When The Air Strikes

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The Mall


There’s an unmatched energy in the mall. While Luke and Ashraf lurk around I sit near the ice rink. Every once in a while a little disco ball twirls somewhere below the roof spreading colours on the serene white. It’s soothing. A little girl is skating really fast and I am scared she will fall but I don’t do anything about it. That’s when I notice she’s holding on to something- a person. I relocate to a bench nearer to the rink and I can see it now- she has her little palms wrapped around a plastic penguin. I wish every falling person that I can’t manage to help holds onto plastic penguins. I really do. A big man is gliding all over the rink, like a swan in motion. I want to pat him on the back for breaking all the stereotypes but all I do is sit glued to my chair. A woman walks over to him when he stops and shakes his hand. I wish every great person that I fail to compliment meets a nice woman who can shake their hand. Two teenagers who think they’re too smart for anybody and everybody are about to spill coffee over the ice. I want to shout at them but I don’t. Besides, it’s a really big rink with about a seventy people skating but from a distance I can see the security guard about to walk to them and smack their heads when somebody blocks his way- it’s the nice woman exiting with her daughter- the little girl. The big man now is talking to the two teenagers telling them to call off their plan. He then nods his head and smiles at the guard.

Drowning in the realization that all lives are connected and that actions are forms of energy- that can neither be created or destroyed rather change forms, I hear Ashraf, “Want to skate for a while?” No, I nod my head negative. Luke says there’s a beautiful waterfall and a huge bookshop that I’ll love but I cut him out. I think it’s impossible to appreciate anything physical when you’re not very apparently dying within. “We’ll be meeting the rest of the team in a while, Insha’Allah. You can get to know everyone a little over coffee,” Ashraf says. We walk to the water fountain outside. On the way, Luke whispers a lot. I cannot care less. Though I do eye the waterfall- it’s huge and tall and artificial. I keep my sight focused on my shoes, but I am very positive I see a large aquarium on the way. Deep inside I hope everything was alright so I could normally drool over stuff.

Very quick for me to notice we reach an atrium. I feel like standing in the middle of the crowd for some time while the sun washes over me and I remain cool all the same. We are now outside. At first all I notice is the water fountain currently not working. But I feel like there’s something more important hovering around. “Well, that’s huge,” Luke gasps. It’s Burj Khalifa, very literally, a piece of it is the sky. Ashraf gives us time to take it all in before leading us to the café by the magnificent tower. Suddenly my heart is beating really fast, I can feel tiny pulses all over my body. I am about to meet nine entirely new people and not meet them in a hardhearted way where I can let them become a part of my unconscious that deals with the past, but get to know them for real. These are people that are going to unknowingly be by my side as I go through the toughest phase in my life.

We got into the balcony that the café was. Eight people simultaneously waved madly at us. Ashraf greeted each one of them individually before sitting on one extreme end, like the head of the family. Luke and I smiled at them seating ourselves on the other end. Very evidently the lively group we were a part of was the center of attention. All heads turned, some grinning, some in disgust at the chaos that the table was. We were introduced to all the others by Ashraf as- the people who were going to make the NGO famous. I felt so ashamed, I couldn’t even talk.

When Satan passed the apple to


he wanted to refuse,

but his weak vocabulary failed him.

And so, every time we say,

things we don’t want to say,

the Adam’s apple pains,

for the regret of having not learnt

enough words

grows in the vocal cords.

Beginning from one end, the other half of the introduction began. On my left was a plum red man with a tiny moustache helplessly fake looking, hanging just below his little nose. When he got to get his share of red velvet cake from the counter he walked funny- little steps, huge swinging arms. This was the chef- Zian. He talked like he had gummy bear stuck all over his teeth. Beside him sat the two doctors, both of them were engaged and planned on getting married right after the Aleppo project- Samantha and Ryan. They studied medicine together at some university in Ireland. They looked very much in love and young, that’s all. At that moment I couldn’t tell much about them, like I can’t tell what time is it when I wake up after a long nap, because my mind is clogged by sudden developments in the surroundings. There was an empty seat beside Ryan and an empty cup in front of it. Ashraf sat next, his hand around one of the volunteer’s neck. The guy sat, a little scared almost as if he was intimidated by Ashraf. His name was Marcus. Marcus sat with his hands hanging between his thighs, eyes fixed on the ground. The other volunteer, as if to balance the forces of nature laughed loud and cracked jokes every other second. This was a jumpy twenty something- Harper. She constantly stood with her hands on her waist and her chin upright. She very determinedly looked into people’s eye while talking and checked to see if everybody was laughing at her being funny. All the three nurses sat together. One of them was a man very well into his forties. His locks turned white at the tip. If not for his sturdy body, he looked poor. I don’t remember his real name but everybody called him Pa, which was funny because Zian is way older than him. The other person who is older than him is the second nurse- Anita. Anita always wears saris. I’ve seen Nikitha wrapping the long Indian garment around her body often at parties. She looks like a goddess. Anita doesn’t seem to be all that grand, but that’s probably because she is too old. The last person is Aisha. She has a scarf tied tightly around her head, but you can still see her beautiful pink cheeks. Her sons are sitting few seats ahead of us waiting for the meeting to end. One of them is almost my age, and the other is around twelve years old.

Nobody sitting here is appropriate enough to be sent across to a war torn city. They’re all either too old or too young or too cheeky or too weak or too sensitive or too lively. They are all a little too less or too much. What are the people of Syria to have deserved it? What were they too much of- loud, silent, strong, little, big, happy, grim? Or were they just too appropriate?

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