For no obvious reason the air of the room was heavy. They kept on staring the television. Lights were turned off. Both of them, snuggled in each other’s arms, stared at the screen. Time and again, he would tickle her belly, would ask her sarcastically if she understood the movie, and would start watching TV again after kissing her ear and caressing her earlobe. Her eyes stuck on screen, she wasn’t responding. In fact, she didn’t even look at him. This response of hers pestered him, but patience had been the arbitrator since the two decided on living together. Past the stage of conquering the unchartered inner lands of each other, such matters are never suspected to have roots in worth worrying situations. They were more than aware of the breaking points and the red flags, and had seldom brought each other to those points where either one could feel that it was spiraling out of control. Other than their love for each other, there was little in common. This wasn’t a problem either, rather it was realized long ago and was, in fact, embraced by them. They loved the differences, and loved even more the space which it brought along itself. To accept each other wholly was the best way to keep their relationship whole and intact. It was a mantra mediating since the day they first met.
He leaned over to the table, poured himself a glass of beer out of the can, and leaned back with holding a lit cigarette in his lips. Had heavily dragged his smoke and took it deep inside, and once again looked at her while puffing out the smoke. He kept on looking at her, for he knew she could feel that the intensity of his gaze would eventually make her uneasy. It did. She turned over her face, and looked back into his eyes without hesitation and asked in a rather sharp tone, “what?”
“What!” He exclaimed back with his eyes wide open.
“Yeah, what?” She followed him instantly.
“Okay, it is enough of formalities. Now, get on with what that you have to say.” With closed eyes, he gulped down the glass of beer.
“There is nothing to say. You are just drunk.” Taking her eyes off him she added nonchalantly.
“Am I? Please, tell me if I am drunk, so that I can go to sleep before it turns ugly.” He tittered with his eyes still closed.
He got even close, slid his head into her lap and placed her palm on his lips. With the intermittent light of the TV being shed on her face, it struck him out of nowhere that he loved her a lot.
“Tell me, Babaka. What’s bothering you?” He asked in his raspy earnest voice.
A brief silence filled the vacuum.
“What if I had not been asked to take you around the office on your first day in the firm? What if I had not offered you the coffee later on? What if you had not proposed me on the airport after my return from Malaysia two years later? What if….” She was to complete when he had cut her short.
“ Yeah, what if we had not married?” He interrupted her without any fluctuation in his tone. “I know what do you want to say. So let’s play a game. We will start it over and over, and you take it the way you want to. I am curious to see how it will turn out.”
“The Butterfly effect? Sounds lame, but I am in.” She turned off the TV and kissed the tip of his nose.
In the air, he was making imaginary circles with his index finger. “So it is my first day. You are asked to take me around the office, and show me my cabin.”
“I show you around. Take you to your cabin. Tell you all the necessary protocols, fake a smile and leave.” She added.
“I spent three hours like an idiot, flicking clueless through the files, playing solitaire on PC and wondering if there is a break. Ahh! You are there knocking. You ask me if I am hungry. I am starving. We go to the cafeteria. I ask you if you could join me for lunch.” He got his hands on the can of the beer and emptied it in his mouth to the last drop that clung inside it.
“And I say no. I am on diet. Have a nice day! And I am gone. See it ends there.”
“You seem to be in hurry. I offer you coffee. Black coffee. Zero calories. You accept it. Ha Ha, so it kicked off.”
“Okay, it’s raining. My driver is on leave. I am at the parking lot. You are passing by in your rusty Alto. You stop by and ask me if I can drop you. And I say, no. I have a friend coming over. Thanks. It ends, again.” She said the words in articulation that comes with some good rehearsing only.
“You are bent on ending it. And yes, I need to rectify one thing. My Alto was old but not rustic. Anyway, you declined my ride. But you forgot, a week or so later, all of us were invited to a dinner by our then executive director to celebrate that new project of Malaysian firm. So we enjoy the dinner. It gets late. Your driver is still on leave. No friend is coming to pick you up. And yes, your taxi-phobia, Ha Ha Ha Ha. You ask me to drop you home. See, it had to begin!”
“This time you are sick. You are not in your cabin. You are on leave for a week. I am not going to ask peon or anyone about you, so I am not going to know that you are in hospital, and there is no chance of me coming over with your favorite bouquet of flowers.” All the while she was tapping the brim of her coffee mug.
“I don’t have any favorite flowers.”
“Yes, you have now.”
Mischief tickled his guts when he said, “I don’t even know their name.”
“Whatever! You are such a douche bag.”
“ Oh, that I am, a proud douche bag. But listen, I resume with my job. You finally find me in my cabin. You can’t help stopping by. You are taken aback by my emaciated face. The other day, you make me eat this creamy-cheesy-full of chicken and sausage pasta. You have made it yourself. Babaka, we are stuck again.”
“ Alfredo pasta! Dimwit, you sometimes sound like you speak some pidgin not language. It’s useless to even call something by its name. You don’t even care to remember. Forget it. Now, I am to go to Malaysia for a year, just because I am going to represent our firm there until the project successfully comes to an end. You are all sulky. You are jealous!” She replied in her usual spiteful way.
“I am not jealous, bitch. I am sad. It has been almost an year with you.”
“ Touché! You are jealous. So I have got to live there for a year. I don’t even have to live on my own. I am living with my Uncle. Life is heaven. I can’t even call that year as work. It was a trip. I come back. You are there waiting out for me at the airport. All braced up. All ready to give me a heart attack. We shake hands. You see my index finger glittering. A ring! I got engaged to my cousin there in Malaysia. I have to go back in a month. I am resigning.” She contorted her face in somewhat a goofy way.
“Yeah, I saw it on your finger before shaking hands. I slip the one I have brought in my pocket. I drop you home. You come to the office a day after. You are expecting to see me in my cabin? Oh, no Babaki, you will find Jameel there cleaning all the mess. Look at the shelf above. See any Dostoevsky, Kafka, Pamuk, Murakami, and other novels? Look to you are right, can you see my picture of the ship in the bottle? Of course not, I resigned. I have left yesterday. Ahh Babaki, it seems as if life is squeezed out of you. But anybody would agree this is not unbearable. Wait for tomorrow. You come the next day. Turn on your PC. Zareena comes to your office. Asks you if you are going with them to my house or not. You ask her why. ‘He died last night’ is her answer. Probably a suicide! What else can it be, Babaki? See all that glitters is not gold!”
His head was still there in her laps with his eyes closed, until something dripped on his nose. With it his eyes opened. He found her looking at him with tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping off her chin onto his face. “You would have died?” She mumbled.
“ Yes. I would have most probably.” He replied with a sigh. “For me all so quickly you had become the only reason to live on. What is a man who is an ardent admirer of reasoning without one?”
With it she kissed his lips and hid his head in her arms.
Yasir Khan was born in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan on 17 August 1993. He has studied Political Science and History. He has availed his degree of M.sc in Linguistics from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. Currently, he is Lecturer at Balochistan University of Information, Technology and Management Sciences (BUITEMS).