One Hundred and Thirty Eight

A peek into the past – Rameez:

My parched throat begs to be hydrated.

Slowly, I sit up, moving out of my father’s embrace.

The world seems to spin for a couple of seconds and I have to close my eyes to rid the dancing stars from my vision.

I rub my eyes, feeling a little better, but also much worse.

My head is pounding, my limbs feel like lead, and paresthesia pricks under my feet.

“Rameez.”

I turn my head at the sound of my mother’s voice.

Dark circles surround her teary eyes. She looks tired; so very tired..

“Are you okay?” she asks.

I nod wordlessly, slowly getting up to embrace her.

A sob escapes her as we cling to each other, whispered apologies for actions we aren’t to blame falling through our lips simultaneously.

But “I’m sorry’s” don’t remove guilt.

“I’m sorry’s” don’t answer unanswered questions.

“I’m sorry’s” don’t fill empty spaces.

And so, we sit down on the fluffy rug in the psychologist’s consulting room and begin to talk.

The woman, taking a couple of things from her desk, leaves the room with a smile, telling us to take our time as she has no one scheduled for the next hour.

The door clicks shut and then it’s just the three of us.

Dad speaks first, taking our hands in either of his.

“It’s been a rough couple weeks, hasn’t it?” he begins, sighing. “And to recover from a rough time, you need support. We haven’t been supporting each other because we’re too lost in our own pain, grief, and suffering. I don’t think it should be like this, do you’ll?”

Mum and I shake our heads.

“So let’s go through it all together, shall we?”

“Dad, please,” I say, tiredly. “Do we have to?”

“How else am I going to get my son back?” he asks quietly.

I avoid his gaze, a pang of guilt twisting inside me.

“I’m sorry..” I mumble.

“It’s difficult for all of us, son,” says dad, gently squeezing my hand.

Dad speaks first.. explaining to us that he left work, at 6 pm as usual, with an almost-empty petrol tank.

“I would have made it home, but I decided to just fill up. There was mild chaos at the filling station though, because a man had just been pickpocketed. And as I sat and waited for someone to fill up my tank, it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to withdraw the money I had intended to, for my charity event the next day. But that inkling of fear that settled into my heart made me feel slightly cowardly. So, I headed for the bank after all.

The sun was just going down as I parked, and looking for excuses now, I reminded myself that I might miss Maghrib jamaat, that you’ll will worry if I only come home after salaah, that I could always just withdraw the money the next morning..

Eventually I left the bank without withdrawing any money. It must have been around half past six, twenty to seven, now. I was driving slowly, still conflicted as to what I should be doing. Something was off; I could feel it..

It was dead outside; quiet, still, not a soul in sight even though it wasn’t fully dark yet. And when the upcoming robot turned red, my heart told me to skip it. But I had already stopped. My window had already been smashed. I already had a blade against my flesh.”

Dad pauses, taking a deep, shaky breath before continuing.

“They asked me for the money they thought I would have. I played it dumb for a while, but I quickly came to realize that these guys weren’t your ordinary pickpockets. They knew what they were doing. I told them the truth – I hadn’t withdrawn the money. But obviously, they didn’t believe me. I begged, pleaded, gave them what I had, but they didn’t want to hear. Things happened lightning-fast after that.. A strong smelling cloth was thrown over my face, and then I blacked out.”

“How many of them, dad?” I ask.

“Two,” he replies. “Scar and Fang.”

I nod, indicating for him to continue.

“Do you know why their names are what they are?” asks dad.

“No,” I answer. “It makes no sense to me.”

“If you think carefully, you’ll understand,” says dad. “It would appear obvious for scarred face’s name to be Scar, for serpent tattoo’s name to be Venom, and for 4 shade’s to be Fang, because it sounds playful, wouldn’t it?”

Scarred Face. Serpent Tattoo. 4 shades.

I almost laugh out loud!

Is that how dad labelled them?!

“Yeah, that’s what I would have assumed if I didn’t know,” I admit.

“And that is exactly why it’s not like that!” says dad. “It’s too obvious. They have to be unpredictable.”

I nod slowly, realization dawning.

“Makes sense,” I mumble.

Dad continues..

“I don’t quite know how long I was out for, but when I regained my senses, I distinctly remember feeling terribly cold. The room was dimly lit. Not a sound could be heard. It took me a couple minutes to slowly sit up, take in my surroundings, and notice the two men who had attacked me earlier… now joined with a third; the main man -Venom.”

I shudder involuntarily, remembering the first time I laid eyes on Venom’s scar-covered face as his malevolent green eyes bore into mine.

“What was happening at home?” asks dad.

I look at mum.. she looks at me.

Indicating for her to speak, I drop my head, trying to keep my emotions under control.

“Initially I thought that maybe something came up at work. But you didn’t message to say so, which I found strange, and two hours later, when you still hadn’t come home, you hadn’t received my messages, you hadn’t answered my calls, I started panicking..”

I messaged Susan.. she said that she had left early and hadn’t heard from you since. She called me sometime later to confirm if your charity event was that weekend.. That’s when we formed a theory. And it was only a short while later that Susan received the message. Rameez was at Ziyaad’s place. I called him immediately, afraid that whoever these people were, might have him too. He was fine though, Alhamdullilah.”

“I went home, totally unaware of what was going on,” I say quietly, speaking up. “Mummy was so distraught that she couldn’t even tell me what was happening. I read the messages, slowly putting two and two together. I was still unsure though, as to what exactly happened.. so, I called the number in the message.”

“At that time I obviously didn’t know, but Venom answered. Dad.. his voice..” I say, a shiver running down my spine. “I had never heard a voice so cold and… and empty, before. He knew my name. He was expecting me to call and I had no idea why. I was so confused.. My mind was a swirling with possibilities, and after rereading the messages a million times.. it just clicked, I guess. They sent the message, didn’t they?”

Dad nods.

“You’ll weren’t supposed to get involved. Had I had the cash with me, they would have simply taken that and left me alone. But I didn’t. And they needed that cash. Why, I don’t know.”

“They needed it to give in exchange for drugs,” I say.

I hear a sharp intake of breath.

“Drugs?!” asks mum, her voice a hoarse whisper, her face wearing an expression of horror.

I nod, avoiding her gaze…

A newfound regret has made its way into my heart.

All the terrible things I’d done have been pricking at my conscience, and seeing the way my mother reacted, wondering what would go through her heart and mind if she knew the things I did, the words I spoke, the drugs I’d swallowed, only causes the turmoil within me to increase.

“How do you know, Rameez?” Dad asks quietly, his forehead creased into a frown.

A dreadful silence fills the room.

The clock ticks away loudly as I try to calm the anger rising within me.

Anger at myself for the mistakes I’ve made..

“Rameez!” exclaims dad, trying to tug his hand out of mine.

I don’t realize how tightly I’m gripping dad’s hand until then.

“Shit, sorry,” I breathe in horror, letting go and looking at my own hands in disbelief.

“Rameez!” gasps mum, astounded at my language.

I stand up hastily, my heart pounding against my chest, terrified that I’m involuntarily hurting her too.

My back collides with the wall as I stumble over my feet, trying to put as much distance between us. Shaking uncontrollably, I slide to the ground.

Worry etched in his face, dad stands up and walks towards me.

“NO!!” I yell, panic filling my entire being.

The room suddenly feels too small..

I need to get out!

All my senses have skyrocketed..

Oh god.. I can’t.. breathe..

Tears blurring my vision, I make a dash for the door, yanking it open as the invisible hand around my throat tightens it grip..

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One Hundred and Thirty Seven

As narrated by Dee:

“What’s stopping you?”

I bite my nutella-covered toast, contemplating Amz’s question.

“Besides the guilt,” adds Amz, pouring milk into her tea.

I chew, swallow, and then bite into my toast again.

“Well..” I finally say. “I don’t really know.”

Amz stirs her tea, patiently waiting for me to continue.

“It’s just that… I don’t think I can face her… after everything…” I say slowly, trailing off.

“But..” I continue. “Recently.. I feel like I should go to see her.. you know, clear everything up.. Especially now that.. now that Paapa’s gone…”

“Maybe things will be different..” I admit quietly, studying the crumbs on my plate.

A moment of silence settles between us.

“I say just go, Dee. You won’t regret it. You’re just looking at the whole situation with a negative eye. Trust me, your mother is probably dying to see you,” says Amz.

I frown, slightly irritated at her overly-enthusiastic encouragement.

Deep down, a familiar ache throbs on, craving to feel a confirmation of Amz’s words.

Wrapping my fingers around my mug, I let my mind wander to a place of bittersweet memories.

No matter how hard I try to forget, no matter how many times I push them away, they always resurface.

They always do and I know that they always will, for the mind has a strange way of remembering what we most want it to forget..

I close my eyes for a moment, recalling her scent, her touch, her smile. Maama.

“Dee.”

Sighing, I open my eyes.

“Don’t dwell. It’s going to trigger your nightmares,” advises Amz.

I drink up my coffee, aware that Amz is right.

Pushing back my stool, I get up, drop my dishes in the sink and head upstairs.

After a quick shower, I dress, pick my phone off my pedestal and head outside into the backyard.

Laying down under the big tree, I call Zee.

“‘Ello,” he greets cheerily.

“What’s up?” I ask, smiling.

“Zilch. Might do some baking later. I mean, what better way to spend the last day of the holidays?!”

“All you did this holiday was bake. You’re going to turn into a big, round hot-cross bun!”

“Well at least I had a more productive holiday than you! And besides, you ate half my baking so guess you’ll be turning into a big, round hot-cross bun too!” he laughs.

“Heyy that rhymed!” he adds a second later. “I’m a poet.”

“Poets rhyme intentionally,” I point out.

“Yeah, so what did I just do?!”

“You rhymed and then realized, like, 1 month later,” I say, exaggeratedly.

Zee laughs, and I can’t help but grin.

“Anyway,” I say after a moment. “I need some advice..”

“Hang on a sec..”

I hear shuffling and then it’s quiet again. I have his full attention now.

“Alright, advice on?” asks Zee.

I relate to him my discussion with Amz this morning, telling him how she’s been encouraging me to at least go and see my mother for the past couple weeks, but I’d just avoid the topic, until recently.. where I now find myself actually considering it, yet still remaining uncertain.

He listens attentively, letting me finish before he speaks.

“Dee, I’m sure it’s a difficult choice, but you have to understand, that until you don’t take this step, you won’t be able to move forward. You have to mend this bridge, cross it, and then burn it completely. There is so much more to life than what you think there is. And you don’t know this because you’re too scared to feel too strongly. There is so much happiness and opportunities out there for you to achieve, but you have to want to do it, you have to strive for it. It’s not going to just come. Happiness is a choice, Dee. You have to move past all the negative emotions to get to the positive ones. And obviously it won’t be there eternally. Everyone has their bad days. But you can choose to have more good days than bad days. You can choose to be more happy than sad. You can choose to let go of the past and be free rather than carrying anger, hatred and guilt with you. What use is it, anyway? You’re just harming yourself. You need to start allowing yourself to feel. And once you get that right, you have to hold the reigns and keep those feelings under control. I agree with Amz. Go for it. Take it one step at a time but start walking. It’s time you face the music and let go of the past, because honestly Dee, it’s holding you back from so much.”

He pauses, waiting to hear if I have anything to say, but I don’t say anything.

I wanted him to tell me that it’s okay if I don’t feel like visiting my mum; even though I know it’s not, but he didn’t. He hasn’t said what I want to hear, he’s said what I need to hear. And I know that he’s right; Amz often tells me the same things, but I don’t want him to be right.

“I know it’s easy for me to speak, because I’m not experiencing what you are, but set your mind to it and just take the plunge. Don’t think about it too deeply, because then you’re going to find more void reasons not to go.”

His words are gentle and encouraging, and I don’t quite know what to say..

“Don’t give up on yourself. You’ve got this. Kick those negative thoughts in the butt and just do it!” he says.

I find myself grinning involuntarily; his sincere enthusiasm contagious.

We talk for a little longer before Zee needs to go.

Confirming that we’ll meet at school tomorrow, we greet and hang up.

I look up at the clear blue sky, appreciating the gentle breeze that blows as the scorching sun shines down.

I ponder over my conversation with Zee, the sound of moving cars and singing birds sounding distant as my thoughts deepen.

Some time later, Amz joins me outside.

“So, when are you going?” she asks, casually.

I glance at her, delaying my answer for extra effect.

“Who said I’m going?”

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Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

GUESS WHO’S BACK! 🙋😀

Hope all my wonderful readers are well. 💜

Soo, do you guys think Dee is going to go see her family or not? Do you think she should or rather not??

Eagerly awaiting your feedback. 😉

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤

(P.S. Lowkey missed you guys. 😊🙈😘)

One Hundred and Thirty Six

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

Due to no wifi and other circumstances, I will not be able to post during the holidays. Hope you all understand. Next post will be up on the 19th of April InshAllah. Remember me in your duaas (prayers) and I hope you all have an awesome holiday! Until then.. 

Much love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


A peek into the past – Rameez:

“And how did you feel when you saw him?”

I contemplate the question, fiddling with my fingers in my lap.

The road to recovery is never an easy one..

It is my fourth day at the therapist, 2 weeks since I’ve been home, and we have seemingly made no progress so far.

The nightmares haven’t stopped.

The anger hasn’t subsided.

The hate hasn’t decreased.

The tiredness feels like it will never go away; ever.

My mind.. my mind is an absolute mess.

I shrug, briefly looking up at the woman in front of me.

“Terrified?” I say, but it comes out more like a question.

“Terrified that he might not be alive?” she asks, watching me like a hawk.

I nod, running my fingers through my hair uncomfortably.

A knock sounds on the door just then.

“Come in,” says the woman.

“Mr Varachia’s parents are here,” the person says, peeking her head in slightly.

“Okay,” she acknowledges. “We’re almost done.”

The door closes softly, and for a moment it’s quiet.

Then the woman addresses me again, explaining to me what we still need to work on.

“How long will it take?” I ask.

“How ever long you want it to take, Rameez. Remember what I told you during our first session. It’s all about your mindset. Once you get that right, you’re already halfway there.”

I sigh, nodding slowly.

“It’s just.. it’s so difficult,” I say softly, my voice suddenly hoarse.

I don’t see the brief flicker of surprise, at my willing confession, on her face, because my gaze is concentrated on my lap again.

She picks up her pen quickly as I speak again, a sudden feeling to just let everything out, to say what is on my mind, to speak my feelings with a tinge of hope that she might understand.

“And unfair. It’s so unfair that they get to treat someone how ever they want to, just because they want something, and no one will do anything about it. It’s unfair that they get what they want at the expense of someone else being left without even their own identity. I.. sometimes, I don’t even know who I am anymore. It’s pretty f***** up.. not being able to feel… normal? I can’t even talk to my friends about it, because they wouldn’t.. well, they wouldn’t understand. And my parents.. my dad himself is going through probably double what I am. He hasn’t said what happened to him from the time they got hold of him.. but I don’t think I could even bear to hear it. Everything affected my mum too, obviously. We barely speak. I feel like she’s upset with me. Things are my fault in many ways, so I don’t blame her. But..  I don’t think I can go on much longer like this. I can’t live like this. I don’t want to. It’s just so.. so shit. I don’t feel like getting up in the morning. I don’t enjoy things I used to. I.. there’s.. it’s like there’s nothing to life anymore. Sometimes I wish they’d have just killed me…”

The lump in my throat grows bigger, and suddenly I find it difficult to breathe. Hot tears roll down my cheeks as I speak, all the vent up emotions finally escaping after two weeks of fighting them off, pushing them down, sealing them away.

Burying my face into my hands, I sob like a little child, not caring about the woman in front me watching.

I don’t notice her picking up the phone on her desk and speaking softly into it.

I don’t hear the door opening a few minutes later.

I don’t notice his presence until he’s kneeling in front of me, gently prying my hands off my face.

I bury my face into my father’s chest, clinging onto him for my dear life, as I let the strong waves of my emotions crash through me.

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