Tuesday, 29 August 2017 1:16pm
Twenty seven days have passed. Arif has gone. There are words in my mind, not static, but bouncing off walls, seemingly to solidify but disperse away into fine dust, only to be replaced by other words. I cannot form sentences. I cannot remember and write those words. I have become mute. There is a great hollow, an emptiness that is so vast, as if I am sitting in dim lit corner of a huge and empty and dark room. That emptiness has so consumed almost everything tangible inside until I find no more cause to live for. My material dreams are all shattered and consumed. Even the meaning of life melts like candle and consumed. In that hollow space, there are only the still and moving images of you, Arif, your giggles and your voice. My heart does not break. My heart is heavily wounded and every day after your passing, the wound stays open and bloody, turning to tears which streak down. My tears are like salt water, stinging my skin as they run along tiny rivulets, and shaped like pearls as they drop onto my feet. Your whole life is still passing in front of me, from that of a baby, a toddler with a pacifier in his mouth, a young sensitive boy with temper tantrums, to that of a teenager who no longer has a pacifier to a young sensitive but tall man with a gentle heart and manners. I am in pain, missing you. Your passing is inevitable, determined by the One and Only. Life is so fragile that we forget. We forget about the life that is to be, from the choices we make; a permanence. Your passing is so unexpected; there was never any thought of the eventuality. I never thought that a normal and seemly uneventful day would turn into a nightmare of vigil, of constant and consistent prayers, of crowds of your friends and relatives, even your grandfather and grandmother at the hospital, of the anguish and the pain and pain and pain. The heart falls in upon itself, withering into a decomposing flower, shaking furiously. The heart shrinks and crumples, like a child withdrawing from the slap of a parent. Everything is a daze. The heart pulls and pulls, seeking to find shelter, pulling into a ball. Still, the pain comes like waves breaking on the shore. Nothing else matters. This heart is dying. This heart has lost a significant portion, violently bitten off by reality that appeared unnoticed until it was too late. After the grieve of loss, comes the yearning. But the heart has already lost a big portion of itself and the longing is for that portion that is lost. Arif. Telling myself, that it is a just a nightmare that I will soon wake up from, I envision the normality of life in this house. How can I live? When dreams are built upon the foundations sons and wife, they simply burst into tiny stars, like fireworks but not in awe and happiness, but in misery without time.
A few months earlier, didn’t you say, “Oh Pa. I dreamt that I died and so many of my friends came to visit me,” and Arif, you described it in detail, and I, worrying about the possibility of a calamity, brushed it off with a wave of my hand. “Don’t think about it Arif. It’s a bad dream, nothing more,” said I and he nodded. You are most fortunate, Arif, for the many friends you have, for they matter to you dearly and you too, mattered to them, dearly. You, Arif has loved and you deserve to be loved and are still being loved.
As we grow older, we lose friends from their passing, distance, forgetfulness, loss of telephone numbers and arguments. There would be enough space to fit in a car if it was me. A loss is simply not from physical absence. There is the loss of dreams, like seeing you getting married, like seeing you having children of your own and there is the loss of normality of seeing you going down the staircase, you playing with the cat, your raps as you follow the music behind the closed door, which at the first instance gave me the impression that you were reciting the Al-Quran. But I am beginning to know more of you, the faces that you veil from your mother and your father; the other side of you with your friends, the you, you. Your mother showed me your writings, one when you were fourteen. You could have been a novelist; there was a subtle flair in the sentences you wrote, enticing the reader to go from one sentence to the next. There was one you wrote about Hodor and Ozzy, the cats because you love cats and the cats love you. Hodor cried in his own way, breaking his silent demeanour that night. He would never mew but on that night, he did and he did it loud, as if in painful misery. He hardly smiles nowadays, melancholic. He has lost a loving companion.
I am as ever, like a father, stoical and your mother, the place of affection. From a distance, even in my room, I was happy when you were happy. I could hear you laugh and talk as you play your PS4 games. I was happy when your friends came over or you go to them. From a distance, I was always observing, seeing you grow from a young toddler with a blue pacifier, to a small boy with brown curly hair that fell on your shoulders, to school boy with white shirt neatly tucked in green trousers, to a teenager who goes to movies with his friends, who take the rail ride to your mother’s office, and the accompanying depression from your back pain and asthma. I observed and I prayed that one day, you would recover and be normal like everybody else. From a distance, I like a father, listen to your thoughts through your mother as you told her, of the burden of sharing in a friend’s problem, emotionally worried for them. I like a father, would always get anything for you, subject to having money. I, like a father, prayed that Allah would take my life as replacement, over and over and over. Again and again, whispering within my heart, “Listen to me God. I am in pain. I am in misery. Please take my life as replacement. I am old, useless to many, with shattered dreams I carry on my back like a sack of heavy stones. I no longer matter to the world. I do not need this life actually.” And you God, responded with a drizzle in that early morning and I knew the answer. I cringed with tears, sobbing as I still had my forehead on the prayer mat. The rain. It would rain. It is going to rain. It rained. There is no stopping it. And it came to pass.
From a distance, I have been dreaming of travelling together, with your mother, your brother and you. Many places were considered, taking into account that you loved Inverness and Amsterdam. Sometimes I let my guard down, and we would talk of aliens, the comic characters, the universe, the ghosts and demons and about hell and heaven. We saw a UFO twice from the balcony, on consecutive nights. We would be friends then, rather than father to son. And I wish that I could stay longer as a friend than this facade I am carrying, this authoritarian father with little words to say except admonishments. Sometimes when your mother lets her guard down, more so these past few months, you and her would lie beside each other in the dark and talk of Japanese anime and of the philosophies behind those stories, the planned visit to Japan, the Japanese pronunciation for conversational words, your dreams, your stories of your friends, feeling frustrated for not being able to do anything. You and your mother, are the best of friends. I can see, not far away. I have never been far away from you. I have always been there, behind closed doors.
Without you, there is no completion, there is no full circle and so the dreams have slipped away. Nothing is there anymore, in front. The curtain has closed, you have gone away and I am still sitting on the chair, watching a dimming screen. Tears make the screen appear more sharper. The projector has stopped, Arif. But I am still watching. I still watch like a stoical parent. I sit on the chair, wondering, aghast that the end had come abruptly. It was not supposed to be in the script. It is like a bad movie. How could it end this way? I asked frequently. I am dreaming. I must and I will soon wake up and you will be at your desk, reading by the light downstairs.
I have seen you grow from a child’s fragility to that of a young man’s strength, with stocked arms and legs. A gentle giant, your bantering of soft punches to my shoulder, betrays your love for your stoical father. You are my son, Arif and I will always love you and I will look for you at your side of this veil when I am done with this life. There were no goodbyes or farewells. Arif, you boarded the train without waving at us. Perhaps, that is good. No goodbyes is a sign that we will eventually meet. One day.
I sit on the red chair and see the screen. It is the same movie. Over and over again. There is so much pain inside. The loss is so great. Greater than my life itself. I am nothing but a simple shapeless origami propped on a table. So near is your Love, Sir. Bigger and better than even a father’s love. I am looking at life now from the bottom of the pond, unmoved and unmoving. I can see you, Arif through that water. I am veiled from you as you are, from me. I am reaching out for you, son. One day, I will reach out and my hand will touch yours. One fine day.
In between the recitations, I talk to you, like a whisper, hoping you will hear, hoping that the recitations will bring along the words of a father who longs for his son. You are my son, Arif and I am so proud to have a son like you. I am most honoured that Allah has honoured you. Your honours could be seen and heard. Your tears, your warmth even as you lie motionless throughout the night, your captivating smile etched on your face, your bigger smile as I lay you in the ground as I peaked at you as I lay you down in your grave. I saw the tears from your friends as they sat and stand in grieve and I felt their grief, son. I am grieving and yet I felt the sadness around me. Your parting was smooth and swift but melancholy. Soon, Arif, when time becomes immaterial for me, a momentary pause would pass and you will see me and I will see you again. I am on the way.