BY ABDULLAH PIRKANI
Right now she is seated so close to me that I can feel her breath on my skin. In this blood freezing winter, I can’t resist longer against her heat-pumping eyes. She has been glaring at me for quite some time now and I am burning in the warmth of her intentions. I might have melted by now, but a cold yet sober reflection has kept me from dissolving into weakness.
After losing the glare offensive, the five soldiers of her hand started creeping towards me. These soldieries were not communists any more, if they were, they would have snatched me by now. I can feel the vibration, caused by the creeping of her hand, falling into my bones. Although her hand is yet to touch mine; the oscillation of that heart-soothing near future has made my hand to frustratingly wont for a passionate hug of that slender-finger neighbor. I desire to alter the coldness of my hands with the coolness of hers and it is not impossible. There is no one else breathing in this little hut of a bus stop and our hearts are anxiously excited to listen to each other’s beats.
But far away, in the deep hollows of my past, there is another heart, which has imprisoned my intentions. That heart has lived in my chest for years and I can’t ignore it.
It is Mia’s heart. My wife’s heart.
Trembling winter. Lonely afternoon. Muddy clouds. Some melancholic rays peeping through those dusty cornflakes in the sky. Death faced skyscrapers. A road polluted with clumsy vehicles. Countless worn-out faces rolling on the road. Silently breathing hearts. Eyes fed up with This is Moscow.
I was born here and I grew up here, under the dark daylight of the red sun. This red sun was there for everyone, whether one needed it or not. It was everywhere, in your house, your bedroom, your entire life and even in your thoughts. It never set anyone free. So many juvenile faces, novel ideas and enthralling dreams were burnt to ashes in this sun. Nothing could evade the red sun, not even the night.
I was also a part of this system. Who am I? Well, my introduction remains in constant use of millions of people in this world; “I am a common man.” And along with all those millions of common men, I lived in this system where we labored our lives. Carrying the burden of a compulsive freedom on our shoulders, we were transferred from youth to old age, and from old age to demise. At numerous occasions death separated the youth from old age. Our minds, our thoughts had so unfeelingly become a part of all this. Days, dates, years, all meaningless. Our time scale was the amount of work done by us. How many shoes made, how many drugs packed, how many radios loaded, and how many abuses assimilated. We were all inebriated. The dream of change was buried in the grave of our stomachs. And yet, in such suppressive conditions, an eccentric thing happened; instead of my mind; my heart revolted. In this atmosphere of belligerence and hatred, my heart opted for tolerance and love.
She was beautiful; and full of life. She was strenuously breathing in this suffocating air. She had a smile dancing on her lips that would make me smile. She had eyes where I could see my dreams. She had voice that would disquiet my heartbeat. But most of all, she had feet that were treading towards me. Heavenly romantic. She was eager to step into my life, I don’t know why. I had nothing to give to her.
An aged room stuck into countless other lifeless rooms of a rotten building. Staring monotony. Intoxicated silence. Deceased air. Resentful walls. A wounded window. A colorless curtain waging a lost war against the firing snowflakes. A screaming, yelling wall clock. A repulsive towel. A pile of deformed suite-cases. A withered umbrella hanging on the hook. A clumsy picture making faces at me. A paralyzed bed. A tired pair of shoes sneaking from underneath the bed. A shelf sheltering a sorrowful row of ancient crockery. A faint effort of the bulb to lit up the room. A solitary chair sentenced a life imprisonment in these walls____ Nothing.
However, I had learnt to love. She taught me how to. I could fill her with love; touching her eyes with mine, ploughing my fingers in her hair, whispering my laughter in her ears. She would spread her tiny little complains with her head on my shoulder. We would aimlessly talk while walking on a deserted road in a tranquil evening. I would sing her songs in my gauche voice and she would disperse her melodious laughter in the air. I had planned everything. And along with this, I had also saved enough money to fulfill many of her innocent wishes.
And then, on a glistening day, she stepped into my world and became my world. There were just eighteen guests participating in our wedding. Ten of them were my factory worker friends; six of Mia’s friends and two were our combined, uniformed best wishers. Yes, the KGB. We had no one to call ‘ours’ but these few. After a short and simple ceremony, our friends departed us joking and laughing, while the KGB guests bid us farewell staring and glaring. They wanted to see us off to our bedroom door, I am sure. But I was not bothered by anything any more. I had found Mia. She was full of life. She pervaded me with it.
I didn’t buy her a wedding gift. I couldn’t find anything deserved by her. So I decided to ask her.
“ Mia! I know you must be expecting a gift from me on our wedding night. I hate to disappoint you but the fact is that I couldn’t buy you a gift. Not because I didn’t have enough money or that I couldn’t remember but because I couldn’t find something as gorgeous as you are. Everything looked dull compared to you. So I thought I better ask you. I’ll get you whatever you want.”
“You’ll get me whatever I ask you to?”
“Yes” I whispered with certainty.
“No matter how expensive, how difficult?”
“Then listen. You don’t get tired of me. This will be your gift.”
“What you mean?”
“I don’t know why am I thinking this, but you get tired of looking at me every day. Or when I get old and would cease to be beautiful, would you leave me, and not even look at me?”
“No, it won’t happen. I’ll never get tired of looking at you every day. And when you get old, so would I. And you’ll always be beautiful in my eyes.”
At that moment, she looked to me like a little girl. In a stormy night, afraid of lightning and thunderbolt, hiding in a corner, scared and trembling little girl. I assured her there was nothing to be afraid of. Storms, lightning, darkness, nothing could hurt her. “I am with you, all around you.”
She turned my room into a home. I suggested of buying a little house but she insisted on living in that room until two of us turn into three. And I agreed with her. In this little home of one room, we lived very close to each other, without any distance. You must be thinking how and for how long could two people living in such a small accommodation tolerate each other. Believe you me; Mia and monotony are the names of two firmly and utterly opposite things. Mia is simply astounding. Every day she would put such a thought in front of me that I would be bewildered. She would ask questions that would leave me speechless. She would make such childish requests that the entire building would resound with my laughter.
One night, she was sitting in the chair sewing a button on one of my shirts and I was lying sideways on the bed reading a book. When suddenly, she put the shirt on the chair and lied down behind me the same way as I was. Placing her face right beside mine, our cheeks caressing, she held the book from where I was holding it.
“What is this?” I asked politely.
“Just what? I am reading dear.”
“Then read, whose stopping you?”
“But what’s this all about?”
“I wanna read this book too.”
“Then read it when I am finished with it.”
“No, I wanna see how it feels the way you read it.”
And I was lost.
She was an expert on unexpectedly starting a mind twisting conversation. While experiencing silence or right in the middle of a chat, she would abruptly ask outlandish questions.
“Are you happy?”
And I, perplexed, could only utter, “What you mean?”
“I mean, are you happy living with me?”
“That’s a stupid question. And anyway I should be asking this question because I am the one who proposed you.”
“Then why don’t you ask?”
“What? should I ask it every day now?”
“No, but at least once in a while.”
“All right honey, tell me, are you happy living with me?”
And I was flabbergasted.
One day when I came back from work, she invaded me with “Why don’t you twist my ear?”
“Are you crazy, you think I am mad or something? Why would I ever do that?”
“Well, last night while picking up the dishes from the table, I broke a plate and you said nothing to me.” “And you want me to twist your ear on such a petty little thing?” “At least you could chide me.”
“Ok, my fault. Next time I will.”
“Then do it.”
“I broke another cup today.”
“That’s ok, I’ll get a new one tomorrow.”
“So you are not going to chide me?”
“No way, not on this one.”
“Then what am I supposed to do to make you chide me?”
“But why do you want me to chide you?”
“Because then you’ll say sorry to me.”
And laughter burst out of my stomach.
I could easily tell my friends that I have married a riddle.
But it wasn’t her; it was the system and the atmosphere in which we lived. In such a breath-hindering air, she was not only living but was keeping me alive as well. She had kept alive that precious feeling of love that Then one day, this system left me no option but to hate it and stand up in revolt against it. Mia was pregnant. She was facing a delivery situation. I rented a car to take her to hospital. We were both delighted. Everything looked fresh and new again. I hadn’t yet reached the main road when two policemen stopped me. They told me that I couldn’t go ahead. On my humble inquiry they told me that a member of the Politburo was to travel through this road so the passage was closed for general public. I informed them of my irresistible compulsion but they were earless. Justice is deaf in our part of the world. In response to my pleads, however, they had mercy on me enough to guide me to an alternate passage yet at the same time informed me that the road was under construction.
I considered it a blessing and turned the vehicle towards the alternative. That road was like highway to hell, full of ditches. I was trying my best to drive carefully so that Mia doesn’t get hurt, but it was all in vain. All those bumps and jumps, and Mia was in sheer pain. I would look at the road for one moment and would turn to Mia the next. I was continuously consoling her but I knew words would do no good. I never felt so much helpless in my life and I hated all this helplessness. I don’t want to go through all that misery again by stating the pains waged on Mia. All I can tell you is that this dreadful journey had a terrible ending. I couldn’t become a father and Mia, after hanging in balance between life and death, was deprived of ever becoming a mother again.
I entered the hospital room that was mourning the death of my dreams. Mia looked at me and tears sneaked through her eyes. In a torn voice, she started apologizing to me.
“I am sorry dear, you can’t be a father…”
I put my fingers on her lips.
“No, don’t say sorry. Its stupid. Rather I should thank you.”
“Why?” her eyes asked.
“Because you have come back.”
A soft smile appeared in her eyes. She wanted to say something but I
stopped her. And then I kept on combing her hair with my fingers until she went to sleep.
If this system was some person, I would have killed it by now. It tortured me, refrained me from living a life of my own, but I never cared because I don’t care about myself much. I don’t care who does what to me. But Mia, these people harmed Mia and I care about her. I care about her more than anything in this world. I forgot every injustice ever done to me but I could never forgive the tyranny inflicted upon Mia.
That’s where I revolted against this red system. After taking the first step of revolt, I felt that numerous people were waiting for that first step. I only remained alone till the first step and then I was thronged with myself, the common man. We ejected the fear out of people’s hearts. The lava of emotions was given way and it melted that system to ashes. The country that had stretched the largest darkness on earth had lost its spell. The people living under the red sun found freedom; a freedom of their own.
The red sun had set.
During this revolution I couldn’t pay much attention to Mia. I had to hide in different places to avoid KGB. When I would go home with a break of few days, I found Mia waiting for me as if she knew the time of my coming home. She had become very weak. There were dark shades around her eyes. Her cheeks started losing their freshness. Bones started to peep through her round wrists. The shine in her eyes seemed to have gone quite some distance. And her smile was left on her lips only as a job. In spite of all this, she was still my Mia.
Once, when I came home after some days, I found a completely different Mia. A sad Mia. I could never see her sad.
“Mia, what’s wrong? Are you in trouble?”
“No, I am ok.”
“Then why you look so sad, so withered?”
“No, you are mistaken. I am just tired, nothing else.”
“Are you happy?”
“Then why don’t you look happy?”
“I am happy, how else should I look?”
“No, I don’t see that joy on your face. I want to see your face full of life and happiness.”
“I am happy”, she said tiredly. But I couldn’t leave her like this.
“Tell me, what should I do to bring those smiles back again, to make your soul happy.”
“You really want me to tell you?”
“Yes, tell me. I’ll bring whatever you want.”
“No, I don’t desire a purchasable thing. All I want is... I want to stand right in front of you, so close that we feel our breaths hitting our faces, our hearts listen to each other’s beats, our eyes play together, your whispers vibrate my body, and I, taking your hands into mine, thrusting our fingers together, taking a deep breath, would scream so loud that all the tiredness inside me, all the sadness will vanish in the air.”
I knew the answer to her wish but I couldn’t say what I should have.
“Mia, I understand your pain but I have obligations. I have to be careful. The path that I have opted for, either leads to freedom or death. But believe me, we will be free soon. We will throw this blood-polluted system out of our lives for ever and then good times will come.”
I took off again to my destination. I knew after that incident Mia was very upset but I was doing all this for her, wasn’t I?
When the red sun was set, a bright new sun rose at us with a shining light. Its sunlight wasn’t red. It didn’t pinch. It shone to give us relief and warmth. But with the passage of time this sun also started throwing its hot spears at us. Its light only proved to be a “sparkling darkness”, which attracted us but failed to comfort us.
This system wasn’t flawless either. The government of the people couldn’t do good to the people itself. There might have been a change of system , but for us, the common men, it only brought “another government”. Too much freedom didn’t bring us too much prosperity. It became more and more difficult to make both ends meet. I lost my job and I would wander like a dog in search of work. Mia got sick because of malnutrition. I would come home late in the night and would get out early in the morning. We were running our lives somehow. There wasn’t much of a conversation between Mia and I. Perhaps there wasn’t anything left to talk about.
And then in such compellingly disappointing conditions, I found Tina. Even under these conditions she was full of life, breathing with all the energy. She wasn’t very beautiful but she was definitely very attractive. So it was natural for me to take interest in her but what surprised me was that she was attracted to me as well. I met her with reference of finding a job. She gave me the job and her company. I don’t know why, even though she was married. This job was better. I was being paid well. She would take me to places every day, for cinema, coffee or sometimes for nothing. Her husband worked in another city. It was her second marriage. She got divorced by her first husband; or she divorced him would be even more correct. She didn’t recall her present husband in good words either. Quite often she would reveal upon me the dark sides of her husband’s personality and I just listened silently.
In the mean time, Mia kept on getting farther and farther away from me. She never asked me where I stayed all night, where I worked all day, where I got the money from. She kept on doing house chores, quietly. May be her words were out of stock or may be she forgot how to talk. But I couldn’t feel all this. And even if I did, I suppressed the very thought of it in the graveyard of my heart where my love was sleeping. I was too busy spending the time with my boss.
With the passage of time, Tina’s conversations turned into passionate whispers. And I kept on drowning into the sea of her talking lips. I never tried to swim, resist or take control of myself. I left all of me on the waves of emotional mistakes, no matter where they take me.
And today, she is ready to swim me away. She is sitting very close to me. She tries to touch my hand with hers but I hesitate and put my hand in my lap.
“Give me your hand, I want to mix it with mine.”
I lost my strength for a moment, but then the very next moment a well-acquainted voice resounded from the unfathomable vacant of my heart. Mia’s voice. She asked me for such a favor once, but how innocently, not so professionally like her. Mia asked it for the comfort of her soul and she…….
Should I sacrifice Mia’s sincerity over Tina’s outwardly attraction? Should I forget all those innumerable moments spent with Mia for the sake of temporary pleasure? Should I betray Mia’s blind folded trust for a selfish wish of mine? No. Never.
I am running towards my home. On a distorted road, my feet are getting shaky but not my heart. I have nothing to give to Mia. My pockets are almost empty. But my heart is filled with love. I will give Mia the pleasure. A pleasure that would reflect on her face. I will get her back her long lost shining eyes, her smiles, her vigor, her innocence, her childish mischief, everything.
I enter the house. Mia is busy washing clothes. I grab her from her shoulders and make her stand right in front of me, so close that we feel our breaths hitting our faces, our hearts listen to each other’s beats, or eyes play together, and I, taking her hands into mine, thrusting our fingers together. At this moment with a loud scream, our entire tiredness and our
sadness has vanished into the air.
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