whole, complete and we never felt alone.

We talked into the early AM’s and didn’t realize how fast time has really passed. We didn’t question why any one of us were awake so late, since the normality in Bangladesh was to fall asleep early, and  I mean like 8 or 9 at night early. We didn’t question why there were so many unwashed dishes and marked up papers on the ground. But instead we watched one another in the fire light. We weren’t tired, rather we felt more alive than ever. We were bright with joy. We just continued to feed the fire and make the flames burn higher. And while the rest of the village succumbed into the darkness and fell asleep entering into dreamland, we were sat under a sky full of stars and a fire blazing in the middle of us.

And for that moment, we were hopeful, happy and at home with each other.

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