A smile too bright.

“Do you know what that shape is?”

A smile which lit up his face like a glaring jack-o-lantern and an unfailing whispery “yes.”

An acknowledgement which manifested itself as a question.

“Is this a square?” I asked, pointing to a circle.

The same protracted reply stretched out in the affirmative, and I foreshadowed a day where the fluidity of his blindly exuberant replies would trickle down into sluggish streams of uncertainty.

I asked him again if his name was really Dilun.

A name which transgressed my expectations of phonetics.

His writing books were caressed by this strange combination of letters which propagated like a rampant virus, and I stared at him sadly. Children were quick to chide parents who carelessly misspelt names on birth certificates, yet in this case Dilun was the maker of his own masterpiece.

I watched him as he sat dully, staring at sentences which were like insurmountable roadblocks. I lamented that I was not able to transfer my appreciation for the subtle nuance of language across, and construct a safe haven within a raging sea of obscurity.

It was remarkable how a simple action had such far-reaching consequences – a flipping of binary bits from 1 to 0, a sudden mutation of the genetic code, and in this case; a divergence from ‘a’ to ‘u’.

I yearned to hug him in a show of solidarity and assurance, yet feared I would be cast under the blanket reserved for those who carried out gross exploitations of the teaching profession. Unseeing, unfeeling – the baseline by which he lived his life was indiscernible to me.

His parents asked how he was going.

“He’s eager to learn,” I said, overcompensating with a garish smile plastered on my face.

I didn’t mention the hideously short attention span. The growing frustration went unchecked too.

“He’s had a lot of surgeries,” they said.

“Okay.”

“We took him overseas for a while, you see – ”

“Okay.”

Tentative steps which hedged around an extra chromosome.

Fear of  addressing the elephant in the room.

His parents announced they were going to McDonalds and his eyes lit up; a far cry from his flat monochromatic workbooks which coloured his desire to learn with reluctance.

He walked into the rain; a prolonged paper thin “goodbye” echoing across the empty room. The rain continued to fall as I watched father and son walk away, the former clutching the latter’s hand with a tightness which was painfully honest.

I wished that I could tell him not to worry; that his son would make it some day, but the words remained unspoken as they drove away, rivers of water threatening to steer the vehicle off course.

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3 thoughts on “A smile too bright.

  1. You write very elegantly, Amrita! I thought the subtle tensions in the dialogue between the teacher and the parents was very well executed. I also liked the way you compared the divergent letters to changes in binary code and to a mutation in the chrosome. I can see a LOT of skill here! Looking forward to reading more of your work. 😊

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