My Happy Place
By Chandu Singathi
As my bare thighs come in contact with the rough wooden bench and my skinny fingers feel the bumps in the old tan-colored paint, feelings of familiarity and freedom stir inside me. After what feels like an endless week of hard work, experiencing the closeness of the nature surrounding me brings back my sense of comfort and belonging and makes me feel at home. The subtle winds bring chills up my spine and shift the position of my hair, tickling my bare neck ever so slightly. As I observe the departure of the sun for the day, the sky slowly breaks out into hundreds of shades of red. Peering between the cracks of the tall oak tree’s array of leaves, I catch glimpses of the giant descending ball of fire as it goes on its daily retreat. Stunned, I shift my gaze from the sky to the variety of multicolored leaves slowly dying on the oak tree, and I lay my eyes on exuberant reds, oranges, and yellows becoming illuminated under the setting sun’s rays. Whenever feelings of stress take over my mind, I retreat to my deck, taking in the peacefulness of the atmosphere and temporarily freeing myself from worries and problems. While I bathe in the beauty of the nature in my backyard, my thoughts begin to flow more freely and I speculate on various issues, or I sit with a still mind and simply observe the slightly overgrown grass covered in fallen leaves as well as the aged oak trees scattered around the area. During most Friday evenings, the addicting aroma of my mother’s famous chicken rice makes its way to my position on the largest deck in the community, and I remember the familiarity of eating that same dish almost every Friday for the past ten years. The burning sensation of the onions’ scent mixed in with the fresh smell of coriander stimulates my thoughts and memories, but I do not become shaken by these feelings. Instead, I remain on the wooden bench and peek at the back doors and windows of my neighbors’ houses, suddenly obtaining the sensation of being watched. Seeing no one and feeling completely separated from the world, I take a few deep breaths and inhale the fresh scent of the marigold flowers sprouting in the garden a few feet away from the deck, and I almost taste the revitalizing flavor of the mint leaves growing beside them. The natural green pigment of the mint leaves brings me to my senses, invigorating me from within and releasing any last knots of tension inside me. Before I know it, the crickets’ consistent chirps and the fireflies’ sudden bursts of light signal the coming of night, and I realize that dinnertime arrives. While I make myself taller and approach the back door, I hear the hooting of an owl from a distance, and my attempts to glimpse the owls results in my sight of nothing but tall, dark oaks with a few crumpled leaves remaining on them. As I make my way back inside my house, the cold wood under my bare feet sends chills up my legs, pushing me to increase my speed. While my nearly-frozen fingers embrace the door handle, I hear the familiar voices of my favorite Indian television actors and actresses along with the noise of my family members in the kitchen, and I scurry into my house before all the food is gone.