“You’ll be turning 21 tomorrow. What is it that you want on your birthday?” my brother asked.
Twenty-one? Two, one, twenty-one?
It was strange how I had known this fact for months, yet it hit me hard like raindrops on a thunderous, shelterless night, making me feel empty, absolutely empty, yet full of emotions… Emotions that seemed to have been bottled up for too long; emotions that desperately demanded an outlet; emotions I was unsure people would understand.
The insides of me crumbled at the very thought of growing up to an age which demanded utmost concentration on building up my career. Independent life. Dreams. This. That. So much!
I could feel the hollowness of my heart which at that time had sunk into my shoes and from within which I could hear cries of shattered hopes and unfulfilled dreams and lost love and broken promises. Had somebody consulted me before turning me into a girl of 21, I’d have bribed him enough to make me five again; the age where I could cry my heart out without thinking what gossipmongers would say; the age where nothing but simplicity remained in vogue; the age where getting high was supposed to be through a swing touching the highest branch of the nearby tree; the age where, even if nobody did, I firmly believed in making wishes upon shooting stars, eyelashes, and dandelions; the age where happiness was the home I resided in.
But life seemed to have drunk away the innocence from my veins, belief in uncertainties from my heart, and childhood from my life; the same childhood that I’d been looking for under my skin, between my ribs, and beneath my ghostly shadows, oblivious to the fact that it had abandoned me long before.
But, why had childhood abandoned me?
Before I could contemplate on this question, he intervened and repeated, “Oh, hello, where are you lost? What is it that you want on your birthday?”
“Gift me a few colouring books and a pack of crayons!” I said casually, without giving a second thought to my words.
“What? Who demands such kiddish stuff at the age of 21? You should technically be in a mental asylum,” he teased.
And it was in that particular moment that I realised, it wasn’t childhood that had abandoned me but the fear of being mocked that had forced me to wrap it up in a newspaper and place it afar; that growing old is a phenomenon but growing up isn’t; that we can be children at heart if we want to be.
“If you aren’t, I’m gifting myself this ‘kiddish’ stuff. Huh!” I responded for it was true that all these stressful years of growing up had made my heart shrink, but trust me, it had never shrunk enough to not let me accommodate my childhood back in it.
Hence, despite the fact that I was to turn 21 the next day, it was me embracing childhood again; it was me proving the fact right that age is but a number.