In the Mannagudda house in Mangalore where the tallest point of the slope touched sky and one section of houses bent their ears to gravity.
We didn’t want to sleep but we had to.
Under the angry eyes of my mother and theirs,
we pretended to sleep, our eyes closed to them and open to us in every other way, grateful. They couldn’t see that we were playing behind the red screens of shut eyes.
I have stayed up many nights after that but never quite like I have on that night.
We lay in silence, stifling giggles because someone tried to find his way to the others and was kicked back to sleep by an awake, upset adult.
Little by little, each of us managed to leave our beds and walk with our palms pressed to our mouths as if that would somehow mute our feet.
We gathered in the backyard and poured laughter
All delight of a sleepless night released.
Then the pointlessness set in. We had escaped sleep, the dangerous quiet it brought, and adults. Now what?
We couldn’t do nothing with the time we had stolen (and stayed up all night for)
So some of us went to gather sticks – big and small
– just so our hands had something to do that early in the morning
And the others dutifully went back to sleep.