As narrated by Nemo:
I was up earlier than usual on this gloomy sunday morning, which was uncommon because I loved my sleep! We had finished off so late at Aara’s house, and Sahal still came over for a long chat after that. It felt like old times again, and it felt good. The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves with Hana and were all over Aara because of all the gifts that she had bought them!
I had showered and readied myself and was about to enjoy a nice breakfast that I had prepared for myself when my phone rang…
“I’m outside. Lock up and come down”, she said without greeting or giving me a chance to talk
I stuffed a biscuit into my mouth, quickly covered my breakfast, locked up and headed downstairs as fast as I could. She sounded edgy…I wondered what this was about.
“Everything okay?”, I asked
“Get in”, she said bluntly, without so much as looking at me
I worriedly obliged, and fastened my seat belt.
She didn’t answer me, and drove faster than she normally does. The way in which she held the steering wheel, the way in which she looked at the cars infront of her, the way in which her face reddened with every passing second, spoke volumes. I had only witnessed this Aara once before and that seemed like a lifetime ago.
It was pointless talking to her right now so I let it be and looked ahead. I didn’t want to get myself killed by trying to be a co-pilot. Nope that was reserved for parents.
She drove and drove until she reached our infamous hill. The same hill that she ,Riza and Arshad chased me around in circles a long time ago, the same hill that the four of us had an in ice cream breakfast at when all our lives were upside down. This hill was like part of our family!
I accidentally said that aloud and she shot me a killer look. It’s cool I’ll just wait.
I followed her as she walked, still in silence, and when we finally got to a landing, she stopped and turned to face me.
“Why don’t you want to get married?”
“You brought me all the way here, starving mind you, to ask me this??”, I asked, stunned by the nature of her question
“Answer the question Nemo!”, she snapped
“Because I don’t, that’s why”, I said honestly
Aara looked me in the eye and I swallowed hard…
“So if I had to say to you that I wanted to get married to you, you would say no?”
I felt like I had been shot in the dark and words had suddenly failed me…
“Would you say no?”, she repeated angrily
“What are you asking me?”, I said as gently as possible
“A simple question Nemo, would you say no?”
I could see waves of irritation flicker across her face…
“No”, I whispered
And then an expression that I had never seen before on her face, replaced her anger and it shook me…
“No what??”, she said loudly, ” No you won’t marry me or no, you would marry me??”
“Aara calm down…”
“I need an answer dammit!!!”, she shouted
“No! I wouldn’t say no! I would never say no!”, I shouted back
She started at me, as tears pooled in her eyes and just as suddenly she angrily pushed me with both her hands.
“Aara what is going on..”I asked, …my heart pounding in my chest
“I wouldn’t say yes”, she said, her voice filled with anger
I took a deep breath in…”I know”
This was the thing. This thing between us was something that I couldn’t describe. WHY was it so hard to move on from it WHY WHY WHY!!!
Aara was seething!
“Can we just sit down and talk like civilized people?”, I asked and after a few moments of hesitation, she sat down
“Now tell me what’s going on will you… please?”
“Really? You don’t know?”, she asked sarcastically
“Aara I don’t know what this is about okay”
And when she told me…I was blown away. What I had feared, had happened. My closeness with Hana had given our elders the wrong idea somewhere..and somewhere it had shattered a part of the trust that Aara had in me.
After she had gotten married, we naturally and obviously drifted apart. Once Zoheb passed away, it took me months to get through to her and the wall that she had built around her..and now when things were slowly starting to get back to normal..this happens.
I knew what she was going through, because for almost 7 years I am stuck in the same place, she lost Zoheb a little over a year ago..how could they expect her to move on like this and in this way??
“They don’t realise that he is in my soul…I can’t do this”, she whispered as a tear fell from her eye
“I know”, I smiled softly
“I’m really sorry…”she said without looking at me, “this pain is sometimes so unbearable..I don’t know how you…”
Pain. Pain can be decisive and destructive. Which of the two it is…is entirely up to you.
“It gets better Aara..”, I said. But I would never truly know that because our circumstances were different.
“We never really spoke about it…”, she said slowly, and I could see that she was starting to feel guilty for her outburst
“What should I tell you?”, I smiled, “that I am an idiot, that I could never forget you, that I went to Detroit to get away from you…that when I saw you again in the snow in Istanbul my heart leaped with joy…that I was genuinely happy for you, that my happiness was in your happiness…would you believe it because it’s so damn filmy…but movies take ideas from real life and when it really does happen in real life, we rubbish it off as being filmy..but it is what it is, isn’t it?”
She looked at me and then looked down…
We sat in a comfortable silence together for a few minutes, until a chuckle escaped my lips
“What do you want?”, I asked gently
“To be left alone…to live a little..to just have things be normal”, she smiled
I nodded. I perfectly understood what she meant.
“You know, I’ve never told anyone this and just Zoheb, me and our doctor knew this but..when I was expecting Hana, the doctor had picked up a life threatening complication”, she said after a while
“shhh..it’s fine now but at the time she had told us that the chances of either me or Hana surviving was very low and that we should prepare ourselves for the worst..we were very shocked and upset but Zoheb would smile and say that whatever Allah wills, will happen and we should accept it, He will suffice us”
My heart was still pounding in my chest despite the fact that Aara and Hana were okay.
“We made so much of dua Nemo…and look at it, both Hana and I were fine. Zoheb was over the moon, I had never seen him as happy as he was the moment that he saw Hana..he would have made a great father”
Tears filed in my eyes as I immediately remembered how Zoheb held Hana the day before he passed away…
“But that is life isn’t it…medically Hana and I were in danger, but we are fine. There was nothing wrong with him, and he passed away”, she said softly…”I know about death and how we are advised to deal with it but it still took me some time to accept it completely and I’m on that road Nemo…I can’t turn back now”
“So don’t”, I said, shrugging my shoulders, “don’t turn back, it’s your road Aara no one calk walk it for you, but someone can walk it with you…”
She looked at me questioningly…
“How long have we known each other..some 25 odd years?”, I asked, “Best friends..friends..a friend is just that Aara..a friend. I don’t want or expect anything else of you. I know the circumstances and the rules but right now all I can see is us all those years ago. For the sake of that friendship Aara please don’t cut me out of your’s and Hana’s lives…I want to be there for you, within reason, without being in your face all the time..”
Because I had learned to live without you, I had learned to be happy without expecting anything in return from you. Knowing that you are happy, knowing that you are okay, was all that I needed…
“Don’t worry about what anyone says I will speak to them. We both know that they mean well and they are just worried about you, and I know that we don’t need to because you are tough on your own, so relax okay”
She never said a word and just looked at the stem of grass so intently that I wondered for a second if she would start writing an essay on it!
“There isn’t a day that goes by without me wondering how things would be if he was still alive, I really miss him”, she whispered
The one who she longed for, she couldn’t see. The one who I longed for, was infront of me. But both of us couldn’t have what we wanted.
Life. Love. Destiny.
“Remember that daffodil of yours?”, I asked, as tears built up in my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness or remorse or regret…no..they were tears of pain, they were the tears that fell when you shared your pain with a friend, the tears that fell when you shared the pain of a friend…
“Zaara was it?”, I grinned..”Zoheb and Aara”
She smiled and nodded.
“That daffodil grew from a seed Aara..eventually you transplanted it and what happened?”
“What happened?”, she asked curiously
“It spread…”, I said, rolling my eyes at her
Aara looked up at me as she realised what I was trying to say…
“Look I’m no florist and I don’t know how daffodils grow but your entire front yard is covered in daffodils….from the ONE that you both planted, and from what I can remember from school…the wind carries its seeds as well, so you have no idea how many more daffodils there are in this world…from your one plant”
That was good philosophy alright! I actually shocked myself for a moment there!
“The same with life Aara…one good deed, one smile, good character..it doesn’t die, it’s always remembered”
A fresh lot of tears built up in Aara’s eyes. Eyes that had always seen the toughest of situations, eyes that had always cried more than her fair share of tears…
She cried. And I cried and it reminded me of a time long ago…Where had we come from, how far had we journeyed. Our paths may be different, but they were always side by side.
A relationship that was always hard to define, one that broke many barriers, one that crumbled, one that rejoined.
One that remained.