‘I’ll Cry Tonight’

I was 11. My elder brother must have been 17 at the time. That morning, the two of us were at the breakfast table with our mother. I don’t quite remember what we were eating. Poha, maybe? Or her favourite, Upma? As I said, I can’t be sure.

Mom was sharing a story from her adolescence. It was an anecdote she had shared with us numerous times before. But every time she would narrate it, she would laugh a lot. This time was no different. Her face turned red and her eyes teared up as she struggled through the story amidst fits of laughter.

My brother and I hadn’t ever found the story funny. But we both laughed along. Mostly because of my mother’s contagious laughter. She’s the kind of person who can make the whole room laugh by simply bursting into laughter herself.

As I listened to her, dreading another day in school, the laughter faded. Without even finishing the anecdote, she cracked half a smile and said, “I have laughed too much today. I’ll cry tonight.”

I was not quite sure what to make of it. What did Mom mean by that? Why would she talk about crying if she was so happy this morning?

Being an 11-year-old, I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I left for school and spent the day in a surprisingly cheerful mood.

I thought about what Mom had said in the morning. But then I smiled as I pictured her funny laugh.

Back from school, I spent the afternoon watching cartoons while waiting for 5 pm. At 5 pm sharp, I went out to play cricket with my friends. Those were the best hours of my day at that time.

On my way back home, I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was go home, drink as much water as it was humanely possible and throw myself onto my bed.

But when I got home, I heard my father yelling at the top of his voice. Mom stood next to my brother in our living room. My father, shaking with anger, continued screaming abuses at her. As I’d seen before, he was blaming her for all the misfortunes our family had ever suffered.

I slowly placed my cricket bat in one corner and approached my father, trying to calm him down. He paid no heed and walked away yelling, now threatening to burn the house down.

Mom followed him, pleading with him to listen. The fight, as usual, was about her wanting to meet her parents. My brother and I followed too, begging him to stop yelling. Mom was joining her hands, touching his feet – literally begging him to stop.

My father continued with the abuse, now calling her everything from a witch to a prostitute. In an attempt to calm him down, my mother ran into the kitchen and re-emerged with a glass of cold water.

“Drink some water, please sit down,” she pleaded. He gave us a look, stared at the glass of water Mom held with shaky hands and slapped her. A dead silence followed as he raced to the bedroom, still shouting abuses.

I began to cry. My brother held me closer as we saw our Mom stand there, shivering. Her face was expressionless. We followed as she walked towards the dining area, pulled up a chair and sat exactly where she had sat in the morning.

My brother and I sat on either next to her. There we were, the three of us, sitting at the same breakfast table. Still crying, I looked at my mother. As our eyes met, she began to weep silently.

I couldn’t help but picture her sitting there, that same morning, as she shared her favourite story with us and laughed hysterically. That’s when she suddenly stopped crying and said something – her face devoid of expression, her eyes welling up,

“See, I told you – I laughed too much so I’ll cry tonight.”

To this day, whenever I laugh a lot while joking about with my friends, these words from my mother come back to me. They remind me of her favourite anecdote, her contagious laughter, and her teary eyes.

Aditya Vikram is a 24-year-old freelance content writer who loves to read social and political satire.

Featured image credit: Ilse Barona /Pixabay;Illustration: LiveWire/Tanya Jha