Samhita picked up the deflated balloons and the torn gift wrappers that littered the floor and put them in the garbage can. She packed the leftover cake slices into a tight container. Finally, as she dried her hands with a towel, she thought with a sigh that birthday parties were so tiring.
Ashok had gone to drop a couple of kids, back to their homes. But where was Ricky?
She found him playing a video game on his dad’s laptop from his new PS4. Ricky’s eyes were glued to the screen while his hands pressed the console knobs furiously,
She hesitated at the door, looking at her son affectionately.
There was sheer exhilaration and unbridled joy on his face. He seemed to be oblivious to everything around him. She went behind and started watching the game he was so engrossed in.
On-screen, Ricky had created an avatar called RCKY9 that rather looked like him- A cute pirate with chubby cheeks and an unruly mop of brown hair that fell on the forehead. RCKY9 wore a skull cap and had a mustache.
Samhita watched him running furiously as other scary figures chased him down an impossibly green terrain. They herded him into a corner. A gun suddenly appeared in RCKY9’s hands, and he shot at them to the accompaniment of BOOM BOOM sounds. The figures fell one by one, red, star-shaped blood blooming out of their chests.
He noticed Samhita and, with a proud chuckle, shouted excitedly, “Mummyyyy! Look what I am doing!”
As she watched, RCKY9 bounded over a rock, landed silently, and tiptoed stealthily towards the figure of an enemy who was hiding. Whooping with a war cry, Ricky manipulated RCKY9 into jumping on him, kicking him viciously again and again.
Ricky stopped the game and asked her proudly, “Did you see how I kicked him. He is dead. I will meet another enemy now, in the next level.”
He turned his attention back to the screen.
Samhita stifled the sob that rose but could not stop the tears from flowing as her gaze shifted to Ricky’s two thin, useless, damaged legs dangling from the wheelchair.
* * * *
Later, as they lay next to each other in bed, Ashok told her, his voice breaking in anguish, “When I asked Ricky what he wanted for his birthday, do you know what he wished for? He asked me if I could somehow, magically, make him walk, jump and run?”
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