“You never know what you have until.. you clean your room” – unknown
Natasha unlocked her phone to check up on her sister-in-law. She wanted to know if they were still meeting up. It was Christmas, after all. Her nephew answered on the third ring. They were on their way. She hung up and sighed. It wasn’t going to be easy. But she had gotten used to it after her brother’s untimely demise. Well.. not entirely. They were trying. Just as she was about to go and inspect the rooms, the phone vibrated once and stopped. It was a news alert: Russia weighs military plane crash as possible terrorist act. She immediately turned off all the notifications to continue looking over the rooms. It wasn’t the first plane crash in the history of the world and it most certainly wasn’t the last. Accidents happened all the time. Her brother was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
She looked around the house she had called ‘home’ for the past twenty-five years. It was beautiful. Even though she didn’t like spending time there alone. It was home. She climbed upstairs and pushed the door open to look at the second room from the left. She had set it up for her sister-in-law and nephew. It was alright. She was thinking of getting the plates ready for dinner when she noticed that the door to the next room was slightly ajar. She hadn’t been there in a while. She tried to close the door but ended up pushing it open. It was a mess. Nobody had bothered to clean up after her brother. There were cobwebs everywhere.
She sat down on the bed and stared at the room. On the back of the door, there was a calendar marked with reminders. One section of the room’s wall was covered with posters of sports teams and cars. There was a bookshelf aligned to another wall. It was full of books – biographies, classic novels and others. He was an avid reader. She couldn’t stand books or reading, for that matter. The window sill was lined with rows of toy cars and bikes. Those were years of memories.. She had gifted him one each Christmas. He loved all of them. In a corner of the room, there was a guitar he never learned to play. It was covered with dust. She moved to his desk and sat on his chair. On the table, there was a collection of pens, a pile of comics and a book opened to a page using his glasses as a bookmark. Contrary to popular belief, you can wear glasses and still be an airline pilot as long as your vision is correctable to 20/20. Natasha’s brother had been a pilot.
Natasha took out her phone and started reading the news article. “Initial inquiries into the details of the crash showed there were no survivors, according to Defense Ministry officials,” the report went on. She could sympathize with any accident now. She finished reading, put her head down on the table and closed her eyes. Tears trickled down slowly. Why? Why was she crying now? She hadn’t shed a tear when she heard the news about her brother. Not even when he was carried away and buried. She had been numb, she couldn’t think or feel. It was all a blur. She calmed herself down and looked up. The room needed to be cleaned. She’d do it. She needed to clear her head.
She started by removing the cobwebs. The room was so dusty, she kept sneezing again and again. She rearranged the books in the shelf in alphabetical order – just as he liked it. She tried to sweep away the mess on the floor. She came across a framed photo of them. They were both smiling toothily at the camera. She remembered when it was taken. They had both been in a fight before that. Natasha hadn’t even wanted to pose for that picture but she was bribed with lots of candy. She laughed at her forced smile in the picture and longed for those days again. They always fought and couldn’t seem to agree on anything, but her brother was the best. Whether it was helping her turn in her projects on time or punching a guy harassing her, he had always been there. She wiped the dust of the toys and cleaned the window. His trophies still shone when they caught the light. She cleaned the guitar and put it back in its case. She was clearing the clutter on his desk when she came across a letter he had written. It was addressed to his wife. She pocketed it and decided to give it to her after dinner. The clock was ticking away. They would arrive any minute. She hurriedly changed the bedspread fluffed up the pillows. She opened his closet and stared at his uniform. Apart from the neat uniforms hanging inside, it was a mess. He knew were his things were, and that’s all he cared about. She was debating on cleaning it up when she heard a car pulling up in the driveway. There they were!
Natasha left the closet in a mess and wiped the glasses on the desk instead. The bell was ringing. She shut the room’s door and raced downstairs. It was going to be an awkward dinner because she hadn’t really interacted much with her brother’s wife. They were civil but not close. It was their first Christmas without him. And they were going to make it work. The distance had helped put things into better focus.
There are things we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn and people we can’t live without but have to let go. They say that time heals all wounds but we’re not guaranteed time either. In the end, we’re all just stories. So we might as well make them worth a read.