A million teardrops

A million teardrops
"A million teardrops"

Despite being 11 months old, tears would still consistently stain my face. It did not matter if I was crying or giggling.

I was diagnosed with blocked tear ducts, a rare condition that causes leaking tears. When I turned six, a Putrajaya paediatrician recommended surgery. My father, a formal, no-nonsense man, was all for it.

He didn’t stick around after my mother put her foot down about my surgery. She was adamant about waiting until I could decide for myself. She worked as a nurse and had long hours and shift work.

After my father walked out, Uncle Faris, my mum’s brother, looked after me on weekdays until Mum came home. He was a widower and was at home most of the time.

I had a fairly normal childhood, except I had twice the number of clothes to compensate for the frequent changes, and I read my favourite storybooks with goggles, gloves, and napkins.

When school started, I was enrolled in a special programme as additional help. The programme was held after school and isolated from others. I got extra uniforms and a pass to the library after hours when it was secluded.

Even though I aced the exams, kids still thought I was stupid and abnormal for needing special attention; it didn’t help that I constantly had tears streaking down my face. They’d avoid eye contact with me, so I ate alone near the field. I grew to resent my condition. I wasn’t the matter-of-fact nerd I enjoyed being. Instead, I was Ema, the idiot and sensitive loner kid whom they would point to, and laugh at.

During high school, I gained a bully – Rayyan, a tall, skinny, pale-skinned boy with whom I shared a class. He’d trip me at the assembly square, make loud wailing noises during class, berate me for eating alone, and spray water in my direction to further wet my uniform. I pretended that it didn’t bother me, but those wet stains weren’t just from bottled water.

On a typical cloudy morning, I sat alone during recess. Suddenly, a pretty girl, amongst the most popular in our school, approached me.

“Morning! How are you? You’re Ema, kan? she said, smiling from cheek to cheek.

“... Yes?” I stammered, confused.

“Would you like to join us?” she asked.

I didn’t answer immediately. On the contrary, I kept quiet for a few seconds. I looked away to shield my tears and stifle my thoughts. Why did she approach me? Why today of all days? Did my food smell that horrid?

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from ‘A Million Teardrops’ by Mariah Aljuned. It is part of a series of short stories – ‘The Eye: A Young Writer’s Anthology’. Priced at RM31.90, the book is available at BookXcess. All royalties go to Yayasan Chow Kit, a non-profit organisation serving the needs of children and teens in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur.

To give the younger generation an avenue to express themselves, Twentytwo13 has a dedicated space called Young Voices. If you are a young writer (aged 17 and below) and would like your article published on our news website, send your contribution to editor@twentytwo13.my.

All articles must be accompanied by the young writer’s full name, MyKad number, contact number, and the mobile number of the young writer’s parents/guardians for verification purposes.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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