The Sound of Silence

Based on a true story.

It was a typical Sunday morning. As she got up earlier this morning, she opened the windows to allow the golden streaks of sunlight enter through the gaps between the jalousie windows. The smell of morning air slightly polluted with particulates from the industrialisation and car exhausts (filled) the house. Apart from the occasional cars passing through, this was a quiet neighbourhood.

After chugging a cup of coffee and catching up with the latest news in the papers, she headed to the living room and sat on the rocking chair. She instinctively picked up the TV remote next to her and pointed it at the little black screen in front of her. Switching it on, she flicked through all the channels while the sound from the TV filled the room. There were no good shows in the morning. The best ones, her favourites, were featured only in the evening. She sighed and watched as the motion pictures blinked into a black screen with a click of a button. Just as quickly, the house became all too quiet and the silence was suddenly deafening.

This was her life now.

She had moved into this house when she married in her early twenties. It was more than half a century ago. Her best years were spent in this town, about 3-hour drive away from her hometown. She led a solitary life; her husband had passed when her youngest was barely 10 and all her children had grown up and had families of their own. Even though they visited her occasionally and made sure that the house was adequate with both necessities and luxuries, she felt lonely. All too often, she was lost in her own thoughts.

Time had certainly changed.

She didn’t complain; she led a considerably comfortable life compared to her life when she was a little girl. One of her earliest recollection was the Japanese occupation in 1941. She remembered one night, her mother waking her up in the middle of the night, and telling her that they were going for an adventure. She had just turned 6 that year. Being the youngest in the family, she didn’t understood what was going on, and the word ‘adventure’ excited her.

After several days in the jungle, the excitement died as the reality of the situation began to dawn on her. They were always on the move. Her siblings had told her to stay hidden from the Japanese soldiers in green uniform, which she called as ‘Scary Guys’. Her tiny feet were tired but she continued, afraid to get left behind and be caught by the Scary Guys. Food was scarce and eventually ran out after constant rationing. They had to survive with the fruits of the jungles, and water from the streams. Along the way, she saw the people who were injured and had given up hope. Many died, whose corpses were left to rot. With strengths in numbers, thankfully, her immediate family were all safe.

Fast forward 3 decades was the May 13 incident. She had not felt so much fear since she was 6. Instead of being protected under her mother’s wing, she was now the pillar of strength to her own children. There were many stories that scared her; how a bus full of young children was killed just because they were of a certain race. There were harassment and killings on the streets. Everyone was very concern on the safety and over precautious in every step which was mentally exhausting. She made sure that her children looked out of each other at that time, and reduced their contact with the outside world.

The olden times were not all bad. There were good times in between. Her wedding day. Her firstborn. She enjoyed spending the time supporting her children; seeing their face lit up with her cooking. It was the simpler time then; when there were no computers or televisions or whatever gadgets the generation is obsessed with nowadays and it was easy to be satisfied by the little things in life.

She had almost 80 years’ worth of stories to tell, but nobody bothered to listen. She had lived past the World War II, the British occupation, the independence of Borneo, the joining of with Malaya in 1963, the May 13, the birth of the World wide web, the evolution of Miri from a town to a city and so much more.

She had never expected to see the world outside her hometown. Her beautiful children, blessed their hearts, took her on trips everywhere – and experienced her first winter many years ago! She started dreaming of the capital city and the neighbouring countries. She wanted to see the world before it was too late, but her body was getting weak.

She continued to rock periodically in the rocking chair as her mind wandered to the present.

Her children. Her oldest would be returning home from another continent for a couple weeks, but there was a bitter quarrel among them. It started with a chain of electronic mails, a true revelation of how fast technology advanced. She was filled in on the bits and pieces of the details, but she didn’t want to be in the middle; she just wanted her children to come together and they could be a real family again – physically.

Her grandchildren. How much they had grown, and how little she was seeing them now. Even so, they were all doing very well and she was proud of them. She framed their graduation pictures and showed it to people who dropped by. She kept photo albums in a glass cabinet and browsed through them when she missed them.

She couldn’t help but think about the secrets she had kept over the years. There were things that were kept hidden from even those that were closest to her. These secrets could unveil the wounds of the past. And like the saying goes, some secrets are worth carrying to the grave.

Her eyes blurred.

Death was a sensitive topic, as though the mention of it could trigger the balance of life. She was tired all the time, energy was running out and she could feel it. Her mind forgot even the simplest thing; if she had taken her morning pills or if she had locked all the doors before she went to bed. She wasn’t ready to leave this world yet; she still had dreams and hope. And until her ultimate quest was completed, she was not ready to leave yet.

All of a sudden, her thoughts were distracted by the sound of the keys jingling at her front door. As the door knob turned and the door creaked open, she heard a trail of familiar voices “Grandma, we’re here.”

She smiled.

The house would no longer be quiet.

**

In response to Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence.

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