Because of the argument with her mother, Lakshmi wasn’t able to sleep. It happened ten days ago to this very minute and her hatred for her mother hadn’t abated one iota. Truth to tell, she wasn’t able to remember who started the argument or what the initial disagreement was about but, as with most feuds, it opened a doorway for all the other things, the niggling bits of minutia to spill out, and words were exchanged and feelings were hurt on both sides.
Ten days of freezing her mother out. Ten days of refusing to eat or talk or even be in the same room with that woman. Ten nights of lying awake in bed, staring at the headlights of passing cars that trailed rectangles across her ceiling. Lakshmi knew every inch of the ceiling and walls of her room like the back of her hand…which was why she was shocked when her eyes fell upon the crack.
It was beside the mirror that sat atop her chest of drawers, a horizontal crack no longer than a foot in length that resembled a demonic smile. Lakshmi stared at the crack long and hard, wondering how she had missed something so obvious before…when it blinked. All right, so perhaps blinked wasn’t the proper word, but she could have sworn she saw a light flicker from within the crack.
Probably just the wiring, she thought as she pushed a chair against the wall beneath the crack. At night, Lakshmi regularly heard mice scurrying between the walls. One of them must have nibbled on a wire and exposed it. She’d have to remember to tell her father in the morning as it had to be a fire hazard.
Standing on the chair to inspect the crack, she ran her index finger along its jagged yet smooth edge which was surprisingly cold to the touch and she thought she felt a slight suction…then the flicker again!
I didn’t imagine it, Lakshmi thought as she leaned forward and stared into the crack. There was something moving within and she was surprised to see that it was…
It was like watching a movie. She watched herself being herself, doing the things she normally did, but not on any day she ever remembered. The images began at a normal pace, then sped up to such a degree where, to anyone else, they would have appeared to be nothing more than a blur but Lakshmi was able to follow along because she was somehow connected to them. They were her personal images, of her life and she was living them, retaining the information contained within them as the events unfolded.
Eyes glued to the craggy slit in the wall, Lakshmi watched the rest of her life, the entirety of her existence, unfold before her in a series of flashes. Her life was quite literally flashing before her eyes.
Flash: Her relationship with her mother falls apart after a series of little spats over the next few years, which leads to the fight to end all fights when she turns seventeen which causes irreparable damage. That will be the final time the two will ever speak to one another.
Flash: Her father grows miserable with all the constant fighting, which wears on his soul until he can’t take it anymore. Lakshmi cries uncontrollably the day he finally leaves their home for another woman. She begins smoking to handle the stress.
Flash: Her dream career of becoming a geophysicist vanishes that day she quits college for a job that allows her to move out of the family home and away from her mother for good.
Flash: She works so many menial jobs, none of which manages to hold her attention for very long, and slowly saps all the dreams and creativity she holds in reserve. With each successive job, the sheen in her eyes dulls a bit more.
Flash: As with the job situation, so too her love life. Her many attempts at love fail for the same reasons time and time again. Somehow, she becomes relationship poison and seeks the same.
Flash: Eventually, her worries and frustrations in finding a mate cause her to settle for a man beneath her worth, a man who adds nothing to her life, a man who also works dead-end jobs with no hope of career advancement.
Flash: Then comes the struggle to save money for secondhand furniture and a used car, and as rents increase, their apartments over the years become smaller and rattier.
Flash: She cries alone in the bathroom with a pregnancy test showing a positive result.
Flash: The birth of her daughter, Rani, is agonizing and when it’s done and the baby is placed in her arms, she knows she should feel something, tries to feel love, but the emotions just will not come.
Flash: Not long after, she’s pregnant again with a premature boy this time, Samesh, and makes the effort to spread the already nonexistent love even thinner.
Flash: Samesh is born sickly and remains that way. Medical bills mount that they’re unable to pay, and her husband comes home later and later, complaining of overtime that is never reflected in his paycheck.
Flash: Fed up, her husband leaves in much the same way as her father did, for another woman, and she now is forced to get a second job to make ends meet.
Flash: Her already distant relationship with her daughter grows volatile when Rani turns to drugs after running with a group of delinquents.
Flash: Samesh’s condition worsens and neither her husband nor Rani are present at the hospital when he dies.
Flash: She develops a cough that turns into a hacking fit that turns into lung cancer that kills her a day before her sixty-sixth birthday. And like her son, she too dies alone.
Lakshmi thought the images would stop there, but she was mistaken. Somehow she was actually able to see beyond her own death, where Rani, holding a one-year Narcotics Anonymous recovery coin, arrives at her hospital room moments too late. Too late to apologize, too late to make amends, too late to say “I love you.” And the pain of this sends her running back to a drug den to score, where a fatal hot dose takes her life.
A noise, the sound of wood and plaster breaking in reverse, pulled Lakshmi away from the visions of her future and back into the room with such a quickness that she staggered back, falling off the chair, and hit the hardwood floor with a heavy thud.
A concerned woman’s voice called from outside the room. Her mother. The woman she hated mere moments ago and wished all the nastiness a seven-year-old girl’s mind could muster…but now, there was something else. Something she couldn’t quite remember. The images of her future started jumbling inside her head to the point they no longer made sense and began evaporating like so much mental vapor.
Something about her father and her husband leaving? Something about a baby…a girl, or maybe a boy, sick and dying? And a fight, a big fight…
Scrambling to her feet, Lakshmi raced out of her bedroom and down the hall as memories greyed out and faded from her mind. There was something she had to do, something before these feelings vanished and she went back to being angry.
She burst into her parents’ room, where her father, just about to fall into a deep slumber, leapt out of his skin at the girl’s sudden arrival.
Her mother, on the other hand, was fastening her dressing gown, about to investigate the sound from her daughter’s room, when Lakshmi rushed up, arms flung wide, and embraced her.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Lakshmi sobbed as the recollections of her future life disappeared completely.
Her father watched in confusion, while her mother shrugged at him, smiled, and stroked her daughter’s hair, cooing, “Everything will be all right. Everything will be just fine now.”
In Lakshmi’s room, the crack in the wall, once the length of a wooden school ruler, began to shrink, as the wall knitted itself whole again.