“Appi,” the little kid calls me out of respect. His name is Aman; he’s as old as my ten-year-old cousin, but he acts and talks like he’s older than me.
“Haan.” I give him a quick glance to show him that I’m listening. All my other spoiled bratty cousins are holding onto juice boxes and bags filled with chips, while his hands are empty.
“Give him a juice box too,” I yell at my little cousin who calls me by my name. He rolls his eyes but eventually gets a juice box and chips for Aman.
I’m lying on the bed upside down, right beneath the fan. It’s so hot and humid that I’m sweating like I’m in a sauna. Thick strands of hair are clinging to my face and my neck. It’s almost 4 pm and I’ve taken a cold shower at least twice in the past four hours.
We’re staying in my grandpa’s house, on my mom’s side of the village. Even after four long years it still feels like home. The orange tree in the back yard, the mango tree in the front yard, the roses and jasmine flowers blooming in the front courtyard all look the same. I can still smell the scent of spices my Nano would use to make curry outside on the clay stove. New York would never beat the taste my Nano had brewing in her hands.
I sit up straight and watch Aman gulp down the juice. He looks at me and bites his lips like he’s nervous.
“Appi..” he hesitates looking at my cousin for support. My cousin just nods his head like a grown-up does when talking to a child. “Can we watch the cricket match on your phone…”
I almost laugh at his innocence. “I don’t have internet or wifi,” I say to him. The one thing I hate about our village house is that we don’t have access to the internet. It’s not bad- sometimes. We play board games, hopscotch, cricket, hide and seek, checho and kish. My mom finds it hilarious how twenty-one-year-old me is trying to keep herself busy. It’s fun though because every game I play with these ten-year-olds brings me back to my own childhood. Where me and my cousins would run around the streets -barefoot sometimes- fighting over sweets or who was “it”. We would climb trees and eat fresh fruits. My scraped knees and elbows and all those scars of falling and rising are proof of a healthy childhood.
“We can go to Aunti Salma’s house.” My little cousin says, tapping Aman on the shoulder for moral support. My little cousin has the bad habit of running away with my phone and draining all the battery. I’m scared he’ll break the screen like he’s done to his Ipad that his father sent to him from England.
I want to say no to them, but I don’t know how to say it. As soon as I open my mouth to argue with them, the fan shuts off. For the first time relief floods my body because of these blackouts. We live more time without electricity then we do with electricity. For every hour that we have electricity, we go through three hours without electricity. It gets worse during the night when we’re trying to sleep. All you can feel is the humid air tugging at your skin, wrapping you around like a blanket. The worst is when we don’t have water. But gladly we have a hand pump in the back which we barely use.
“Oh look. No electricity…. No wifi at Aunti Salma’s house either.” I say pushing my phone under the pillow to make it seem like I don’t have a phone.
“ufff…” my cousin curses out the government, saying that if he was a leader everyone would get free electricity and milk. I don’t know where the milk comes from, but I chuckle at his innocence.
“I don’t have a TV at home… and I just wanted to see the cricket match…” Aman makes a face and I feel guilty. Aman lives in a one-room house with four other siblings. His father works in the fields and his mother sews clothes to make ends meet. My heart melts every time I see him pucker his lips like a small child does when he’s about to cry.
“Okay… how about you watch the match on youtube after the electricity comes back on.” I instantly regret saying those words as soon as I see a spark in my cousin’s eyes. I’m about to threaten him, by telling him that I’ll yank out his eyelashes if anything happens to my screen, but his smile is just too pure.
“What are we supposed to do.” Aman sighs squeezing the juice box.
“You know when I was young we would roam around the village all day. We would play hide and seek, sneak into people’s houses and we would climb trees… Maybe you guys could go play cricket or…”
“Yeah, we should go climb the mango tree in our neighbor’s house.” My cousin cuts me off.
“Yeah but you need permission and that tree is too high… “
“No one cares…”
Before I can stop him, he grabs Aman by the arm and drags him out the door into the courtyard and from there they rush out through the gate. I yell at them to come back, but my voice falls on deaf ears.
The last time my cousin climbed a swing he fell and bumped his head and ended up in the ER. The hospital in the city didn’t have the facilities we needed so we had to go to Islamabad.
I don’t know what I got myself into?
How will I explain this to my aunt?