The day of the big move was scary, but I had to stay strong for mother. I glanced at her, as she clutched my baby brother tightly against her chest. I had to stay strong for both of them. It had been over a year since father died. I suppose the move had been inevitable since then. It was too hard to come across food back home.
Back home. There was that phrase again. It followed me the way the moon follows the sun. But there was no “back home” anymore. This is home now.
The tall skyscrapers stretched out before us, piercing the sky overhead, almost like they were attempting to wave to us. I had never seen anything that tall before in my life. Of course, there had been buildings where we came from, but never anything that exceeded two floors. This would be a new life, a different life. And I suppose that’s a good thing.
We didn’t have anywhere set up to live, but we’ve heard stories of our kind finding decent homes here.
The first week was the hardest. We managed to find a small place to live, but it was cramped, and smelly. There were no other options. If we tried to look into anywhere nicer, we just got thrown out by the locals. They hated us.
I avoided leaving the room during the day, opting to only go out at night, if I could help it. During the day, all I got were accusatory glances, as if just me being there made them angry. Sometimes, they would yell at me. I couldn’t understand their language, but I understood what they meant. Get out. You’re not welcome here.
Sometimes I wonder if we would have been better off staying home. I have to shake those thoughts though. This is better. We have food every day, and we’re out of the cold, for the most part. We didn’t have that back home. It was still clear that we were not wanted here, but it was either here or death. We wouldn’t have survived back home.
Brother is sick. We’ve suspected it for a while, but Mother and I had been in denial. Now it was obvious. He stayed isolated in the room, or as isolated as one could get in the space that small. He would not stop shivering, and refused to eat, no matter how much I brought him. He’ll overcome it. I know he will. He’s strong.
I got in a fight today. I didn’t want to. Mother was starving, it turned out she hadn’t eaten in days, saving her food for brother, hoping that his appetite would return. It didn’t. The food had gone bad, as we had no way to preserve it. I had to leave during the day to get her something to eat. I was walking down an alley when I heard him. Loud footsteps behind me. A man stood there, holding a large stick in both hands. He stood unmoving, but his eyes were fixed on every slight movement I made. I froze. There was no running, this man would attack me, that was clear. The best I could try to do was escape. He came at me, swinging the stick, but I was able to avoid it. I tried to get around him, just to get back to mother. He screamed something I didn’t understand, and swung again. This time he connected. I saw black, and then crumpled to the ground. I layed there, unable to get up, hoping the man would be content and leave me alone. He stared for a minute, eventually just saying something in a low voice before finally leaving.
I still did not get up right away. I could not. My ribs did not feel right. I layed there until it got dark, and then finally pushed myself up, despite the body screaming in pain, telling me to stay down. I could not. Mother was depending on me.
I have not felt the same since the fight. It hurts to breathe. Something must have broken. But there was nothing that I could do about that so I had to just continue best I could as if nothing were wrong. That was hard. But then again, everything seemed to be hard here.
Far too often I find myself wondering what life would have been like, had we just stayed. But I know that wasn’t an option. Despite our struggles, we are still better off here. If I keep telling myself that, maybe I’ll stop missing our old lives. I doubt it.
It rained the day of brother’s funeral. Mother said it was cliche, but I didn’t know what that meant. She used a lot of words she overheard from the locals.
We were the only two there when he was buried, standing in solidarity as the rain beat down. As I watched the puddles form around his sloppy grave, I wondered if he ever stood a chance here. He was small. He was too young to leave mother, to be on his own. And that’s what we really were in this place. On our own. Alone.
Mother turned to face me, unable to meet my gaze. Then, she hugged me, burying her face into my shoulder. We stood there for a while, unmoving, just the two of us. Alone. I thought I might have seen her cry, but with the rain it was impossible to tell.
Mother hasn’t talked much since brother passed. I’m worried about her. I don’t want to lose her too. I wanted to go home. Staying here might have meant life, but as this point it was not a life worth living. I told mother this, and she just nodded her head. I think she has felt that same for a while but just did not want to say anything.
So we are to move back home, and live with her sisters. It still won’t be easy living. There was a reason we left in the first place. But at least we will be surrounded by family. We will no longer be alone in this.
Moving day again. Only this time we were leaving the tall skyscrapers and unwelcoming faces that hid between them. They no longer looked as if they were waving, as they did when we first arrived, but as if they stood with their tall backs to us, shunning us from the completely different world they harboured. I was glad to be saying goodbye to them.
Still, a sense of defeat hung around us. We came here scared, but with an aura of hope. The city evaporated that. Admitting defeat, turning tail and heading home meant that the city had bested us. But, we still managed to come out the other side. Perhaps we would be okay.
I looked at mother, her eyes fixed on the ground ahead of her, clearly lost in her own thought. Maybe she felt the same way. Either way, it will be comforting to return to the familiar sights of home. The tall trees, offering shade without suffocating us, as the skyscrapers did, and the soft soil beneath our feet, a welcomed alternative to the harsh pavement of the city. It is difficult for raccoons to adjust from the suburbs to the city