Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Jackson Jorvan

The soft, incandescent glow of the sun is mesmerizing and fills in every void. I take a deep breath, the air warm and the grassland around me moving to the whispers of the wind.  There’s no place like this, no space so alive and mystifying. I find myself comforted by the allure of sporadic trees and plains that stretch out for miles, past the horizon and past my view of the world. Whenever my spirits are down or I simply need time for myself, I wander off into the distance and follow a rocky trail to this grassland where I’m free. 

There’s no need to pretend here, to put on a mask and adjust to the energy of people who come and go. This is my own little place, free of any judgement and pressure. I can never feign any emotion nor erase any thought that comes to mind, for I am at peace with myself here. That’s why I try to come here as much as possible.

Usually, I come in the early mornings when the glow of the sky is perpetual and the murmurs of the breeze hover over silent abodes like repressed memories. Today, I chose to come in the evening, in the dying breaths of the sun and the gradual climb of the moon. It’s one of the last times I’ll ever be able to come here and the time I have remaining needs to be stretched as far as possible. 

My mother died a couple of weeks ago and my father claims that this town has no place for him anymore. But I know that it’s because this town lost its spark when my mother departed from this world and left us. A part of him died that day, and I guess a part of me died too. 

The first couple of days after her funeral, he tried his best to keep me moving forward. He kept waking me up on time to go to school, kept encouraging me to hang out with my friends, and cooked in the afternoons. But it all fell apart in a matter of days. 

He withered slowly like a rose, petals falling down as a drought settled over the land and terminated any hope. He succumbed to grief, to the rage he withheld from me but unearthed every night in his nightmares. I would try to console him, try my best to get him to move anywhere. 

“Please,” I would whisper, a sob caught in my throat. 

“No, no, I can’t!” he would yell, frustrated. “Your mother is dead! Do you hear me? And so, I’m dead too!” His eyes no longer shined like they used to. They were dull, lifeless mirrors that depicted a heart in a million little pieces. I knew his heart was tired. Mine was too. 

We were both tired of trying to survive in a desert where our pleas went unheard and yet, I was the one looking for an oasis. I kept looking, kept fighting to stay alive in a barren land.

For Dad. 

For Mom. 

For myself. 

I kept putting on a facade at school, lying to my friends about how I really felt on the inside. I knew they were all curious to know how I was coping, but I also knew they didn’t really care. As long as I was “the girl in mourning,” they would continue to talk to me as I was the most popular person in the world. It was a small town and rumours spread like wildfire here, burning everything in its way. It was only a matter of time before people started talking about my father and I. 

He noticed it before me. 

He had decided to get out of bed and sit on the front porch swing, wearing a grim smile as I waved goodbye and walked to school. Right after I passed the neighbor’s house, he noticed the blinds open subtly, two pairs of eyes watching me go down the road. And when he went back inside, from the window, he caught a group of ladies talking in hushed voices, but he still managed to hear them.

Poor child,” they murmured. “What a shame her mother left her all alone.”

But she’s got her father.”

What? The old man in her house? He’s good for nothing,” one remarked. 

Yeah, he hasn’t come out since his wife passed away,” another agreed. 

It was then that he knew it was time to go. 

And now, here I am. My heart weeps for this place that my mother loved dearly, the same place I must leave to start a new life in the city. 

I’m wearing the black satin blouse my mother adored on me. It’s got a tie neckline and loose sleeves that I can fold with a single button on the ends. I’ve been wearing it for the past two days. 

The sun is low, the sky infinite and cloudless. I wonder what my mother would think of me, what she would say of me as I sit here in the grassland instead of packing my belongings. I wonder if she’s here, if she’ll ever send a sign of her presence. But mostly, I wonder if she’s happy wherever she is. 

The sunset appears in splashes of crimson, primrose, and lavender, a painting in the sky.

Her favorite colors. 

She’s okay, I think to myself. 

And so, I tilt my head a little to the right, my dazed eyes illuminated by this fading daylight as I reminisce of the melancholic past and dream of the ever-present future.