By Mona Liswati
There had been a time when Titi didn’t like silence. Then, after her mother and father began spending less time at home, she had gotten used to it.
Titi’s friends were always asking her, “how come you always lock yourself away in your room?” but didi she lock herself away? The question surprised her. She never felt that she was locking herself away. Her friends were wrong, obviously. In fact,her room was always open - and not just the door, the windows too. She felt happy to feel the wind, rushing through the window and into her room, making the curtains sway and the straw hat hanging on the wall rock back and forth. At times like that the room, felt almost alive.
Often she would pretend that there was a head under that hat, with a face, which, when the wind blew, would nod at her and say, “it’s a beautiful day isn’t it, Titi? People who don’t realize that are just stupid. But you do have to wonder, sometimes, don’t you, what on earth is it that they are they looking for out there?”
And Titi would agree. She always agreed with everiting the straw hat said. And then, quite often, she’d think of her mother. Or her father. What was it that her mother was looking for out there? What was so interesting about the open road?
“there’s nothing out there, just dust,” Titi sighed. “and blaring horns,” the straw hat added, before the two of them began shouting out all the things they hated, competing with each other to see what they could come up with – “traffic lights!” “Traffic jams!”, “Pickpokets!”, “Bums!”, “Crowded busses!”,Crazy Driver!” – and whatever else they could think of.
But Titi’s friends never understood, and had often asked her, “what are you doing, locking yourself in your room?” but that was sometime ago. Over the years they had become accustomed to Titi’s ways and now, most had forgotten that they once had a friend called Titi. But they weren’t the only ones who forgot. Titi, too, forgot that she had other friends apart from the straw hat.
Once in a while, if Titi put her head out the window seeking the wind in the swaying leaves, and one of her former friends happened to see her, her or she would pouse, as if reminded of something, and say hesitantly, “That’s, uh, that’s Titi, isn’t it?”
Now and then, if the wind hadn’t come in and the straw hat was silent, Titi herself would stick her head out the window and if there was a group of children playing outside, they would yell, “Titi! Hey, Titi!” when that happened, Titi would usually pull her head in immediately. But there were times she couldn’t be bothered, perhaps because she didn’t care, or perhaps because the wind was more important to her than anything else. Instead, she might stick her head even further out the window. And if she did that, the children would yell even louder, “Titi, Titi! Heeeyyy, Titi!” but when the wind picked up and began to rush into her room, she would disappear from the window, leaving the children at a loss.
In Tuti’s room, the straw hat would nod at her and say, “its noisy isn’t it, Tuti?”
“it makes my ears hurt,” Titi said accusingly.
“but that’s what kids are like.” The straw hat’s voice was gentle and persuasive. “you were a chilled one weren’t you, Titi – always yelling and screming and having fun?”
“yes…yes, I was. “ for a moment Titi’s eyes brightened, but then lost their luster again.
“what is it, Tuti?”
“ I was just thinking of Grandma and Grandpa.?”
“Shush, you mustn’t be like that. They’re dead aren’t they?
Its not good to be sad that they’re gone. They should be able to rest in peace.”
“But they were so good to me, always there for me. When I was with them I could make as much noise as I wanted. Mom and Dad were always getting angry with me.”
“Of course they’d get angry because yelling disturbed them, just like it disturbs you now.”
Titi’s face was thoughtful for a moment, but then became gloomy again.
“what’s the matter, susi?”
“then why did they die? Why do people die?”
“Because life is fleeting, Titi. And anyway, there’s another life after this one.”
“another life? In heaven?”
“I think I’d like to die.”
Titi didn’t die. But her father did. And when that happened Titi cried for days, for weeks, for months on end, regretting that it was her father who died and not her. It really wasn’t fair. But her mother told her, “take heart, Titi .”
Oh, how easy that was to say. Titi laughed loudly, then cried again. Her hair fell across her forehead and her shoulders shook.
“did you hear that? Take heart!” she said to the straw hat. She then laughed loudly, and then she cried, and then laughed and cried some more.
The straw hat was disconcerted and looked at Titi for a long time. “Titi,” it said, “why don’t you yell, or screm. It’ll make you feel better, feel lighter.”
But Titi didn’t react, her soft sobbing caught in her throat.
“Or swear, “the straw hat added. “You got to say something, Titi. You have to let your feelings out.”
Titi stopped sobbing and raised her head. Then, her eyes lit up. Swear?
“Lizard!” screamed Titi.
“Cockroach!” responded the straw hat.
They then did their best to come up with the worst insults: “Monkey!”, Rotten parasite!”, “Bat!”, “Drunk dog!”, Drunken buffalo!”
Bored with their cursing, the two then sang, and when they were sick of singing they went back to cursing. For days, for weeks, for months, for years on end this went on – cursing and singing, then cursing and singing again. It was so exciting! Even when her mother died as well, Titi didn’t seem to care. She seemed to have forgotten that there was a time when she had really wanted to die. But now nothing else existed for her except singing and cursing ; everything else was forgotten.
Then, one morning, when Titi woke up, there was no straw hat on the wall.
A sudden madness took hold of her and she leapt out of bed. In an instant, she was at the window, opening it wide, and searching everywhere with her eyes. But all she could see was grass, leaves, and flowers. Where was the straw hat? Titi rushed to the door, and opened it, looking high and low for it but it wasn’t there. Maybe it was below the window? Titi raced back to her room and stuck her head out the window but it wasn’t there either. She went back inside and turned every room in the house upside down, but the hat was nowhere to be found.
Titi wailed. She had to find the hat.
Oblivious to the fact that she hated the open road, Titi went outside. She searched and searched for the straw hat. She couldn’t live without the hat. She couldn’t live without it. She searched for years, which became decades. Occasionally, if she passed her former friends in the street, they’d hesitate, looking at her skeptically with her back stooped and her head bent over as she walked down the street. “that was Titi, wasn’t it? One of them might ask.
Now and then, if she passed nearby a group of children, they would crowd around and follow her yelling, “Grandma Titi! Hey, Grandma Titi! Grandma Titi! Hey Grandma Titi!”