“I know you”. He said. “I came all the way from across the world just to see you”. “Isn’t that nice?” I said, not knowing what else to say. His face looked familiar but that means nothing. He was someone from my past and had made this trip exclusively to see me! What an honor. But the only problem was I hadn’t the faintest idea who he was and what was it that he came to see me for. He couldn’t be my father because he had been dead for years now. I was still an infant when that happened. At least that is what I had been told the first time I became aware of an absentee father. ” unko Allah ne apne paas bulaa liya.” – kind of – he was so nice that GOD called him back because HE needed him there more than he was needed on earth. Well okay then. No arguing with GOD. Couldn’t be my brother either because I know who lives where. Lots of time zones involved. No point going into details. Any of my uncles? Nah. Besides, this person was not old enough to be my father.
“Okay, can I have a clue?” I finally asked. He smiled and said ” I am the one who got away.” Then it all started coming back to me. I stood there looking at him or was it time that stood still to let me look at him and relive a time gone by, a mistake never rectified. I touched his face and whispered. “hello.”
There were scabs on his wounds; some were still open and not fully healed. Maybe last night when he lay down under the bridge, taking shelter from the silent rain, Rukia paid him a visit in the city of soul. It was still raining. He was sitting on his haunches against the wall. It was another day. But – was it? He put his hand under his shirt and felt the bottle tucked in his pants’ waistband.
” Blood of Jesus!” He chuckled, and pulling out the bottle, started unscrewing it. So what if the days are long and the nights are endless. Promises are made to break. “Would you like some popcorn?” someone asked. He looked at the bottle in his hand and made a sound in his throat . ” Who me?. Nah, who wants popcorn when one had grits and orange juice for breakfast in the morning! Nah, I don’t want no popcorn.” Then he raised his head and squinted at the man who had offered him a bag of popcorn. ” I was there once, you know.” He said quietly and shifting his gaze somewhere far and beyond, raised his bottle. ” “To Rukia! ” But that was another day too. The day, that saw her crying and pleading and begging him not to do that to her. And when nothing worked, she cursed him in a strange, calm voice and gave in. Her unblinking eyes were fixed on his face and streams of tears were running down the corners of her eyes. Later he stood over that listless heap of a body and laughed. ” Now that will give you something to think about .” he said. He stood looking at her for a while then spat on her and left the house.
“Want some?” He asked the man with popcorn. But he was gone.
He put the bottle back in his pocket and slumped back against the wall. A young woman passed by walking her dog.
…. I just want to put my arms around you and give you a big hug. nothing romantic. Not even some social display of goodwill – no brother/sister love – – – its a feeling of well being – euphoria – a feeling of coming home after a life long search for one good, genuine man. I do not feel sorry or deprived or sad that I could not share my life with you , a perfect embodiment of my idea of a man – I am happy and content. It is enough for me to know that you are real.
I also want to tell you that now for some time, I had accepted that it was all in my head – just an idea, a larger than life idea and I had somewhat – reconciled. Now I know you for real and that is enough for me .
Sometimes I despair . What if I am dreaming ? I also get scared. What if one day we come face to face. I do not want that – ever. Its enough for me to know that in a certain part of the world you are a walking talking breathing and laughing reality. You just keep doing that. That is all I want…..
“….under a clear blue sky, she was making her way in the golden haze of a winter sun. she was wearing white clothes and a red ‘chuna huua dupatta’ was hugging her delicate young shoulders. A thick plait of black hair was touching her slender waist. Riaz was getting down the front veranda stairs when he saw her. For a while he forgot what he was doing and the next moment he jumped from the stairs, grabbed his cycle and ran after her. She had already turned the corner and by the time he came to the corner she was inside the school gate. He was not disappointed. He knew he’d wait for her tomorrow. There is always a tomorrow. He smiled and leaned forward to pick a flower from the beautiful creeper hanging over the gate.
” khhoche tuM kiya karti haiy. apna head mistrass dekhhe gaa to bigarr jaay gaa” The choukidar disapproved.
“Lovely, so pretty” Riaz said and touched the flower with his lips. “khan sahib, what can I do, its so beautiful” and slowly peddled away.
Did you see that man Namdar? “That blighter, you mean?” “I do not know if I would call him that.”What else would you like to call him? His Excellency!
Is that what you would like me to call him? ” Oh come on! Why can’t you ever be a little sympathetic? No, I am sorry I cannot. You are given a life now it is up to you to use it or abuse it. Sometimes it is not you. Sometimes it is other people who push you over the edge. People do to you only what you let them do to you. Is that what you think Namdar? But, sorry I donâ€™t think so. What about the time when you were three years old? Five, six, seven years old? These are called formative years. They are the ground floor of your psyche. Why are you fighting over a sore ridden good for nothing, street bum? drinking from a whisky bottle in broad day light I am not fighting. I am just trying to understand something about you. Sometimes I feel that â€¦ Donâ€™t feel because I am not in the mood to waste my time over pointless arguments.
Typical, for some reason unknown to me, you always run and raise your iron shields to hide behind whenever â€¦
Are we going to finish or not So you think that man is on the streets because he himself made his choices? So ? In your books, you say there is no compassion and pity for anyone, who is not lucky enough to have a roof over his head? And it is – like â€¦no one else is responsible but he, himself?â€™ Yes. Ok. But I do not have to agree with you. Do you agree with that?
What nonsense! It is always you. Itâ€™s just that some people are not willing to stand up and take the responsibility. If you donâ€™t take charge, some one else would. Time does not take sides. Always remember that.
Good lord! Why you always have to be so forbidding? I was just making an observation. You know Namdar, some people, very amicably, talk for hours and without disagreeing with each other. They like to share their views with others. Nobody says that I am right and you are wrong. Nobody tries to force his or her opinion on the other.
Here we go again! Donâ€™t start your dialogs with me. I am sorry. Yeah! They both fell silent. â€œI am going for a walkâ€, she said and didnâ€™t wait for his answer. Walking along the shoreline she felt her heart so heavy and dejected that she just wanted to give herself away to the sea. â€˜Here, take it. Itâ€™s of no use to me. I tried. God knows I tried.â€™ The sea kept on rolling languidly. â€˜What is it to me, what is it to meâ€¦.â€ A bird flew over her head screaming. All of a sudden she turned to her left and started walking into the sea.
â€œNo maâ€™am I donâ€™t think you should be doing that. Soon the tide will be coming in. In fact we should get out of this area now.â€ She turned to look who it was. It was the same man with the bottle who had eaten grits and orange juice for his breakfast. I just wanted to go in the water for a while. She said. And never be seen again. He smiled.
What is wrong in that? She said then laughed nervously. She looked around to see if Namdar was still there. Just then he climbed the sand bar and was gone. No, I refuse to panic. She told herself. There were still some couples on the beach. Ok I take your advice. She said and started walking back. Half way she turned around and shouted over the air. Why did you leave the home? Same reason you are walking back alone. Without hesitation he shouted back.
Run for your life while you still have time!! He said. The tide is coming in fast! He added after a moment.
She again turned and started walking towards the sand bar. Did he say what he just said, she wondered. But she didnâ€™t look back, neither this way nor that. The tide is coming in the tide is coming in. Somehow the phrase stuck to his head.
Namdar was in the shower when she walked in the room. The curtains were drawn and beyond the glass window, dusk was falling. She thought about the man on the beach, why did he say what he said? Is it so obvious? I thought I had tucked in the corners nice and proper and no one could guess if there was anything missing. Just then Namdaar called from the shower. come on, the water is delicious. Iâ€™ll give you a rub. No thanks. She shot back.
What is holding you back then?
She didnâ€™t answer
What was that bum saying to you?
Why is that important?
He didnâ€™t answer, only started singing on top of his lungs. She got up to get a glass of water. So he was watching me talking to She felt a sudden urge to scream but this one too got buried along with so many others. Run for your life, the tide is coming in. Run, run run. Oh run. When Namdaar emerged from his bath all scrubbed and, freshly combed she had made a song and was openly humming it. Run, run run. The tide is coming in. Pick up your pieces. Run and run.
â€œTrip and, trip and get run over â€“ oh, runâ€. He laughed at his own wit. â€œOh yeah!â€ She nodded. â€œDonâ€™t get run over. Just runâ€. Suddenly he was quiet.
â€œWe are going backâ€. He said after a while. â€œWhy?â€ â€œBecause I donâ€™t like this placeâ€ â€œBut I like it. Also, we came here to spend a whole week. What happened to that?â€ â€œI donâ€™t like it here. Just pack up your things. I am going to the desk to settle the bills.â€ â€œWhat is wrong with you? I donâ€™t understand your mood swings. In-fact they are getting worse with each passing dayâ€ â€œNag, nagâ€. He took his car keys and stood by the door for a moment as if he was about to say something but then he just shook his head and went out banging the door behind him.
When he came back she had packed her bag and was all ready to leave. â€œI am ready. When do we leave?â€ She chirruped He looked at her â€œyou didnâ€™t pack my bagâ€ â€œOh yeah I didnâ€™tâ€
â€œIs this your idea of a holiday?â€ he asked fiercely She burst out laughing. â€œHoliday means waiting on you hand and foot? You are so hilarious He stood looking at her. His eyes were dark with hatred. â€œI am warning you, Pari.
â€œWhat for if I may ask sir?â€ she said. â€œI was looking forward to coming here. I thought it as an opportunity to overview our relationship â€“ to understand why you are the way you are. Why canâ€™t we ever agree on anything â€“ always bickering â€“ never letting go of any opportunity to insult each other, hurting the feelings all the time. Why Namdar why? â€œWhy donâ€™t you ask this question to yourself?â€ â€œI have, many times. She said quietly. I try to come near you and you push me further back. What is it? Nami? What happened to our love?â€ â€œLove? Sometimes you talk funny Pari. He threw his head back and laughed. You wanted to get married to help your parents and I was a good catch. You planned everything Pari. I have figured out everything. So donâ€™t give me this Love thing.â€ He started picking up his things and shoving them in his suitcase. â€œMy God Namdar, you have a sick mind. I never â€¦ â€œ she didnâ€™t finish what she was saying. â€œ I am still married to you.
Everything is normal.
He touched her hand but didn’t withdraw. She looked at him. Just then he bending a little over her smiled with a glint in his eyes, are you following my instructions?
Yes, she lowered her eyes. It was hard to ignore her fluttering heart. He again patted her hand, good. I like that, and before she could say anything, he was gone. She looked at the door helplessly. What am I supposed to do? why. oh why? putting her hand on her chest, she turned away her face. There were tears in her eyes and she didn’t want any one to see how weak and vulnerable she was.
In the morning I saw a seventy year old man and thought about you and wondered if that is how you would look when you would reach that age.
In the evening I saw a new born baby boy and thought about you and wondered if that was how you looked when you were born.
Why is it that I am busy doing something – totally immersed, with you completely out of my radar and still see your face in every face, think about you like you were never out of my thoughts. Why? Here I am; with tears brimming, heart aching, knowing that there is nothing any one can do. I can never even tell you. I cannot be a part of your days and nights and neither can you be a part of my days and nights. What do I do then?
This is love and it hurts !
At the breakfast table he was quiet, very quiet. carol glanced at him across the table but didn’t say anything. He had been like this lately. Quiet, withdrawn, like trying to tackle some inner conflict. After twenty some years of being married to him she was familiar with all his moods. Only this time it was not going away, meaning whatever it was, was different and he was having a hard time resolving it. She looked into her coffee cup. “no, he will eventually come out of it and talk to me about it – whatever it is’ she told herself. The grandfather clock was tick-toking in the foyer- ticking away the time. ‘Yes my poor baby is suffering and suffering alone – but I would wait’. The reality was, it was becoming too much for her to ignore, she had to ask , or say something.
“what is it honey” she finally leaned across the table and put her hand on his arm.
He looked at her hand but didn’t say anything for a while. Then he looked up. There was a flicker of a smile on his lips. ” I don’t know, its just a patient at the hospital”
“what about her”
” I don’t know ” he said angrily and pushing his chair back, got up and left the kitchen.
Carol didn’t turn to look at him or tried to say something. This was new; never happened before. What is it? she was suddenly very alert.
She woke up with a start. For a solid one minute she was lying silent, motionless, listening to her thumping heart. Then she turned her head and looked at her right. It was still dark outside, no light behind the curtains. Then she looked at the wall clock. It was four in the morning and she was dreaming about him.
Why was she dreaming about him? She hadn’t thought about him in so many days and here he was so close, so near, as close a man can be with a woman. She put both her hands on her stomach and felt the ache somewhere deep inside her.
They were together. At some point she told him she was driving his new car and people on the road were telling her how nice the car was. He smiled and kissed her. Then bending over her, told her ………
It was just a dream, she told herself and turning her back to the window, tried to go back to sleep.
Somewhere across another town, a man was standing at the window. Motionless.
I remember my dream. She just said that. there was no one in the room.
Yes, I remember – vividly. Every detail , I remember , but what I do not remember is who was with me in my dream. Or, was I in his dream? who? or we both were in each others dreams, like visiting each other where sub conscious meet. Does it make sense?
I could feel a current connecting us… going through our bodies and connecting us to one another. But who was he – so familiar, so friendly, so loving – giving his all !
He was holding something in his hand – a broken something. I took it from him and told him that I would fix it because I know how to fix it. I was busy, very busy but I could feel that he was with me, close to me, right there with me … coming near me, closer – then getting back. It was like a ball bouncing in the court – ricocheting . Stepping closer, touching my hands, touching my hair, talking, looking, smiling ….
Then my work done, I looked at what needed to be fixed.. I do not know what it was. Then I saw two pieces of some kind of precious stone and fixed them on whatever they needed to be fixed on and told him it would take some time to adhere permanently.
Then someone said I needed to freshen up. I looked in the mirror and saw my face all oily and flushed as it always is when I am busy doing some work. But he, whoever he was took my hands and drew me closer to him, kissed and sighed. We were so close, so close and connected – connected by some invisible wire….
But the question is,
Who was he !!
” I have sealed my lips and opened my eyes wide open. For the first time my vision is not hampered by my wishful thinking. I am nowhere near the perimeters of his heart – not a blimp on his radar! so I step back, step out of the way to let the other fill in the gap left by me. There is always someone waiting …
I am sure you have seen the leaves falling from the trees in autumn. We were like those leaves, coming closer, drifting apart, being pulled towards each other by some inner force and then separated by a gust of wind, falling to the ground, away from the other …
“Are you sure?”
” Yes I am ”