One Hundred and Sixty Five

As narrated by Meez:

As I sit on the hard hospital chair, I can’t help but wonder about us humans.

Strange, is it not, how we only realize how attached we are to something, to someone, when they’re being taken away.

Strange, are we not, how we only appreciate something, someone, when they’re gone.

And we know. We know that life is short. We know that death will come at a time unknown. We know that moments should be valued. We know that people should be treasured.

But still. Still we slip up. We get caught up in our lives. We let moments slip by, forgetting to appreciate them. We take people for granted, forgetting that soon they will no longer be.

Dad walks into the waiting lounge, pulling me out of my thoughts.

I look up at him, my hope for Faizy’s well-being so desperate, it rips my insides.

He shakes his head, avoiding my gaze.

And even though I knew.

I knew before the paramedics had even come, that he wouldn’t make it.

That he had taken too much.

That we were too late; I was too late.

And still, as dad squeezed my shoulder, muttering to me that it was his time, that this was meant to happen, that it had been predestined, something inside me shifted.

It was subtle, for I felt numb, but later I would feel the entire force of that little shift.

It was as if the right key had been finally put into the lock.

And something clicked.

*****

I turn the white envelope over and over in my hand, staring at it as if it will answer my questions.

Do I open this or not? Do I have the guts to open this or not? Do I have the strength, the heart to open this or not?

I had found it in Faizy’s room, laying neatly on his desk.

It wasn’t clearly evident, but neither was it hidden.

On impulse I had picked it up and slipped it into my pocket, not really thinking at that time.

But now I regretted.

I shouldn’t have taken it.

I should have left it for someone else to take.

I should have left his dark secrets for someone else to read, to carry the laborious burden.

Sighing heavily, I slip it under my pillow and go to shower.

*****

13 missed calls from Zee.

I unlock my phone and call him back.

He answers in the first ring, breathless.

“Meez? Where are you? Are you alright? Why weren’t you answering your phone?!” he interrogates in a rush.

“I was in the shower,” I say, sliding open the doors to my balcony.

“Are you alright?” he asks again, worry clear in his voice.

“Yeah,” I reply, laying down on my hammock.

Zee is on edge.

Since yesterday, when I had told him about Faizal, he’d called me every hour, texted me continuously, and visited three times already.

He thinks Faizy’s suicide death pushed me over the edge… that I might follow the same path as he did.

“Where are you?” he asks, my previous answer still not easing his mind.

“At home,” I reply. “And I won’t open for you if you come, so don’t.”

“I’ll see you in 7,” he says, ignoring me.

*****

“Who let you in?” I ask, feigning annoyance.

“Aunty Stacey,” he says, smirking at me. “She loveme.”

I roll my eyes in annoyance.

Aunty Stacey, our domestic, will let Zee in at any time of the day or night.

“I told you I’m fine,” I say, gesturing to myself. “And now that you can see so for yourself, you can go.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he replies firmly. “Get used to it.”

I raise an eyebrow.

Then I say it.

“I’m not gonna kill myself too, you know.”

He meets my gaze, his eyes piercing into mine, trying to read my soul.

Then, after an eternity, he speaks.

“I trust your mind, but not your heart.”

*****

Unable to sleep I reach into my pedestal drawer.

Taking a deep breath, I tear the seal off the envelope.

For a long time I debate again, whether I should read it or not.

Eventually, knowing that I will not be able to sleep until I do, I unfold the page, and begin to read..

Lubna, my love, my light, my life.

I remember the moment you locked your pinky with mine and promised to be by my side. I remember the moment you jumped on me from behind, kissed my cheek and promised to always have my back. I remember the moment you held my hand, looked me in the eye and whispered, “We’ve got each other. It’ll be okay.”

And now those words haven’t stopped ringing in my ears, because you’re gone. And nothing is okay. Nothing. These words are ringing in my ears like an incessant alarm, a piercing sound stabbing my broken heart over and over, causing the tiny shards to shatter further.

Lubna. My love, my light, my life.

Do you know how much I miss you? My love, I miss you more than the moon misses the stars when the sun comes up.

Do you know how much I crave your touch? My love, I crave your touch more than a drought stricken land craves the touch of rain.

Do you want to know how I’m doing? My love, I am as fine as a person who does not know how to swim is in the sea – at high tide. Your departure hit me like a huge wave hits a child. It knocked me off my feet, stole my breath and pulled me under. And now it’s dark and my head can’t find the surface and my feet can’t find the floor and it’s dark – so dark oh god – and my lungs are screaming for air but how will they be comforted? For you were my air, Lubna, and now you’ve left.

How must I breathe? How must I live? I won’t manage much longer, my love. I just want to be okay again. I want to be safe again. I want to be able to breathe again.

I want to see you again. Nay, I want to feel you – I see you all the time. In front of the mirror, wearing my hoodie, doing your makeup. I tell you that you don’t need it and you ask me if I do. I nod, trying to hide my smile, and you cover my face with kisses, leaving your lipstick everywhere. “There,” you say, smiling before kissing me again.

I see you on the kitchen counter, messy hair and sleepy eyes, but a smile brighter than the rising sun itself.

I see you in the car, happily singing along to your favourite songs.

You’re not here yet I see you all the time – eyes closed, eyes open – you’re here, then you’re there, fleeting glimpses that my hands can’t grasp.

Lubna, my love, won’t you come back just one more time?

That is all I ask. One more time with you.

So that I may hold you close, one more time. So that I may feel your lips on mine, one more time. So that I may hear you say my name, one more time. So that you may tell me the secret that made your eyes shine like the moon. Won’t you come back, my love?

No? You won’t? You can’t?

Well then, I will come to you.

For my heart cannot bear this pain.

This pain, my love, it feels like a sword dipped in boiling oil is stabbing my heart continuously. It feels like.. god, I cannot explain it to you. And I will not waste my time doing that. For I long for nothing more than to be with you. Soon, my love.

Soon I will be.

Faizal.

*****

I don’t realize I’m crying until I see the wetness of my tears on the page.

Is this what love does to you?

Is this what I craved as I watched the two of them at Faizy’s birthday?

It didn’t make sense anymore.

They looked so happy. So perfect.

But now??

My thoughts ran havoc in my mind, questioning love and all it’s meanings.

Then, somewhere in the depth of it all, I hear my mother’s voice – loud and clear, shushing all other thoughts.

“You know, Rameez, when a baby is born… when a baby enters this huge, bright world, after spending nine months in a dark, enclosed womb… it needs comfort. It needs to feel the sense of security it felt in the womb. The baby needs to be held, to be fed. But it can’t just be fed anything, no. The baby needs milk – preferably the mother’s milk. And yes, you can give it something other than the milk, which it might, or might not accept. But even if the baby accepts whatever you give it, it will not have the same effect as if you give the baby its mother’s milk. Rameez, our hearts are the same, son. Our hearts are that newborn baby. And what our hearts need, is Allah (s.w.t) -the love of Allah (s.w.t). And in the same way that a newborn baby can be given something other than the mother’s milk, so too can our hearts be given love other than the love of Allah (s.w.t). We can fill our hearts with love for this Dunya (World), love for materialistic things, love for a human, love for a pet -whatever it is, but the heart will be restless. And this restlessness will not cease, until the heart is filled with the love it yearns for -the love it needs. Until the heart is not beating with the love of Allah (s.w.t), it will not be content.”

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