Dedicated to the character of Mustafa in many invisible ways (in Fatmagul series)

What caught my eye the first time, were his eyes. ‘Z’ batted his eyelashes, unknowingly and frequently. I found that weird as well as interesting. He gave me a good long, rather unnerving glance, while he was busy fluttering his eyelashes. No handshake, no hello. Just a smile. A beaming smile. Wide enough to make my day, just stopping short of making fun of me. Or was it my imagination? It took me a while to realise what was happening, and then I recognized him. It was an unexpectedly and unnaturally comfortable conversation. Few months into knowing him, I was confident that he was confident. But few months into knowing him more, I realised that it was a brittle facade. It was an invisibility cloak. But I saw through it, when I saw that he had no siblings. NO ONE TO SHARE WITH.

How does that feel? How was I supposed to know? I have grown up being the elder sister, albeit feeling like a younger sister. My brother bullied me at times, but most of the time, he was an unmatched sweetheart. He was a child of actions, and not words. In love, in war. We both grew up learning how to share. My brother received his first baby lessons in sharing when he started speaking my language, in my style. He never realised that he looked like a baby girl in my clothes, because he just wanted to follow me. Literally. We learnt how to share story books. I would read to him, and he would listen to me with rapt attention. With every pause, he would remind me to go on. A few years later, my so-called wisdom led me to preach and waste my precious energy on my brother whenever I wanted to vent my irritation with his silly antics, who would always turn a deaf ear to my sermons. Chocolates are always a favourite with children, and I learnt to give away the bigger chunk to him. Since we always get back more than what we give, he would always reciprocate. Most of the time, he did not part away with his chocolate, but I forgave him for it. I still do. Even without chocolates, my childhood had been plagued with enough dental lessons to make me avert my gaze from anything even remotely chocolaty. I still do not feel attached to a box of the most delicious chocolate in the world. Unless I crave for it. But then, self-control is something I learnt whenever I felt like punching my brother. Most people consider me a calm person. But as a kid, he was the only one who had an uncanny ability to drive me up the wall. Despite all fights, games, our beloved teary mum (oh, we hated ourselves for bringing her to tears!), her numerous last warnings, and bumps on the head, we always came back to each other, sitting adjacent to each other on the dining table. When he cracked a joke, I would laugh with him. But when I laughed without reason, he would look at me with an expression that used to be an expression of amusement and suppressed laughter. And that would propel my laughter even further. And then he would shrug and give up.

Then we grew up. Notes, books, assignments, everything was exchanged in a one-way route. I remember cleaning his book-shelf, and feeling satisfied with the cleanliness that I had left behind, replacing the unidentified mess. It feels weird when he tells me to clean the drawers sometimes. It takes a while to get registered in my head. Now, we share experiences. And sometimes, we share nothing, except peace. No WWF mimicry, no wars, no tears, and no emotional blackmail. Sometimes, it seems unsettling and strange, but we really share a lot of tranquility now. We always will, ’cause we are siblings. We share our parents, our memories, our childhood. And of course, our sensitivity. All these years of sharing has made us caring individuals as well. Usually we have similar intentions, even if we have different expressions. Most importantly, we can let go of our egos. Because we are siblings. After a heated fight, we will always come out at the other end, feeling even more magnanimous. That’s what caring is all about. That’s what our earliest lessons in sharing do to us. It’s in the blood, after all.

But ‘Z’ refuses to grow up. He is sensitive-to objective and healthy criticism, to harmless jokes, to meaningless puns. Interactions with him may be infused with a lot of patience on my part, and a lot of defensiveness on his. I get exhausted even without speaking my mind. Let alone speaking my heart out. That’s when I realised, it’s impossible to have a heart-to-heart with him. Because he doesn’t share his heart. He protects it from….I don’t know whom. His buddy ‘J’ has a pet, and is very fond of him. ‘J’ has no siblings, but this pet evokes a lot of feelings and emotions in him he never even knew existed. He gets worried when his pet falls slightly ill. He stays up all night to care for him. He does everything to make him feel at home. Because he is family. ‘J’ has a good IQ, and he also scores well on the EQ.

On the other hand, for all the above average IQ, ‘Z’ struggles with maintaining relationships. He struggles with everything. He is a single child. But he is not the spoiled, pampered, single brat of a rich Dad. He is the attention-hungry, ‘reserved’ boy. He demands attention from people, but does not let that on. He is emotional and touchy, about the wrong things. He is frightened, and runs away midway during the battles of life. His survival instincts are sharp. Or are they childish and immature? Face of a man, mind of a child. Above average intelligence. Weird combination. The pieces of the jigsaw just do not fit. He falls in ‘love’, but he does not share. He sabotages the very relationship that he wants more than anything (or does he?). Try engaging him in a discussion as a stranger, and you will like him for his witty arguments. But a few months down the road, you’ll despise him for throwing tantrums by way of silent treatment, because you did not agree with him on that point. Do you have to? Different people, different opinions..whatever happened to that? Oh c’mon..this one says, ‘My way, or the highway’. But for his stubbornness, he comes across as very understanding. He told me that he scored as an ENFJ, after all. I was surprised. ‘F’ (feeling), for God’s sake. So he does feel. Does he show? No. Hmm, we have a serious problem here. But unfortunately, he does not take himself seriously. Detachment or Attachment. Love or Hate or Fear. Trust or Mistrust. Neglect or Caring. Too much or Too less. To cry or not to cry. To think or to feel. Ah, too much effort! He has given up on himself because he stands on an imbalanced cusp of extremes. Nonetheless, he will always be the most important person to himself, and anyone else will never be taken seriously. And this is why, a single child is to be cared for seriously, sensitively. 

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