As narrated by Aara:
“Salaams…Sajida right?” , I smiled. I knew that she was Sajida, as Laeeka had pointed her out to me , but I didn’t know how else to approach her….
She looked up at the sound of my voice, her features knotted in confusion. She shifted as if she was uncomfortable before nodding slowly.
“I’m Aara “, I said, forwarding my hand, “I was wondering if it would be possible to have a word with you please? ”
She looked around hesitantly,”Sure, I suppose I could spare a few minutes,” she said, with a tight smile.
I didn’t admit it to anyone, but my leg was starting to throb and I slowly walked towards the namaaz room, the only place at this venue where there would be peace and quiet.
Sajida followed reluctantly
Once we were behind closed doors…
My mind was buzzing. What do I say to her? Judging from Laeeka’s description of what took place at her gran’s place, she was undoubtedly furious. And I knew that she had reason to be…
“So….”she started, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had settled around us.
“Sajida…I’m Naeem’s friend “, I said softly.
Sudden anger lit up in her eyes, so evident that shivers ran down my spine and I knew there and then that this affected her in the worst possible way. But something outweighed the sudden nervousness that I felt, something that she needed to know, a few words that will help no one but herself. I had this need to talk to her, hear her out, help her if I could…and Nemo couldn’t know, because if he did he would probably accuse me of poking my nose into his life and yes, a part of me knew that I had no right to do so, but a greater part of me knew that it was my duty…a silent, unspoken duty. And Zoheb understood that too..
“I understand that the very mention of his name angers you”, I began slowly, “but that is not my intention. I do not mean to bring you down, nor do I want to cause you any heartache and pain. Today is Zainab’s big day… She’s close to us both and the last thing that I want is to cause a scene or to hurt someone who she values in her life… so if you could just hear me out…”
She didn’t say a word. I wasn’t even sure if she was listening. She was tense, but no longer unfriendly.
Her eyes flashed anger at the last few words that escaped my mouth, causing a shred of panic to bolt up my spine.. Then, slowly, she looked up, a pool of tears forming in her eyes… She blinked, fighting it away, but failing miserably, and nodded, indicating for me to continue.
I reached out and squeezed her hand. There was so much that needed to be said. So much that I had planned to tell her, but everything had just disappeared in that moment. My mind continued it’s buzzing, searching for words of consolation but nothing came. I had no idea what to say. I had no idea how to act…All I could do was stare at this stranger, whose heartache was so genuine that even I could feel it.
This woman, who had been living with this for God knows how long. This woman, who hasn’t yet forgiven herself, let alone Nemo. This woman, who had been fighting so many inner battles. This woman, who’d been hating herself day in and day out. This woman, who beat herself up everyday for a mistake she made in her past. This woman, who has been living in her past all these years. This woman, who was nothing more than a stranger to me.
Although I could not even fathom the amount of pain she’s been through, even though I could not understand how she had dealt with it for so long, all I wanted was to help her. I wanted to help her find herself again, find her smile, her happiness. I wanted to help her, not only accept the past, but leave it there. No matter how much this affected Nemo, despite her being of no relation to me, no one deserved this amount of suffering.
“I had so many things to say to you Sajida, I pre planned so much in my head but now….now I can’t remember any of it”..I said honestly.
I swallowed hard and continued, ” I’m really sorry Sajida, I really truly am…no amount of sorry will ever change anything, that I know. I hope that you don’t take this the wrong way but…I wanted to tell you that. …that you should allow yourself to forgive yourself…and I know that it doesn’t make much sense but…”
She looked down and didn’t say a word…I waited for her to say something, anything… I expected her to lash out at me but…she was just…silent.
“Allah Ta’ala forgives the gravest of sins with sincere repentance…and look at it this way, there was a reason why you are here, a reason why you met Nemo here, a reason why he came to apologize to you…”
Still no response. ..
“Maybe the time has come for forgiveness Saaj,” I whispered softly, and hoping that she wouldn’t take offence to me calling her by a nickname
“All these years…”She said, so soft I could barely hear her. “All these years I spent trying to forget, trying to erase it. I ran away from the truth, refused to accept what happened that night, refused to even think of it.”
It was my turn to be quiet….
“Then, all of a sudden, Mahmood pops up at my doorstep. Just out of the blue. And now, now… Naeem…”
Her voice was breaking and I could see that she was trying hard not to let it get the better of her.
“I can never forgive myself. I went against everything…. Every darn thing…, What my parents taught me, my morals, my religion. I’m a disappointment to everyone”, she said, shaking her head and looking down
” My family, my friends, myself. Forgiveness is a big no-no. I’ve never felt so humiliated in my entire life…Never… What I felt the day he walked away, laughed at me, mocked me, accused me of lying cannot be compared to any amount of pain I’ve ever felt… I’m tired..”
She looked me in the eye, lifting her sleeve to reveal a scar. I gasped, unable to do anything but stare at the mark on her delicate skin. “I’m so tired…”
I held my right hand to my mouth while my left hand held onto hers. I was at a loss for words. I was right. I had no idea what she was going through. I knew she was hurt. I just didn’t imagine it to be this bad. Something had to be done. And fast.
“No…no….This is not…you can’t. ….”, I said without thinking. I didn’t realise that I was crying too…I didn’t realise it until I felt my tears fall onto my hands…”Sajida…life is too precious..no one is worth you taking yours..no mistake is worth punishing yourself like this…no one deserves it and least of all not you…”
“Why are you punishing yourself for something that is not entirely your fault….”, I whispered
“Life is precious, yes, but living with so much of regret, guilt and pain reduces it’s worth to…” And she looked down at her hand, “to this…”
“I look at my parents every day and the only thought that crosses my mind is of their disappointment ,”she whispered,’what would they think? They trusted me, expected me to be a role model to my little sister.. And I have been anything but that…”, she continued
“I don’t know Mahmood but I’ve known Nemo ever since I was 6 years old…During this time that all this had happened…I lost him..not once but many many times and don’t get me wrong, but he is not the same Nemo that he was…He doesn’t even know that I’m here talking to you and I’m not trying to justify what he did, it was wrong and will always be wrong but Saaj…you have a second chance..to live…to redeem yourself in your own eyes , to become that better daughter and sister….you’re too precious to knock yourself down like this over and over again ” , I said as I held her hand again
Sajida wept…she wept inconsolably…and my heart broke even more
“Promise me that you will atleast try….try to do it, not for any Mahmood, not for any Naeem but for one particular Sajida, who has her whole life ahead of her….Please Saaj”, I pleaded through another torrent of tears…”I’m here today, not as Nemo’s best friend, but as a woman, as a sister….I want to be there for you Saaj…every step of the way..if you will let me…”
Sajida looked up at me, her eyes glowing with an emotion that I couldn’t define …we didn’t have to had known each other for years, we didn’t have to be related by blood…we were related by the thread of humanity…we were related by the thread of Islam.
I reached into my clutch bag and handed her a few more tissues, and I stood silently, allowing her to compose herself.
“I’m sorry if I came across as rude at first,”she said quietly, wiping away her tears.”I just… It just…”, And she took in a deep breath before she continued… “Seeing Naeem here just brought back so many memories that I had willed away. I know that the past is not something one can run from..You’re damn right, it unleashes such anger, it’s almost as if it’s beyond my control. But it’s there and not here…it’s in the past…it doesn’t have to destroy my present and future… I have no idea how to thank you. I can not even begin to explain how much I needed that. To keep all of this to myself…”
I swallowed hard as more and more tears fell from her eyes…
“I don’t even know the reason why I opened up to you”, she continued, ” It exhausts me, day in and day out, just thinking about the events of that night and I am unable to block it out. I have given up . It’s something that I have to live with, but not like this ”
Sajida smiled through her tears…reminding me of a ray of light breaking through heavy dark clouds…
” I really… I really can’t thank you enough, Aara. God alone knows what would have happened if I had spent another night keeping all of that to myself… I don’t know anything about you but I know enough to say that you were sent here today by the One who is greater than everything and everyone…perhaps the reason I had to come to this wedding, was because of you, maybe my healing process begins with your words…and Naeem, no matter what I think of him, is extremely lucky to have you by his side. I just hope he knows that.”
I smiled at her in relief. Hopefully, this was the turning point for Sajida…and I was going to make it a point to keep in touch with her. I was so grateful that she had heard me out, that she had confided in me..that she had found a path to walk on, and no matter how narrow that path was, it was better than walking around the same circle for eternity…
As narrated by Nemo:
I waited in the empty foyer, thinking….drifting…reflecting..
I noticed Sajida from a distance…walking alone. I moved out of sight and waited.
My heart pounded thunderously in my chest…my face was hot, my hands shaky…
I waited….until I saw her walk down the same route that Sajida had come down just seconds before, her pace slow and seemingly painful.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and stared at my call log…last dialed number, “Aara”…call duration, ” 23 minutes”. A call that had probably been answered accidentally while her phone lay in her little evening bag, a call that I had ended a few minutes ago….
“Can I borrow your phone please Aara…my battery just died” , I said as calmly as possible
“Sure”, she said softly, without looking at me, hiding the traces of her tears
And as soon as I had her phone in my hand, I quickly deleted my name from the top of her call log…because I knew that she had no idea that I had heard everything.
Erased. Deleted. Gone.
I swallowed hard. A wave of something that I couldn’t define, washed over me, relieving me, cleansing me, caressing me…as I watched Aara walk away from me.
Some of us are unpolished diamonds, waiting for our time to shine…while some are the hands of the gemcutter, shaping, polishing, doing everything that they can…to bring out the diamond in it’s most sparkling form…
Thank you very, very much to the author of Zaakira’s Simple Yet Complex Life, for co writing this post with me. It was a challenging and mentally fulfilling experience *tight hugs*
13 December marks the 2nd Anniversary of LLD…So Happy Birthday to Me:-p
And a very Happy Birthday to the author of Diary Of Confessions, with whom LLD shares the same birth date…Wish you many, many more…lots and lots of love *mwah*