The most heartbreaking thing I saw today wasn’t a painting done by a woman from Greece who was studying art in France and painted every morning, and what she painted was what she saw from her bedroom window of the apartment she shared with a roommate who was also from Greece but they didn’t have anything else in common, and some days she saw nothing worth painting from her window so she painted what she had dreamt of, or herself on the days she didn’t feel hatred for herself, only an empty respite for who she had once thought she’d be.
The most heartbreaking thing I saw today wasn’t someone on the street whose watch didn’t match the colour of his shirt or who had a belt buckle the size of my knuckle. The most heartbreaking thing I saw today wasn’t a play.
The most heartbreaking thing I saw today was my sister crying. She was crying because the phone had rang thrice early morning and it had woken up my mother first, but my mother has felt nauseous after waking up since she had been operated upon three years earlier, and the operation had lasted an hour and I hadn’t been outside the door waiting for news because I was busy learning how far metals could be stretched till they broke in a stuffy classroom with thirty other students. So my sister took the call, and she started sobbing midway through the call, and found she couldn’t continue so she quietly put the phone down.
Maybe the person on the other end understood. Maybe they thought my sister was being rude. It’s hard to guess how people interpret silence nowadays.
The most heartbreaking thing I saw today was my sister crying, because she was crying at the news of her teacher’s death. She kept diaries, my sister told me later.
But she was just a teacher, I implore, what would she write about every day?
Some days, she wrote about things she had seen, or heard, my sister said. How crowded the road was. How one of her students had arrived late for class and left early, and had kept doing so for an entire week. How she was anxious about the girl who had missed class for a month. Some days, she’d write poetry. About her mother’s death during a festival, and how she had never celebrated since. About her aching bones and how her hands trembled every time she held a book towards the light for too long. Some days, she didn’t have anything to write about.
So she wrote about what she dreamt about. The one where she finally revisited the hill station she had once been to, in the year she had started school, and noticed immediately how leaves had changed colour there through the years, from green to flaky grey, and she had wondered if somewhere inside her, there had been a creeping weariness waiting to change shades too.
And some days, on days of complete futility or sickness, she wrote about the person she used to be. And more importantly, about the person she wished to see, in every one of her students.