N O T E
The principles of self-destruction are painfully simple; fall in love.
Tears escape my eyes, faintly discerning what damage looks like, when a harsh tug of a hand pulls me away and the sudden movement makes me completely aware of my surroundings. I’m in a kitchen. What I’m wearing are clothes. The smell is of vanilla and exotic spices. The table has a bowl of chowmein. The man digging his fingers in my arm is Zaahid. My subconscious is taking careful, short notes in a school kid rule-follower voice. I feel, the past and the future are pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for present at all.
Zaahid has been a ticking time bomb. Always. No matter the size of irritant, its importance, his temper would hit the roof. He has a trademark move of a powerful punch straight to the jaw. No, he hasn’t and I guarantee this, will not, lay a hand on me but I have had the unfortune to witness one of his victims almost get their tongue sliced in half and I once saw a hardly dented wall but his bloodied hand. Now, his muscles are bunching and are tense as rage sweeps through him. He shakes me swiftly, powerfully—rock steady. He is furious.
“What were you thinking?” Seething, Zaahid runs his hand through his hair and glares down at me, clearly wracked with indecision. “Now, move!” he barks at me roughly getting a hold of my upper arm and pushing me in front of him, running towards the sink. I have always wondered if he is a fan of winter or did Frost just suit his fancy because there is a cold burning to his rage. His eyes look murderous and that was how he showed power and air of supremacy.
“Where are you lost?” he hisses at me through clenched teeth while running the cold tap water on my hand. I blink up at him. Oh no.
“How are you this smart?” he snarls and once more sweeps his hand through his hair. I close my eyes, a bolt of pain lancing through and reopen them whilst taking deep breaths. I notice the calendar behind Zaahid and find it to read, 30th October, 2019.
“WITH A GLOVED HAND YOU OPENED THE OVEN AND WITH THE NAKED ONE YOU HELD THE BAKING TRAY!” Zaahid explodes, his eyes blazing with fury. A frisson of fear runs through me. Pressing his lips together in a hard line, he points angrily to the oven, glaring at me. His violence is in his words. Zaahid knows everything about me, every perceived flaw, every vulnerable topic and he knows where to not put the pressure. He would never twist a finger into a bullet hole, my worst memories, the times I had felt almost abandoned. I look down on my hand and see that all the fingers of my right hand are burnt. Dark red wounds splutter across my fingers and palm and the ice cold water is doing little to ease the pain.
“They—they left me,” I mumble, finding it difficult to actually let go off the horrendous past. He blinks rapidly and stills, leaving my arm while he takes a deep breath. My eyes stay on the floor, all traces of humour gone, as they grow larger, burning into the wooden tile, wary and needful. That was all it took. The smallest reminder and in an instant if felt like my stomach had fallen thirty storey’s and crashed into the steel roof of a truck. All the love that was cruely taken from me—given to the wrong people—has not found its way back. Loss is spiteful in those ways, when I believe I’m past it, those days it will punish me the most.
“What?” he breathes and adds, I sense an arched brow.
I take a deep, shaky breath. I feel a rush of instant heat, as though I have a fever. Energy thrums through my body. I have been a hoarder—of things, of books, of music, of sitcoms, of people, of sadness, of dark, twisted psychopath tales. On cozy winter days when I lay in bed all day with good literature and the house smells of chamomile and cardamom, my eyes are full of things no one else can see. Being a hoarder is also a curse—it’s a poisoned chalice of Gryphons and Gargoyles—an end game. I never learnt when to let go so I held on even when I was bruised and wounded for things mattered to me, or didn’t matter to me but bothered me in some vicious way and losing it would mean losing a piece of myself; so how would have I got to heaven?
Then, on cold nights After Zaahid, I started figuring out my past friendships and accounted for why each one ended. Was it that I lacked some essential jigsaw piece in their puzzle called Friendship, what was it that I said, or didn’t say, was it unavoidable, can I learn from that experience? At the end of war, there are casualties on either side but sometimes it feels like only I faced the aftermath. The least I can do then is to think back and shield myself from rehashing similar errors like previously. Self reflection is the most elevated type of regard I can provide for every one of these connections that transformed me, once in a while irreversibly, into an alternate individual.
A few people made me kinder, some made me progressively insensitive, some made me more grounded than I could have ever envisioned, yet again, I am not obliged to become friends with them again. We don’t need to do things we have come to despise in the event that it does not merit the time we contribute. Sometimes, the things we’re fighting for isn’t worth the cost; and not everything we ever lose is bound to be a loss. Yes, that has to be.
Zaahid is showing me real concern and care like he honestly wants to fold the hurt carefully and tuck it in his back pocket. His eyes are screaming, ‘I got you,’ and I am about to explode around him. This is the man I have fallen for, this version of him, not the one who walked in this morning. A raw purge of emotions blocks my nose. I don’t want to cry anymore. I don’t want to feel sad anymore. I don’t want to be without my husband anymore. As hard as it is to hold onto things, it is even harder to let it go.
I’ve come to divide my love affair with Zaahid into four phases. First is the Lust with its inexorable passionate reds, the hot pinks, the black lace of fine silk, the fireworks in their eyes, and the violin’s melody in their touch, the unsettling feeling in your stomach when they smile and safety in their arms as they hold you close in sickness and in health, in good and in bad times—especially in bad times. An astounding image of Zaahid and I wrapped together on a stormy London Night drenches me in shame. The second is a leap of Faith, where Lust projects itself into a chameleonised version where the Peaches and Cream texture and hues blend together until the space me ‘I’ and ‘us’ is indistinguishable.
The third is the haphazard Inescapable Attachment that drove us to the hotel that Cold December Morning with its blue and orange skies, contrasting colours that masked the speed of separation and a longing to have confidence in rainbows of all types: a rainbow named love, a rainbow named trust, a rainbow named hope. In the end came the Wisdom and its bruise coloured purple shawl that we draped over the years as time—the bully and the healer—turned into our only reliable companion and the blueberry purple cake on anniversaries would mock the ‘us’ that became ‘I’ again. Its presence couldn’t be ignored as we addressed the distress of rearranging ourselves, our skins, our hues and our beliefs; it became a varnish that did not enable us to overlook, but rather to change.
Growing up the local T.V. channels would show me that Love is the only constant despite the wars, technology advancements and the dawn of social media. It wasn’t a one degree polynomial equation, it didn’t have a fixed dimension—it existed between family, friends, strangers, photography, celebrity crushes, foodporn, adventure sports, pets, and favourite coffee shop seats and even in homecomings. Every day was a new reminder: don’t give up on love. Like at all. Nope. They never taught how we shouldn’t rush into things because we couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. Raahat needed that part.
Before Raahat left for his training, in school, he had wickedly clever flings—a privilege earned by being a star kid. Neither could he settle for one girl nor could the girls settle for only one football player. He had a solitary passion that flickered on and off and the girls didn’t have a desire for love that could withstand the thunderstorms. Then, his last girlfriend had sat on our front door steps with me and had thought over the birthday cake she had brought him. She couldn’t confess her love. That night I couldn’t sleep for I wondered what she took from my brother—his chance to experience love, so deep and unfathomable and impossibly gentle and passionate. I’m not sure how it would have changed him but it should have taught him that when you ‘love’ someone you tell them ‘you’re worthy of being loved’ and not leave.
Raahat wanted an attentive kind of love, Zaahid requires a passionate one and I need a quiet one but regardless, we all know how to be responsible to and for each other. It’s not a vow binding duty, it’s a privilege. So, if I can’t devote myself fully to someone I wouldn’t want to drag them along. They aren’t there to fill in some void or give meaning to my life. No. They can only help me find some meaning by myself and love me as the storms pass by. I don’t want them to wait under a shade holding an umbrella but to sit with me in the rain and get sick together.
In my story, Zaahid isn’t hiding under the shade but waiting for the storm to pass WITH me; he is sitting in the rain with me and getting sick. He is here, yelling in my face, “who?” while taking my hand out from under the tap and walking over to the kitchen cabinet, pulling out a first aid kit. As he pulls open the top drawer I realise my blood is pounding through my veins. My scalp prickles and I glance up.
“They left me. Everyone leaves. No—one stays. Everyone abandons me. They…” I mumble nervously, and I know my eyes are wide and that I’m deathly pale. I gulp convulsively. It is strange that I still feel shocked, as though some crazily optimistic part of me really had believed that meeting Taybah was a really vivid bad dream. My breathing rate increases and the words pop unbidden out of my mouth, and amazingly, I manage to keep all bitterness and rancour out of my voice.
“Who does, Maira?” Zaahid snaps at me, turning on his heel to walk out of the kitchen. When I don’t follow him, he stops in his tracks and returns to drag me out. “Move!” he holds me by my arm and pulls me towards the exit but my feet feel heavy and I am stuck in my place—as if cemented to the floor. I say nothing as I try to collect my scattered thoughts.
“Tell me who does, damn it!”
“They—they…” I struggle to collect my thoughts. What am I trying to say? I need time, time to process this. Give me time. Zaahid continues to regard me passively, not moving, saying nothing. My voice has disappeared. I clear my throat with difficulty. I feel as though I am playing a role for which I wasn’t properly qualified.
“They left me.” I inhale sharply with shock. My heart squeezes and twists. Tears prick my eyes. Zaahid regards me intently and I think he’s listening. Then, his eyes widen fractionally as I stare up at him, but beyond that his expressions and stance don’t change.
He and I have a cluster of emotions attached to certain specific memories and when we share a moment of déjà vu, the cluster is triggered, most times without warning and with a force that vows to uproot us. The pain and the words are flowing down my cheeks as we stare at each other—both almost looking though the windows of the soul at another time. Crying reminds me of the rains that evoke in me a certain serene sadness which has got nothing to do with a broken past. I’ve always hated the rains, probably because I’m a rain child myself, born bang in the middle of heavy showers. The first time Zaahid tended to my wounds gnaws at me anew. I close my eyes, my face transforms into a ridiculous sad smile. What have we done to each other?
It was the morning following our collated entry in London. I was supposed to meet Stephan but due to some unknown reasons he had been held up and my meeting was postponed to next week and Zaahid had left for his photo shoot with his other band mates while I had unpacked. In the shower I had tried to wash my shame away from the night before—spooning with Zaahid. My subconscious had peppered me in guilt, ‘those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ and I couldn’t bear that for Zaahid was engaged to Penelope. My inner goddess’ lips had twitched in a repressed smile.
Then, a message had pinged me—it was Craig. Since the night at USO no ‘friends’ had reached out and I had swallowed the fact that nobody could protect me from my suffering. I couldn’t cry it away, run it away, eat it away or starve it away. I had to live through it and move on but my world had shaken so hard that it was difficult to imagine that everyone else wasn’t feeling it too. He had finally reached out and had planned for a lunch get-together and I had readily agreed because surely ‘going out for lunch’ didn’t fall under the category of the warning Zaahid gave me: “Don’t do anything stupid,” or so I thought. Dressed in a red blazer and dark blue jeans I had sat at the table with my squad.
Voices had babbled happily like a mountain river. Appreciation for each other had rolled off tongues. Our banter was crude and we insulted each other often, but that was the way it was with us, no insults meant you really weren’t part of the crew and you had to have a nick name and surely it wouldn’t reflect your good qualities. We had bounced remarks between ourselves like a kid’s rubber ball. Then, we had heard voices behind us.
“Oh, look, that’s Maira!” “Maira Ahluwalia? Is she that brunette girl, who Taybah Noori has taken in?”
“Yes, she won Ultimate Sing Off!” “Dude, please stop drooling over her! She wouldn’t be here without security. You’re clearly smitten.” A voice had said behind me, emphasising ‘dude’ a bit more than necessary.
“Let’s ask her for a picture, what say?”
“Or we can go for an autograph maybe? Maybe she can even say ‘hi’ to my friends back home in California!”
A small group of people had crowded the windows outside the restaurant. Cameras had been tucked out from under the coats, papers and pens were being fished out of purses and pockets and I had requested to leave. Immediately. My hand was on the door when a little girl had run into my legs, holding out a postcard of my face. Politely, I had signed and the minute I stepped out a throng of people had surrounded me. My friends were nowhere near sight and I had been stuck. Pictures and autographs were being demanded of me; the crowd was getting loud and violent; and people were pulling and pushing not only each other but me as well.
Initially, I had kept my calm until the adrenaline in my body had started activating the sympathetic nervous system, making my heart beat faster, diverting the blood to my muscles and away from my gut. I had tried to steady myself, to comprehend what was actually going around me. I had been the eye of a storm of foreign faces and hands. I had been roughly pushed around, scratched and pulled if I didn’t listen. I had pleaded to the crowd when I felt a scratch on my back, tearing my tank top which was under the blazer. The pain had rushed through my body like igniting fire. My eyes had squeezed closed as my face contorted. Sweat had trickled down my face and my breathing was harsh. All I knew at that point of time was: I. Needed. Help.
Then, out of the blue, a trail of security men dressed in all black had moved towards me and behind them was Zaahid dressed like those walking-talking-Calvin-Klein-models. The security men had manoeuvred the crowd and as soon as I had met Zaahid’s gaze, I had mouthed, “Help me,” but somehow Zaahid had been enjoying that moment. He had been signing pictures and autographs, taking his own sweet time and diverting the attention on him. Paparazzi had surrounded him and the annoying noise of the clicking of the cameras had flashed at him. The seething mass of humanity dressed in smart-casuals had jostled and shouted. Mixed voices of people had boomed over at us, strident timbres of the voices, cacophony of applause and cheering, whooping, hollering, clapping, stamping of feet, palpable excitement had buzzed through the charged air.
There had been a spontaneous outpouring of emotions which soon ended when two of his bodyguards devised my escape route. “Ma’am, please walk behind me and infront of him as we take you to the car that will drop you at Mr. Noori’s place.” One of them had commanded, his breathing ragged and harsh while mine was almost nonexistent as I had desperately scrambled around my psyche looking for some internal strength when another hand had scratched my arm, cutting into my skin. “Hey, watch it!” The guard had shouted loud enough for me to hear at someone as we literally sprinted to the car and drove off.
Despite the traffic and the light rain, Zaahid had arrived at his place before me. He had opened the door and his eyes had flashed indignantly, much like lightning on a pitch black night. “Thank you Darren,” he had appreciatively looked over my shoulder and with that the guard had left. His warm eyes had turned steely grey and I couldn’t recognize him anymore, the man I had come to know was gone, and it was all because of me. His eyes were like a knife in my ribs, the sharp point digging deeper and that unmoving gaze had to be accompanied by deliberate slow breathing—to add emphasis—like he was genuinely fighting something back and constantly losing.
He had then pushed me inside the house so harshly that my head had hit the wall. Recovering the impact I had stood there seeing the smoldering underneath his stony expression. His rage had seemed pointless to me, although I never said so. Unforeseen he had lunged at my arm, making me squeal and my heart had clenched, inside out. Taking me by my arm he had pushed roughly against the wall like a rag doll as he slammed the door shut. I had taken a step forward to talk but that wasn’t what Zaahid had planned so I was again pushed against the wall. He had hissed, “What part of ‘don’t do anything stupid’ did you not understand?” Tears had sprinkled unwelcomed into my eyes; no one till date had ever talked to me in that tone.
“How could you be so stupid and go out without security? If I wasn’t there, across the street, shooting, and if the ruckus you had so well created had not disturbed our photographer you would have been strangled by that crowd!” he had screamed at me. I had scowled at him. His wide open eyes reflected everything and saw nothing; behind them was something more intense than normal thought and his clenched two-day-stubble jaw wasn’t a good sign. I had been hoping for perhaps not out-right forgiveness, but the beginnings of a tentative reconciliation, but then, I had simply hoped to get out of his grip without giving Zaahid a reason to hate me all the more.
His hands had gripped my wrists—right where I was scratched—and I had squirmed under his grip. My watery eyes had enlarged and the hairs on the nape of my neck had bristled. A gaggle of goose bumps had laminated my skin. He had tightened his hold, when I had presumably struggled against him. He had licked his lower lip, trying for nonchalance. I had begged him to loosen his grip but he didn’t and continued to carry on berating my actions and degrading my sensibility. “I thought you were clever. A postgraduate student and all that shit…really? Don’t they inculcate common sense in this small brain of yours?” he had poked my forehead with his instasey finger.
“Zaahid!” I had glowered at him and he had glowered back, two angry stubborn fools glaring at each other. At that point, I think, he didn’t know I was wounded.
“Don’t you ‘Zaahid’ me anymore!” he had snapped. He was boiling mad, and I was shit scared.
“Zaahid, I’m—” I had tried to apologize. Keyword: tried. I was not sorry, yes, maybe I didn’t know how stardom worked back then but I wouldn’t apologise for that. Not at all. Nope.
Without warning, we had gone back and forth like that. Glowering, screaming, shouting, and rarely letting the tears down my face mask our rage towards each other. I had looked at him through wide, red, rimmed eyes, my mouth slightly parted and a glisten of snot above my lips. He had continued to snort and tighten his hold whenever I would try to push him off me.
Finally, tired of the fight I had put up, he had twisted my arm behind my back and then there was no escaping. “There was a stampede there, for your information and you had NO security. Do you even realise what could have happened? You could have been wounded for starters and strangled to death if I hadn’t reached you and—” he had ranted out until his gaze fell over my blazer first and then following the line of scratch marks, to my arms. Almost immediately he had loosened his grip, all breathless and compassionate.
“What the freak! How did this happen?” I had sauntered away from him, turning stiffly to go to my room, but could Mr-Egoistic ever let that happen, especially when he had asked me a question and I had decided to ignore it? No. Thus, I was again gripped by my arm and an “I just asked you a question,” was screamed in my face.
“The crowd got out of hand,” I had stated in a ‘duh’ voice and the next thing I knew was Zaahid was dragging me to the empty kitchen as Mrs. Khan had taken a day off in regards to the storm the night before. I resisted him with all that was left of my strength. I had removed my jacket and sat on the counter top, while Zaahid stood before me, dabbing the cotton balls in alcohol, preparing to bandage me.
“Don’t you dare try to fight me now, Maira,” Zaahid had said when I had tried push his body off from blocking my escape and the tone of his voice had warned me, so I complied. Once he was done I had prepared to jump down but Zaahid had other plans and he held me by my waist making me jump. With a jolt I had straightened myself up, cussing loudly as pain lanced through me. Zaahid had eyed me questionably then and saw the scratches of my stomach through my then almost ripped tank top. “Go, change,” he had muttered and I had limped off to my room.
It had taken me almost an hour to change into fresh clothes, to tend to bruises on my stomach and to fight against the normal laws of anatomy which set up the restrictions to certain bodily movements in order to reach and see the wounds on my back. Huffing loudly, I had given up on the latter part and entered my bedroom. Zaahid’s “Are you okay?” had startled me but he had sat comfortably on the diwan. I had nodded in a reply. “Sure?” he had quizzed, cocking his head, raising a brow. Subsequently, he got to his feet and I had noticed the first aid kit in his hand and realised he was referring to the scratches on my back.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I had shrugged. The back of my head had begun to ache. Zaahid had been impatient with me.
“The ones on your back—” Zaahid had inched forward, the scissors and the glass infectant bottle rattling inside the box.
“Good, yes,” I had said flatly.
“Impressive,” he had smirked, shrugging casually. I had narrowed my eyes at him. His voice had a ‘oh-well-you-tried-to-lie-but-you’re-a-bad-liar’ tone and it irked me. How dare him! I had braved myself for a war. What is his problem?
“Thanks.” I had said it with finality, expecting him to leave. I was pissed, like really pissed.
“I don’t know what makes you stupid, but it really works, how can you not tend to your wounds?” He had pretended as if I had said nothing. I had been burning with equal parts pain and rage.
“I’m fine,” my voice had sounded brittle and bitter. WHAT IS HE NOW, MY FATHER? My subconscious was roaring and I didn’t even try to pet her down.
“Maira, I’ll help—”
“No, Zaahid, I’ll manage.”
“Zaahid—” Unanticipated, I was thrown on the bed my hands pressed under my body and my legs hanging by the edge of the bed. Then, Zaahid had bandaged me.
“I’ll go make some soup for you, rest until then,” he had left and had soon returned with a bowl of soul. I had apologised then, somewhere I had been at fault that day.
Today, as I stand in the kitchen with a burnt hand, that same Zaahid is yelling into my face, “Who does, Maira?” I can smell that twenty three year old Zaahid today, the smoke of his cigar, the scent of his favourite leather jacket intertwined with his Versace Man Eau Fraiche cologne and the hint of alcohol beneath his warm breath surrounding me in billowing clouds of nostalgia...and I almost miss his stern demeanour. Oh, why, why, why Zaahid?
I know winter is yet to drape over our—teetering between now and then—thoughts keeping us from keeping our chins up, but the sky is gray none the less and the winds are steering my optimism, and I’m missing the golden moments I forgot to stop and breathe for. I am vulnerable to these temperatures, with my breath so blatantly visible and my heart nude and shivering. I am tired and emotional. Now, let me be. Zaahid grabs my hand, wanting to promptly lead me out of the kitchen, but I don’t move. He gazes up at me, his expressions grave. “Move,” he frowns, releasing me so that he can gesticulate with his free hand that didn’t hold the first aid kit.
“Ma, papa...” I start to utter. He blinks at me, surprised at my confession. I taste blood in my mouth from biting my tongue so hard to keep from screaming. I can see the future stretched out before me and how it—the future—is just a looming empty space. I am shattering before the one man I had sworn to never let it happen. It angers me that I’m breaking, that I got striped off of the sticky adhesive essential to piece my soul together; that my heart is scantily paper clipped together and it beats without purpose, without reason. My mind is the Ancient Mariner, lost at sea and an albatross around its neck aching and desperate for just one reason to live.
“Maira? No-no-no. Let it go. It’s been six years,” he stops and runs his hand through his hair, searching for the correct words. Then he holds me by my face; his eyes widen and for a second he hesitates, perhaps to consider his words. His eyes show the kind of gentle concern papa used to have. He places his hand on my shoulder, and instead of flinching like I usually did, I am soothed by it.
“Come here...” he takes me by my wrist, careful to not touch the burnt parts, and drags me to the living room couch. He is silent for a few minutes, so am I, except for sound of the periodic dry gasps of air I took in. He fumbles with the kit, failing to open the box in his hazed state. When he finds a bit of composure, he dabs the cotton in an ointment and looks up at me. His eyes are glossy.
“Maira, mum’s not here, but—guess what—I am and I will always stay with you,” he softly coos to me, applying the ointment. I scour his face for a sign that he’s joking but no—he really does believe that and it makes me cry harder. My problem is not really ‘letting it go’ but to come to terms with the possible future that will never be now like, how my convocation never happened in front of my parents, how I did not get to see Raahat move onto higher ranks, how my father did not walk me down the aisle or give my hand away, how my mother did not get to see me rise and shine. This is the mêlée. I still have a sickly optimistic part that hopes for their presence in my future happiness and this is wrong, injurious, hazardous and even a disease.
I have intertwined my happiness with others’ and that is so dangerously brave, so inherently idiotic and so incomprehensibly and undeniably human. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” I wince in pain, breaking my line of thoughts and pulling my hand away from Zaahid but he’s quick to snatch it back and continues to apply ointment on it while blowing onto it gently.
“Don’t try to act smart with me, Maira.”
“Leave me, Cream!” The words are sudden, without thinking, without blinking they are out of my mouth, as if they are on an accord of their own. An uncomfortable silence passes between us and it seemed as if I had won the war of, ‘I love you more.’ Maybe love isn’t what we have been taught by T.V. or the media, maybe it’s not the romance or attraction but a friend who understand you and who will be there for you even at your worst blowing gently at your burnt hand. Yes, that makes sense. Yes, Zaahid and I shared love, no scratch that, we share love.
He found me or came into my life at a point where someone else’s love or lack of had stripped off my confidence, my warmth and my soft edges until there was nothing but regret and scars that will take a lifetime to heal. They made me believe that love is pain and it makes you wither. Then there was Harry who made me smile and laugh until it sounded genuine and real. He was my bliss in a teacup. Everyday by his side felt worthy to be lived, experienced and he started being there for me when I couldn’t be there for myself.
But Zaahid blew along his willpower into my life and started rubbing off me. He stayed when everything kept us apart. He loved me fiercely and made me laugh and cry with joy and his presence felt like a lucky charm. The sun felt warmer with him, the spring felt happier and life for once felt kinder. Love started painting itself in rainbow colours and not bleak blacks. I started loving him wholeheartedly when he didn’t but that didn’t stop me from breezing through fantasies imagining his hand in mine and a happy future together with the best versions of Maira and Zaahid.
That terrifies me the most now, that one day ‘Zaahid’ will be a hidden chapter in my life which I’ll have to tell my daughter when she’d be curled up and enveloped by heartbreak on a cold bed, when she would’ve been starving because the ugly voicemails and texts he left her would slash her appetite, when she’d not sleep for days because the way he left would break her bones and her heart—and nothing breaks like a heart—every single time she’d close her eyes. And I would have to climb into bed with her and drape her in my warmth and I would comb him out of her hair, and peel him off her skin and when her tears would soak my kurta I would have to tell her about the boy I met when I was twenty, who sat next to me when his family drove me home after the Ultimate Sing Off night, who I fell in love with after three years of marriage, who saved me and who destroyed me and I would have to tell her about how it hurt.
If losing him was hard and painful, loving him almost killed me. It hurt so badly that I had hibernated in my bedroom. It hurt so bad that my housekeeper wouldn’t go to her house to make sure I didn’t take too many pills. And I would have to tell her about how it got better, how it stopped hurting, how I stopped bleeding, how the goodbye didn’t matter but the void his absence left and how it healed, how my housekeeper went back to her place, how I got out of bed. But, I wouldn’t tell her that sometimes I still have dreams about Zaahid and can hardly breathe the next day or about the pictures of him I have hidden in the attic.
I close my eyes and wince. My awful, endless screams and cries from years ago ring in my ears. I feel the strange lurch that I sometimes experienced where I’d get so distracted by missing someone, their familiar smell, or picking up a clean shirt of theirs from the basket of laundry or reading just the right sentence in a book and then something (often Zaahid) would make me remember just in time the appropriate way for a pleasant grown up to behave. “It will get better, it always gets better.” Zaahid again places his hand on my shoulder and speaks with such a soft voice that I feel his words calming me more by the way he is saying than the actual words.
I can’t equate this Zaahid with the one that walked in today. This Zaahid has enfolded me in a warm blanket of care. I feel like a crime scene bag, full of severed emotions. One part of me is debating on the hot topic that what Zaahid is doing, is it out of concern or due to his sympathy for me. I don’t want his pity. And the other is hoping to matter enough to him, to have him experience and acknowledge my absence and at least waste one 11:11 wish on me when I have used all of mine on him. I don’t wish to change him nor do I question his capacity to care. He has hated driving on highways and yet has driven for hours to pick me from airports, he has the worst memory for birthdays and little things but he remembers all of mine like the jasmines!
The embers in his eyes burn with sincerity and lights me in its afterglow that warms my heart. His magnetic field is a little too strong and pulls me closer to him. I gaze at him, stunned while my inner goddess smiles. My Zaahid is here. I’ve not lost him. The restless chaotic feeling is back. “Gorgeous, let these tears flow,” he looks up at me, eyes lacing concern. “Your sensitivity is your strength. It makes you, YOU,” his voice is placating as if he’s talking to a child. My inner goddess reads out from the internet, ‘a person who truly loves you will never give up on you no matter the situation.’ No. He doesn’t love you anymore. My subconscious is quick to jump up to a conclusion. But he’s still trying to make me feel okay, I defend. Because he’s compassionate, Maira! He would have done the same thing for even a stranger on the streets. My subconscious is growling at me.
I look up at his face as I try to comprehend his emotions and understand my own. “Your emotions are so pure, so celestial that I want to gather them all and keep them—keep you—safe, always.” He insists but it sounds all wrong—bossy and scolding and pleading all at the same time. “While it’s human to cry, you also need to let the joy in whenever you can. There is love here too,” he consoles me, rubbing my shoulders and pulling me towards him after applying the ointment and wrapping my hand in bandages. “So much love,” he presses his hands. I meet his honey sweet and sea battered rocky eyes and a part of me hates him for using ‘love’ like that, like an ‘apology.’ Two: Don’t let him in. You’ll have to kick him out again.
I watch the tiny muscles around his jaw flicker and his eyes narrow, the way they did when he heard a story on the news about a child being hurt. “Maira let it go. Today let it go. I got you.” Three, small, insignificant words said out loud and the charm does the trick for me. I launch myself at him with such force that he has to drop the kit and hold me. I put my arms around him and weep into his neck.
He wraps his arms around me cautiously like he’s still unsure, and after a minute, like a decision made; he pulls me closer, gently rubbing my back. My King of Hearts makes the butterflies flutter in my stomach despite the heaviness. His broad shoulders feel the safest place and I sink into his warmth and smell the freshly laundered clothes. His miniscule gesture has made my day, year, and life even. My inner goddess does another one of those famous cartwheel routine. He makes the room a bit brighter, his touch is warm and with him my future seems a little less bleak.
I don’t want to fall for you because I know how it will end, but I can’t help my heart from screaming your name.
“Crashing, hit a wall, right now I need a miracle, hurry up now, I need a miracle. Stranded, reaching out, I call your name but you’re not around. I need you, I need you, I need you right now, so don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down.” Song: don’t let me down by the chainsmokers ft. Daya.
Please drop me a comment or a vote if you think this deserves it and give me a chance to improve. All the love as always, Mahak xx