Couldn’t open my eyes with ease and soon felt my veins right below my temple throbbing violently.” Is it a hangover? Was I drunk last night?” mumbled I to myself. “No, no, it can’t be. You never drink”.
It was then when I was trying to unlock my cell with almost closed eyes as if I was expecting something or someone’s call to wake me up. It was then that a volcanic bile erupted somewhere inside me bringing back all the astringent matters that I was not capable of facing last night, let alone acknowledging them. Without giving me liberal amount of time, they had me again with all their might and, with my head buried in the pillow, there I was once again shedding dews of sorrow with bellows barely having humanity in their nature. And I was out again, doused by misery.
The door banged hard with impatient knocks as if someone had been knocking for long and had lost patience. “Mom could you please be a bit gentle with the door if not with me“.
“It is me Asfand. Rise and shine man, Asad has come from America and is waiting for you in the guest room. Make it quick, please, he has been waiting for an hour already“.
“OK, I will be there in a minute” I said with a loud voice and buried my head again.
I jumped out of bed, had the fastest shower of my life, put on clothes and some perfume. While running down the stairs, I skipped many stairs to be in the guest room as soon as possible. And there was Asad leaning against the big cylindrical pillow – that are found in every guest room of Pashtoon families for in them the concept of Sofas is uncommon – and Dad and Asfand were there sitting with him. We hugged as we always did with smiles on our faces and greeted each other while laughing. I never knew why we laughed whenever we met; sometimes I thought, or rather we thought, that our love for each other and our excitement of meeting each other was nothing but a matter of age, but what we thought proved to be false because soon we grew older and so did our love, trust and excitement of meeting. With a friend like him I always felt easy, for with such good friends you say things and you do things without fear of being misunderstood, they just know what you mean. With good friends, the faculties of hatred, jealousy, deceit and other evil-run departments are sealed forever.
As my brother and father left, he let go the chained hounds of anger free on me, “What the hell is wrong with you? Your cell is off, your Facebook ID is deactivated. I have been trying to contact you for the last three months. Do you have any idea when was the last time we talked?… Of course not! How would you where as you had been busy with your own emotional projects!”
“Ah! So you have been briefed out by the two agents who sat with you while I was in bed!!!” answered I with a sneer.
“No matter how hard you try to divert me, you will have to spill the beans that are tantalizing not just you but your family, and stop making those faces, you know that I will make you do that“.
“Let’s go out to the nearest tea house for smokes and tea. Right now I am at a loss. And dad always talks black and blue about me, don’t heed his words.”
“Sure, we should. It has been long since I have been there with you. I missed these chainakis a lot when I was in America. And I forgot to tell you my mother had invited you for lunch today, she sent me to fetch you“.
“OK we can talk about it there. But tell me how was the great U.S, did she miss me? Ha ha!”
We walked to the nearby tea house harboring on trivialities and ordered milk tea, while the tea was being served we lit cigarettes. All the while Asad’s words revolved around what he really wanted to discuss, ask and know, like a shark that moves around its prey for a while.
“Look Abdul, let’s not make it harder for each other. I need to know what makes you behave so and what has turned you so weak and ugly. Look at those heavy bags around your eyes, look at your body, you have lost a lot of weight, I can still remember when you said that you were ninety two kilograms which makes two hundred pounds or maybe more than that. I know you are very strong, so stop proving to be a hero. Come on you have to turn all that sordid darkness into words and express it to me; I know you are good at expressing things”
“Ha ha ha, OK, OK. I will have to make you aware of one thing beforehand that I will tell you things in a chronological way but not, of course, with pedantic details, for I may not be able to rummage through my head so systematically. About all these two years at university, I have forgotten most of the things, so I will have to mention the things that have been inscribed to the walls of my heart and head, because they are like the paintings on the walls of caves, since the time of troglodytes, and have survived the constant cruel march of time. Don’t take me for an obscurantist if anywhere you feel that something is missing.
I will start from the day when I was informed by Akmal about the announced admissions at University. For some days I managed to elude it but one day he caught me in this very tea house.
“Hey you have to go now, it is time for you to leave all these jobs and start your masters in University. This is not what you should be doing right now. You have not enough milestones in your academic career” said Akmal with all might and authority that our close relation had granted him.
“As if it will make any difference if I go there. You know that, I know that, and Ali knows that it won’t matter much. I can stay here and start my MA in Philosophy from Baluchistan University“, I replied with diffidence.
He chuckled with discernible witticism and on his face contorts of impatience could be seen for he couldn’t wait the tenth of a second to answer me. “All these years of job have made you complacent, you smug. You are institutionalized, can’t you see, you have been turned by it into a pitiable person. Where are your aims, goals and ambitions? Thrown into the chasm, a deep black gorge where people like you are living with ignorant contentment. They have made you blunt enough to notice that you are dumping your very fire that would combust you on your journey towards the realization of your dreams. Stop being an asshole. I can see it from your face that you take all this for a trash. Look, I will put it more clearly for sake of your already dulled senses. First you continued doing it with an excuse that you are free and have nothing to do, later on you said I can manage it with college and I said nothing, but now you are persuading me to let you continue this job at the cost of your career! Do you have a speck of hope that I would let you do that? No, never, and that’s all!”
Puffs of smoke snaked out of my mouth but not words, they were nowhere to be found that day because deep inside me I knew they were sailing with the wind and it was me who was laboring against it, so I had set loose the things that I believed were my achievements, halfheartedly. I used to live a rationally austere life, I was unaware of the events that were hiding within the folds of the future to squeeze life out of me.
With the melting sun, rest of the evening, we kept on discussing the plague of child labor that had seeped into our country like it was part of our ideology too.
This is what I can remember when I gave up and decided to apply and join University. Then I appeared in the tests, cleared them and bla, bla, bla.
Don’t be impatient, have your tea and just grant me your ears.
Almost a month passed smoothly in getting used to all that new atmosphere when one evening Asfand, my brother, called me and told me Shoukat Mama, our immediate neighbor had died. It made me shed tears partly for him and partly for something else that I wasn’t able to figure out at that moment but would be obsessed by that for coming hours.
Shoukat Mama was a dignified man, as my vague memories could reminisce. A drunkard mechanic whose footsteps were always dogged by misfortune. Never had kids of his own but an adopted daughter and son. As you know Asad, drinking and dignity are very difficult traits to be assigned to one person in our society, either a person would be a drunkard or dignified, but it was Shoukat Mama who had earned both of the titles. I could remember how sober he was even though when his stomach was eroded away by alcohol. My ears were softly and intermittently drummed by his Pashto accent with evident superiority of Punjabi in it.
Sitting on the bed with dangling legs and hands under my jaw, I slowly examined the room: firstly, the study table that was overloaded by handouts, cigarette packs filled with ash, two toothbrushes and an empty tube of king-size Colgate – that seemed as if it was chewed by our mighty “squeezes” of taking paste out it, pink and purple lighters – those she would hold and light whenever we sat somewhere, ball points, pencils, my wrist watch, my roommate’s cells and a black belt coiled like a snake in the corner; secondly, it was the overturned body of my roommate sleeping in his shorts without shirt. The sight of him would have been enough for everyone to infer that how tiresome life in university and hostel is; lastly, it was the window that I looked at for some time and the marching invaders, the rays, coming into our room.
After a while, I stood up and was standing akimbo for some seconds with blank mind as if I had forgotten what I raised for. Grabbed my purse, I wore my gray joggers and left the room.
Something was great about those joggers, they made me confident with the briskness they gave to my gait. Walking the long corridors of the hostel, I always wondered what every room’s dweller was contributing to the sight of the corridor: some blessed it with litter, some with laughter, few with loud music while others could give only silence. One had to swim through it every time if leaving the hostel. I knew I was going to have a cup of tea at Quetta Huts – one of the unofficial canteen among the many of University – because it was Sunday and I never missed a cup of milk tea prepared by YakoobLala, a guy who was more than just a waiter to us – and apart from it that day I really wanted to leave room. I knew it was not just the news of the demise of Shoukat Mama that had me but something else as well: my childhood, the recollections of my childhood. It’s a phenomenon, I believe, that when a person is struck by miseries and dilemmas, the victim tries to find tranquility in the innocent memories of his childhood. So did I. Oh I couldn’t stop thinking of the young and carefree Abdul and the evenings I would spend on the third floor of our house. The times when I had no issues, no pre-occupations, no ambitions but kites and only kites. Those orange and serene evenings, sky conquered by kites executing the operations and missions of those who held their strings, my stiffed neck, my bloody fingers, the dying sun, the mighty Koh-E-Murdar , where in its laps lied the sleeping beauty, the advancing ebb of Hazara population on the footings of the navy blue mountains, the sweet disappointment of losing a kite, a comrade for the one who flies it, were all the memories awaken in me all at once, and such was the vigor of their presence that I could hardly see my way, for my vision was blurred by tears.
I reached. Sat right in front of the cooking range behind which stood YakoobLala with one of his leg against the wall and his right hand in the side pocket of his ‘Kameez’, waiting for tea to be prepared. I murmured the typical and formal greetings and so did he. All at once it hit my mind that how quickly she had memorized the three phrases of Pashto greetings: ‘sangayai, shayai, tabiyat di shadae’. This was one day when I was waiting for her in the main cafe, and she got late – quite late –, that she uttered those phrases in order to placate my anger; since that day, those phrases are not just phrases but exalted verses for me, and every time I have to utter them or hear them, sweetness of her tone still encapsulates me.
I know the mere indefinite usage of “she” is making you curious, but I swear Asad I won’t be able to answer your questions about “she”. Just listen and you will get to know “she”.
YakoobLala gave me a cup of tea, even though I have not ordered it. This was something great about him, he would make a bond with his customers and would understand things, you didn’t have to tell him things time and again. That evening, too, he did not interrogate me or start talking to me for he could see the weather projections on my face and deliberately left me at the mercy of my seclusion.
Having the hot cup of tea in my hand, my eyes were fixed at a begging woman, nursing her child while walking, whose face contorted in way to induce sympathies among the potential folk. I lost sight of what I was looking at though the woman, I am sure, was still within the proximity of my sight. I receded some steps within my existence and was ebbed away to the realm of her charisma.
“How did it take place? How did we meet? How out of the blue it kicked off?” burbled I as if speaking to someone else within me, “All I can map out is that it is just like a dream of which you never remember the beginning, rather you always find yourself amid an already launched play, and you are there till the end of it. Figuring it out is the thing I can’t do. When I shed a glance upon it, when I approach it with a desire of unveiling it, I find myself engrossed by mist; the mist, whose every particle shouts its alliance with her, yet tracing them back to her is like trailing a mirage in a desert. Cocksure am I just about one thing: her beauty.”
I never was able to describe her Asad, in fact, I never wanted to for I was sure that my portrayal would not even go near her shadow, let alone doing justice to her beauty. Whenever I tried, my depiction always seemed out of keeping with the truth, I mean the way she looked. Oh God she was so beautiful. No, no, it’s not a good word to define her. How to describe her, I don’t know how to put down in words the way she looked. Okay, let me give it a try. The first thing that you would find on looking at her were her eyes, eyes like that of a deer! Like an over flowing river, like a springing forth spring, her eyes had no limits no boundaries at all. They were like the receptacles containing infinity in them. When she looked at me, it was like infinity was looking at me, or I was looking at the infinity. Thanks to her black eye liner, I owe the liner too much; because it was that liner that draped her eyes with limitations and added a transient perpetuity to her eyes; and it also neutralized, to a greater extent, the charm and spell that her eyes sprinkled endlessly. No, I had not ignored her eyelashes, they did their job too, they were like the gatekeepers to these enigmatic pits. Linear as the leaves of palm tree were her lips; violet they were as the lips of a chain smoker or like saffron sprinkled on milk. While talking her lips would move like the shadows of dancing ballerinas. People never knew that it was the nose that had had mercy on them, because it was the nose that had divided the moon into two halves or they would have dropped dead at the sight of a walking full moon!
“I can give you another cup of tea but please stop slurping the empty cup” roared YakobLala with a tone teeming with sarcasm. “Oh! no, no, not another, I gotta go yara. There is a load of assignments yet to be taken care of and you surely don’t want me to disappoint you by getting failed, do you?” recovering from the wilderness of thoughts, resorted I with a loud voice.” “Yayamakhbanaratorayai (no, no you must not disgrace us)” retorted he almost laughing. And I left.
The next morning, same as the previous ones, it was her call that woke me up not the alarm. With zipped eyes, I sent her a message that I woke up and rushed to the washroom and got ready in no time.
As soon as I would climb the stairs of the department, the balls in the sockets of my skull would start searching for her. Every second in search of her was not less than being burnt on stake, but the mere distant sight of her would nurse the burns. The class seemed abnormally disciplined and focused, which normally was possible only with the presence of teacher. I reached the door and there was the goddess of beauty, kindness, love, wisdom leaning against the dais saying something accompanied with her vibrant smiles.
As soon as Ma’am saw me, she nodded with politeness as a signal for me to come in. Her silence was enough for me to realize that I was late.
Sorry for interrupting the flow, but I have to tell you one thing very important, that is, don’t confuse this ma’am for “she”.
Passing through the congested row of chairs, I smelled her perfume with all my might to intoxicate myself, and with all feasible agility I located her and tapped her head with my elbow. That was my way of greeting her in an already going class. The classes went by and we would gaze at each other with our side-long glances: glances of assurance for through them we would reassure each other of not being ignorant of each other’s presence.
And there we were, over with the classes, all on our own. As a matter of fact the boy folk of the class would always leave the class quickly as if without the teacher their presence with the girls, under the same roof, was something not legit. This could have been counted as the inexplicable absurd behavior on their behalf, or , if being critical, the influence of crippled cultures on them. I myself would act odd – for which I still have sound reasons; acquainting with everyone in general and women in particular was something I was not at home with; one day I would get easy in talking with female classmates and the other day I would not even be able to greet them as if it was completely a new day and yesterday had nothing to do with it, and that attitude of mine, in return, would amass enough stuff against me to be called a rude person. But for this farce I was not the only one to be blamed because here the psychologies of our people would play their illogical part too; here people irrespective of their sex have their own silly calculations to decode your friendly approach: girls would feign you as a flirt and the boys would think that you need a favor of some sort; in either case you would be treated as a flunkey.
I left the class as usual and waited for her outside the class. This would be the place where she and I would decide, with just eye contact, what to do with the rest of the day. I could easily understand whether she wanted to come with me or she would join me later – that would happen only if she had to go with other lassies; ha ha ha, so loving would be the scene when she would turn back and look at me with a faint smile if she had to leave with other classmates, and for this even she could testify that it would make me smile too. This faint smile would be a kind of apology on her behalf and a sight to be savored until her return.
That day too like a jackpot she came along with me and then we walked as slow as if we were pretending to walk. I swear, walking by her was in itself a romance and the speed of walking had something to do with it: the slower we walked the longer would the romance last! And we went straight to the library as would do so always. Managing two chairs at one corner of the table, we would sit at right angle, with she the perpendicular and I the base.
Ha ha, please Asad don’t laugh because the base and perpendicular reminds you of my poor mathematical skills.
Library was our place. The only place where I could have her as carefree and easy as if it were a place where there was no other person but us. Below the table her legs would be over mine in such a way that my shin bones would be in an intimate contact with her calves. To this she would always say later, “it sends ripples through me every time”. To me those were extraordinary moments for it were those very fleeting moments when I would feel as if the doors of transcendence were opened upon me, or bathed by ecstasy, only if I were told that ecstasy could be in liquid form too.
“We look like typical couples who hang around together, who are pestered by the company of a third person, who prefer silent places over places full of commotion, who are worried about each other even when there is no need to be worried at all, and who have to seek for approval of the other if one of them had to say something on their own in a company“, said she as if she were in love with all that she said.
“So? Haven’t you heard that two is company and three is a crowd? And what is the point of building hospitals at places free of commotion? It is because silence is a kind of cure for the ailing ones and can’t you see all of us are patients of some kind, we just need a doctor’s eye to prove it. Noise is pollution and that is why the phrase noise pollution is coined! Why do I have to make you understand the things that ought to be grasped by the common sense?? Ah, they are right common sense is very uncommon these days“, uttered I with visible humor to ward off her objections.
“What do you mean by so, han? Just see how people behave at the sight of an approaching or a passing-by couple, they look at them as if the two have stepped out of an UFO and are aliens.”
“We are no aliens stepping out of UFOs and that leaves nothing for me to be worried about how people look at us. Perhaps it was my dream to be a famous person so much so that people would look at me, irrespective of the nature of their looks, of course; but I could not do something that would have made me a shining star but now when God has provided me an opportunity of being famous, no matter how petty the source is , you are telling me to turn it down for nothing. No, I can’t do that because it is sheer ingratitude and a Muslim should never be ungrateful.”, I said the words with poor articulation this time due to the urge of laughter at the expense of what I just said.
“Look yara, let us not spoil it…You know Grushenka I have started watching TVD and the perky part is that after watching 5 episodes, it has started to cling to my nerves and has become something more than entertainment, but that Damon Salvatore, I mean Ian Somerhalder, is the only squalid thing in it. Ah, why do you like him so much or love him? I mean you don’t have to, there is no need of it. He is just an actor and you can admire him and his acting but you shall not love him“.
“Tut ,tut, tut, I can see jealousy manipulating the reservoir of your words” said she while lifting her head from her book and looking at me as if she really was sure of my jealousy and was enjoying it.
“In your dreams you poor soul! Why would I be jealous of him? There isn’t any reason for me to be. To be jealous of him, first he should have to be a potential enemy, which he isn’t, so there is no need for me to count him as my contemporary in this setting“.
Believe me Asad she really loved him. Though he seems “something” not even “someone”, he grew into something that had its impression on our relation. He was just a character of a serial, but with time, though hidden, my hatred grew for him. The mere name of his would disturb me, and reticently, we started treating him as if he was with us in real influencing us; there would be the kind of timidity and embarrassment, which is found when a lover admits her love for her ex-boyfriend before her beloved, whenever I would force her to tell me the true nature of her feelings for Ian. Yes, yes, exactly, you are right, I would do it just to try my luck and I would expect her to say that all her feelings are not true for him… But that never happened!
That evening I felt something going on within me, unknown to me, some sort of development since yesterday. Yes, not known to me until the moment it happened.
As usual, we sat there for hours, and it were ‘discussing the trivialities’ that would break the ice of silence at times. No matter how much I thought and made sure that I was trying to keep track of her words and sentences, I would lose contact. While she would talk to me, most of the time it seemed like someone was trying to talk to me through a thick glass pane. I always heard the words kicking my ear drums angrily and aggressively, but I would fail to listen.
“What do you mean? What is this suppose to mean? You don’t have anyone inside you to welcome her words?…. Oh, no, no you are getting me wrong, that was not what I meant. Come on, don’t do that; at least I don’t expect this from you. Nobody has heard it so there is no room for misunderstanding. Why is that you are always the first one to rebel and mark the precedent for others to follow? You are always to be found in the front lines if it were anything to bring me down. Rest of the world can never dare to initiate anything but you. Creeping like termite in my head, you eat away the determinism, passion, craze, energy, hope of my every decision, every move and every plan. It’s always you… Why do you take me as your enemy? Telling you the risks and damages that your decisions might cause is what that makes me your enemy and the one who makes room for the army of doubts, and , ultimately, the bad part of you? Ha ha ha, it’s you the fraudulent and the hypocrite, because it’s you who speak through my mouth, I am you and you are me. Stop blaming others. Look at yourself! Can there be anything lower than you? When there is no one to blame, you split yourself into two and blamed one part just to quench the morbid thirst of your incessant habit of blame game… “, said I to myself entertaining a very petty thing.
You see Asad what I would go through! For hours I would supervise the ongoing debate within me; literally, I would turn into three people: the reasonable one, the advocate of love and the supervisor. The reasonable part of me would smolder, the advocate of love would burn, and I, the supervising part, would be the ashes! And I admit that I am a man of collective personage, and that’s it.
She consulted her wrist-watch and I got sure that it was six o’clock. Ha ha ha, no I didn’t consult my watch, rather there was something else that would tell me that it was six o’clock; this mystery of “six o’clock” goes back to the very first weeks of our acquaintance.
“Hey’, it’s six o’clock! It is time for me to go to hostel or the gates will be closed“, this was what I would always hear from her when the clock said it to be six; or, with the advancing days when she had compromised on leaving at six, she would just look at her wrist watch to signal with discretion that it was already six, your bonus has started. This is a selfish interpretation of it, yes this indeed is quite a selfish way to put it that way! What I infer is that being with me, she had known that when I sit by her, I lose to keep track of time, so it was a kind favor of hers to make me aware of the time. From kind to kinder would her favors stretch with every passing day. When it would be quarter to six, I would be clouded by fear and would wait for her to say or signal that it was six and it was time for her to go. I would pray in those instants that she should not look at her watch and stay longer with me. And that happened one day. She sat with me for an extra hour, but the most ecstatic part was when she requested me to have her dropped to her hostel. Ha ha, I jumped within the garden of my heart because she had showed her trust in me for the very first time.
Don’t laugh you chubby boy, it was something very natural, but it is far from your understanding, you can’t feel it even if you want to because your heart is never clenched by this creature called love.
All that evening I knew something is trying to make its way through my mouth, and I kept on pushing it back, and this all tug-of-war caused irritation which I thought I was able to hide but I couldn’t. Ha ha ha, who could know it better than you because it was always you who caught my bluffs. She too was able to read my face, and through my eyes she could penetrate the intricate net of my thoughts. She asked me several times that what it was that was going on within me. We left the library. I lit a cigarette right in front of the library and wafted in the thick puff of smoke to my lungs and kept it there for some seconds and, after a few seconds, exhaled with gratitude; all the while she would look at me with tenderness and would exclaim something sarcastic at the sight of me smoking the cigarette so passionately as if it were something very sacred and important for survival. Then with smiles on both of our faces, we started straggling each other at snail’s pace: most of the times it was her walking right behind me just two steps away and I would feel a heavy magnetic force pounding my heart with its magnetism; it was like the ride of a roller coaster. And at irregular intervals, she would slap me on my back – a bit harder than patting, and waves would run through my body. Lips sewn by the thread of silence, we walked through the dark patches of our path. That evening, I was sure that we both could feel the growing weight of silence upon us, she too knew that before reaching the rusty gates of the hostel she would have to face something out of place and strange in reference to our daily routine, but her faith in me was so profound that not even for a second was she cuffed by fear. Later on when silence had grown so loud and erosive that it started to erode our patience, in an attempt to dilute it, I told her that I wanted to whisper something in her ear. She did come closer but a bit reluctantly and with an expression of surprise. Absolutely, it was out of place because she had vibes of something unusual being cooked already. In order to whisper in her ear, I had to bow a little; so close were my lips to her that my lips, while talking, touched her ear intermittently. I said, “I love you“, and I went a bit away as if recoiling to avoid any involuntary offensive strike.
Yeah, I know I am being funny because there was no such thing at all but please stop laughing or I will beat the crap out of you. Ha ha, come on, end it or I will end it, and pass me that juice too because I can hardly utter words now, my mouth and throat are dry. Sure, let’s smoke too.
Since my utterance, the time stopped for both of us: it was like the eventuality had taken place between two seconds. I was the spectator watching her face, because her face was worth watching. It showed signs like she was absorbing the shocks caused by the explosion of my words. Ah, I know, I know, I am confusing you and I am not clear enough, but have patience yara because you now that I am not good at explanations and descriptions yet I am a die-hard lover of abstractions. Let me delineate it in another way. It was like curiosity, embarrassment, excitement, fascination, expectations, newborn love and many other emotions were boiling in her heart with a glow that was visible in her eyes: her eyes shone as if vapors of light were escaping; or more simply, her face contorted as if a person tries not to laugh at the expense of a very funny and hilarious thing. She blushed. That moment of timelessness, she had lost that intelligent and keen expressions of her face, which were part of her exposition, and were replaced by the expressions like that of a kid being praised! After that I don’t remember how I ended up in my room. Many days passed in romance of the memory of that evening after that!
We could not box all this, I couldn’t categorize my relation with her, neither could she. It was quite involved! We were in the midst of a murky trade of emotions.
Oh your questioning eyes! I know you are still obscure about the point of “murky trade of emotions”. It was murky because she never said that she loves me. Almost every other day we had to fight over this point. I have realized from your face that you are amazed that I have told you at all. But no you should not think that I am lying. Our intimacy was the same even before my confession of love to her. Yeah I know it is strange but this was us. We had flushed all conventions, we went with the flow and avoided force of any kind.
She said it was awkward. She would complain that you should have never fallen in love in the first place. She said she doesn’t love me, yet she could hardly resist hanging around with me; she could barely stop herself caring for me. Oh yes, nobody could have denied her unputdownable care exclusively for me. It was indeed awkward and strange, it never happened this way, if there were no love in return then it was supposed to stop but in our case it kept on flourishing. Her assuring glances, her confiding touches were all signs of something which I could never decipher. This was clearer than glistening eyes and more vivid than the sun chasing away the rainy clouds that she could never see me troubled, not even a little. Keeping all the social realities in mind, it could be seen that it was her proposition to veil our relation with discretion but yet at certain mild provoking moments she would cross the line and come to defend me in the open, or, at least, discontentment would march on her face in solidarity with her feelings at those certain instants. She would remind me time and again that we would never be able to be together or marry, just because of our divergent cultural backgrounds. This would in true sense make me angry. I could still recall one day when I thundered back just because of this.
“Why do you remind me of this all the time? What is the point of showing me this bony fact time and again?… Please don’t do this to me again; please, I am begging you. I am more realistic than you, I am more aware of the truth, facts and possibilities, and you, too, are familiar with the clear vision of things that I have. Aren’t you? Yet, I am here doing it! I know that this is a desert, you are the mirage and guess who I am? Let me tell you, I am the one driven by his thirst. Yes, this is me. I know that you are the mirage and I won’t ever catch you. Your speed of going away from me and my strides toward you increase in the same proportion; the distance between you and me will always remain the same” I paused for a while as if mourning, “You see how clear I am about all this! In my imaginations, a thousand times or maybe a million times , I have foreseen every doable dimension of the near future, and I have seen it. It’s very disappointing, disappointing like hell and thoughts of it never fail to give me chills and poignant stretchings of heart. But, as you can see I am still here, right before you. Now tell me why am I still around? Hope baby, it’s hope that let me linger around you, even though reason has abandoned me on this expedition.”
There was a deafening silence for a minute at most when I was toying with my watch – which I was doing on purpose just to avoid her eyes and anything in them – and I could smell confusion, sympathy, passion and love buzzing around her like the mosquitoes do at dusk. Silence would have crushed us if I had not cut it.
“My wits have warned me of my fiasco ahead, my faculties, governed by logic, have shown me a red card; still I prefer going on even if I am welcomed by a dead end! It is this hope that helps me think of the things in other ways, it is this hope that encourages my bright and vibrant reveries, of being with you, which are technically neither feasible nor reasonable. And, finally, it turns me into a troglodyte – for they render me with a cave free of doubts and fear. Now tell me who would not choose to be a troglodyte in such a case? So please don’t alienate me of this luxury.”
Why are you so astounded and kind of lost as well? Ah, I see you are wondering at my dealings! With no hope of marriage and without her love, my love for her is pointless or, putting it in more callous term, self-destructive; and I know you are making fun of my self-righteousness that served as a base to my unconditional love. But you should not tag me as an ignoramus so soon, hear me first because I had my reasons too.
I had deduced one thing on my own. I believed that she loved me. I know this was too much for a claim or something to be assumed, but there was something in my mind that made me think that way. Though she never said so but I am still damn sure that she did! It is clear to me but for you I will come up with something metaphorical. She was like a castle governed by a notorious king who had failed to stop the uprising within the class of his subjects; of this castle I had conquered every part except the entrance. I could hear the people chanting my name and see them waving flags in my favor, but this entrance, I mean the gates were barred by something more powerful: culture, traditions and other norms. For her expression of love was tentative to sin because it meant confronting the status quo to her. You can say that she wasn’t troubled by infidel thoughts but actions. The bottom line is that she loved me but never uttered it verbally.
Now I will come to the part of marriage. Look, love is something heavenly – by heavenly I mean it’s not man-made, it is something like soul – and on other hand we have the institute of “Marriage” that is purely man’s creation, and we all know that nature’s creation in every aspect has an upper hand over that of man’s; there comes our fallibility of making marriage an end, which in fact is means, or maybe not even means to love because I have seen married people lamenting, so my dear I tried not to commit this mistake but instead attempted to free love from the chains of marriage. Though I never knew that I had to pay such a price, I don’t regret. Wait, wait, the impatience on your face helps me infer that you are thinking taking out the deep rooted institution of marriage is not an easy job, nay, somewhat impossible. And you are quite right in supposing that because I too am well aware of it, but at the same time, I am of stone belief that at least we can amend it. Have patience, yar, patience, I am going to tell you what I want to amend in it. I need you to be all ears now. Marriage would have been legitimate if it were governed by love; by governing I assert that the presence and absence of love should be the sole reason for living or not living with a person respectively, but in reality it is contrived by man-made notions that manipulates the affairs of marriage and are fleeting with biases, prejudices, flaws and faults. Now you might say that in fact it is me who is biased and prejudiced towards the human made regulations, but no I have enough satisfactory stances to protect myself from the hail of your severe glances. If it is love that is the sole manager of marriage affairs, then there wouldn’t be any single case of unhappy marriages or couples, because if they are married it means there is love and if love ceases to exist, so will the marriage. But on the other hand if cultures, traditions and other social institutions have a louder say than love, that it has, then the cold couples might have to live on forever even if there is no love. This makes marriage nothing but legal prostitution.
Shall we have another cup of tea? No? Okay no issues.
The mere silhouette of your face shows your curiosity that you want to hear more about her and how did this all end? Well, we stayed together like that throughout our degree at University. I loved her. I loved her every day like it was our last day, and I loved her every minute and every second, because if every year of my life were equal to one minute, then her stay with me was like of two minutes in an hour, so I had to love her every second. And she welcomed my love with open arms, she bathed her wounds with my love, she played in the garden of my love merrily and fearlessly; as you are at home with astronomy, I would say that the expression of my love for her that evening was a Big Bang that gave us a universe where we just lived and lived to the standard of the meaning of the word “living“. I too would ruminate over it, at certain moments, with pensive forehead and I would be lost in rummaging the answer within myself.
Oh stop trying to squeeze me with your heavy gaze, I am telling you to wait, just be patient. Let me have a sip of juice.
This all had taken place within the first semester, and all the remaining three semesters we lived as if we were meant for each other, as if we were to be together forever, as if we were not having any trouble, as if we were to live in the present only.
With the end of the first semester, we were having vacations for Eid al-Fitr. Leaving for home was quite difficult but so was staying there, because it was the very first time, as you know, I had left home and lived in a hostel for six months; I found myself between the devil and the sea. Neither was I willing to be away from her, nor could I resist going home. Ah! Hostel life to me is a grotesque experience, I would simply say that we should have a subject of ethics which should be taught till Masters, and in that subject we should keep on reiterating and emphasizing the basic ethics such as how to live with a roommate and how to use a toilet. Don’t laugh, ha ha ha, just because of this I suffered a lot.
But I had to leave anyway and I left for Quetta with a heavy heart. All these days before Eid I kept on thinking that how would it end, but I couldn’t answer it until the evening of the third day of Eid.
Have you seen the “Eid Mela” – fair – near our house, where camels would come and the kids of the vicinity would have a ride by paying the owner of the camels? Oh yeah, I had mounted them many times and still when I think of it my ears echo with my chants when I would request the camel owner, who would hold the reigns of the camel, ” ChachaBagao, ChachaBagao“, I would implore him to make it fast. What? No, no, it is not as big as it used to be, the ‘mela‘ is inversely proportional to my age: it shrinks as i grow older. Today I will tell you a secret Asad, that is just known to my father only, but I would love to tell you. When I was a kid, I would shed tears at the sight of the “departing camels” on the dusk of Eid’s third day. So I did that day of Eid but the difference was I was no more a kid shedding tears. No, no, I didn’t go to the “Mela” all by myself, I had to take Ayan there. I just couldn’t stop my tears from spilling. Ayan saw me and inquired with his usual curiosity that why was I crying and I quenched him with my half-truth: I told him that camels are going. Pardon me for my poor articulation, it is always this way whenever I think of that. My throat gets heavy and my emotions hurdle my words. Exactly, I hid the other half from him, and that other half was indeed the answer to my questions that had irritated me for so long. Just in those vacations right after the end of the first semester, the end of our affair was revealed to me. I found myself in that camel, who despite falling in love with the kids that mounted it had to leave after a short stay of three days. In short I will say, University was the fair, where we met, I was the camel that had to leave anyway, and she was the kid who would soon grow up into a human, and all these heart-breaking but summertime memories would be like dust blown away by the wind of life into the hell of past, which will soon discard it to make place for new memories to be dumped.
And that is it. We had to leave each other. I can’t tell you how it felt when she was leaving the university forever. I can’t muster up enough courage to recollect the memories of the evening when we met for the last time. We didn’t say anything, no goodbye, no farewell but trickling tears – everything we wanted to say turned into tears. We looked at our barren faces for long time, then she handed me a piece of paper and started to walk briskly towards her car. I had forgotten to blink my eyes that moment and was looking helplessly at the sight of my departing happiness. And you know what almost killed me was that she didn’t look back at me with her usual smile that day, and I stood there until her car disappeared.
I know you want to know what she had written on that paper. You don’t have to ask me for that, I will read it for you because the paper has been right here in my pocket since then.
“You never knew it my beloved that the mere presence of yours would continuously send ripples through my body, carving the stones of my heart’s pond with your essence. And all my life, even if you are nowhere to be found, I will have the traceless scent of you in my breaths that would come through me whenever I would breathe, and I will restlessly wasp in the air in a vain attempt to feed the creatures within me that have grown used to eat the crumbs of your presence.”
That is all I bear or at least the part I can utter! We should leave now, and I am sorry I can’t come for lunch. You should ask your mom to excuse me, you can understand.
About the Author
My name is Yasir Khan. I was born in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan on 17 August 1993. I have studied Political Science and History. Currently, I am doing my M.sc in Linguistics from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.