by Leann Sequeira
Cerise camellias surround me. Their waxy leaves glistening in the spring sunlight. Huddled under a crimson shawl, my back moulds into the rocking chair, leaning forwards and falling back, like metronomic waves. I hear the back gate croak open. My grandson comes into view, his creased white shirt hangs lazily out of his pants. He throws his school bag and rests on a stool. He yawns, inhaling the morning air, exhaling billows of tobacco. I gaze at him, sour- dough skin, and inky curls that curve like a parasol. I say, “you seem bothered by something. Is it a girl?”
“I’ve come to realise that life is never like the movies.” He sighs.
“Well, it’s unreasonable to believe that dinosaurs would have casual visitations from humans or…”
“It’s all in our imagination, grandpa.” His fingers sink into his palms. “People have conjured these thoughts that life could be sweet and caring and have slapped it onto film.”
“I don’t understand what you mean?”
“The everyday acts of kindness,” his guttural voice echoes onto the leaves, triggering droplets of water to run down. “When has the mail-man greeted you with a smile? Or the aunties at the supermarket checkouts wished you a nice day? When will the day come when people will show compassion and not stay entrapped in their own minds, doubting themselves to help others?”
Thoughts of my youth spring back. Kindness flowed flawlessly those days. Unfortunately, my grandson has accepted the belief that people’s actions have always been narcissistic. I want to stir these disturbing thoughts away from him. Elucidate his mentality and inspire him to see that people weren’t always like this.
“Though people nowadays have become icy cold as nails, I myself have experienced good deeds by strangers. Now, my skin has become coarse, and my muscles have given way to fat. I realise that those feats of benevolence have had a lasting impact on who I am.”
“Really grandpa? What were they?” His voice brightens.
“Trapped in that pocket-sized town, was a modest dingy restaurant. Sombre yellow lamps placed on counters, wooden chairs and barstools furnished the space. The menu was wholesome, soups, broths, and beers. Enough to make a working man restful, enough to make a young boy smile. Every day I visited the restaurant, happily sniffing the potent spiced air wafting through the windows. I would watch the chicken bones sink gracefully to the bottom of the soup bowl. Drops of oil would float at the top like lily fronds. The soup women who smelt like ginger, gave me soups without charge.”
My grandson is shocked “She gave it to you for free? Incredible that someone would do that. Tell me another grandpa.”
“When I transferred to the high school, I had to bike over a steep slope. Though I would wear multiple layers of thermal wear, the winter air still snagged at me. One day, I was running late and was rushing up the hill. When I was at the peak of the slope, I heard someone. I rode towards a grandma waiting for me. She had been observing me, gradually turn blue by the cold. She threw a pair of woollen gloves and a head cap into my arms. To this day I still have those gloves. They were definitely a life-saver.”
“Please grandpa, one more story.” He begs for more. He is starved of this feeling, this feeling of love and humanity.
“At the edge of the village, there was a house that I wanted to explore. One night, I snuck out and travelled to the house. Back then, I was quite lean and could easily slip through the metal bars of the gate. I followed an archway of flowers leading to a wooden greenhouse. Vivacious flora covered the floor, spirals of ivy adorned the beams. A man stood there, looking up at me. I asked him how he got these plants. He answered that each seed sowed was a representation of a person who had shown him compassion. I helped him water his plants, till the milky moon set. When I had to leave, he shoved a handful of seeds into my palm and walked away. He said that they would grow beautifully because of the kindness they had witnessed. Many years later, I planted those seeds.” I observe the camellias, roses, and lilies around me.
“Those seeds are now this garden?” He asked curiously. I nodded.
“I wanted to inspire a change in your mindset. There is plenty of good in this world as there is bad.”
“I must believe people do have a kind heart.” He smiles. “I must now go grandpa.” He picks his tattered bag and runs out the garden. I move towards the watering can, and shower the flowers, enjoying their rosy glow.