The Nation’s Call Me column is an anonymous piece of writing, where writers can  relate deeply personal stories.

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Call Me:

I remember a small park next to my home when I was a little girl. We used to live in the upper portion of a rented house with not much outside space and so it was easy to run out of places to play. Every evening, as an important matter of everybody’s sanity, my sister and I were let loose in the park with a small choice of toys. The park had three grassy mounds (which we called mountains), and often we would claim two for ourselves, sitting cross legged atop them and waving to each other in dignified silence. It was a quiet game, though we were not quiet children.

At that age, ownership is a complicated, insecure, invisible sort of thing. Anything, at any time, is in danger of being swiftly confiscated. Just as you become the comfortable possessor of an object or a room or an idea, it is usually forcibly lost. So you dream of growing up. You dream of becoming big, and owning things that people cannot take from you. That was how it was with us on the grassy mounds. For some time every evening, we were the emperors of that quiet place. Proud proprietors of earthly belongings. Mountain Queens. Undisputed rulers of the land. I recall the passing contentment of those moments, perusing the rest of the planet from my vantage point five feet above ground level.

I grew older. I became taller than the grassy mound. Eventually at eighteen I left home, lived in what seemed like the remotest town in all of America, owned books and credit cards and time. I travelled more, got engaged, got married, began that long business of trying to make life count for something. And still, ownership remained a complicated, insecure, invisible sort of thing in my life. Perhaps because I am increasingly uncomfortable with its attachments. Perhaps because in the real world people cannot own mountains; only small and magic less places. And perhaps because, as one grows older, it is somehow considered acceptable to think you can possess other people and be possessed in turn.

I cannot see the romance, or the poetry in this. It has been one of adulthood’s great lessons; this analysis of aloneness. Intimacy is clearest to me when I become aware of my ownership over nothing. It has not stopped me making terrible mistakes, feeling the great human grief of petty trifles, or the heartaches of loss. But it has helped me over the years with the act of letting things (and people) go when the time demands it.

My mother often refers to a song she heard at a theatre festival in Lahore many years ago. In it a small boy desperate for adventure sings, “Meray pur na kaato, mujhe urrnay do.” (Do not clip my wings, let me soar). Three of her four children left home young, and as she fought for and defended our right to leave, she often quoted these words. I think of them when I feel grateful. Our fourth sibling, who is a beautiful, soulful autistic young man lives at home with my parents, and though he is dependent on the help of other people, she wishes fiercely for his spiritual independence. More than anything she wants him to be free in any form that might be meaningful to his life. As we grew older she never imposed on us her ideas on who to love or marry or respect. And this is her impeccable understanding of control. She has perfected her aloneness, her lack of ownership, her subtle apartness even from her children. And this is how, I think, life and relationships must be seen through.