As narrated by Nemo:
I looked from Aara to Riza to Arshad in complete disbelief. I must have heard wrong, or so I had hoped.
“You guys are serious?”
Nobody answered but all of them had these unreadable, nervous looks on their faces!
“I told you that I don’t want to go for any more samoosa runs Aara come on, how many times have we been through this??”, I said as anger flared up inside me
“I know but one last one won’t kill you!”, she said quickly
Arshad put his hand to his head and shot her a look, before looking down again.
“Last one? Hah and then after a few weeks there will be more right?”
I pulled the tip of my nose in frustration. All of a sudden where the hell did this samoosa run come from! We were here in Durban for a nice weekend together,did they have to go and spoil it!
“Stop pulling your nose dammit it’s already so big what do you want to do make it the size of a gutter pipe now?”, She asked cheekily and Riza burst out laughing
“Gutter pipe?”, I asked wide eyed
“Stop being so dramatic will you, it’s not a matter of life or death!”, she said, rolling her eyes at me
“Right, I’m going inside”, Riza said as he squeezed my shoulders
I shrugged him off and looked at Arshad, who also, miraculously, had to go inside!
“Cowards!”, I shouted
“Don’t behave like a Banshee man just give it a shot”
“Gutter pipe Banshee?”, I asked, wanting to grab her by her shoulders and shake her
“Best one also” ,Aara winked, “please?”
“No man Aara really..we spoke about this many times before and you were cool with it!”, I pleaded,” I can’t go through with another one”
Aara sighed and threw a pebble into the pond we’d throw coins in as kids.
“You can’t rule out opportunities you know”
“Is this your new mission ever since you’re in Durban? Find Naeem a wife?”, I asked, slightly annoyed. Okay more than slightly, but what the hell man!
“Not really”, she said casually
What does not really mean!
“So this samoosa run is a joke or a random thing for you?”
“Of course not”, she said, looking down
“I don’t want any favors okay. I don’t need any favors. I thought we had crossed this bridge .I thought we had passed this damn pity crap! I’m perfectly fine on my own!”, I snapped
Maybe I was a bit too harsh…. but no, every time that I had gone to see a prospective bride I felt so guilty because I knew that I didn’t even have any excitement or anticipation in me and it was complete injustice to the girl who I would probably never love! Call it extreme if you must but I was okay being alone and in my eyes, it was just wrong to lead someone on.
While smoke emitted from my nose and ears, I failed to notice Aara, who was now also seething!
“You are so freaking annoying!”, she bellowed, “can’t you just listen for once!”
“The answer is going to be no, just so you know ,so you are totally wasting your time”, I shouted back
And with that she pushed me!
What is it with her and pushing me!
“Make an effort don’t you think??”, she said angrily
“I don’t want to!!!”
“Naeem I swear to God that I will never talk to you again!”
Aara looked at me for a few seconds, and started walking towards the house..”I don’t know why I even bothered!”
I kicked another stone in frustration…. Why does she do this!!??!???
“Fine I’ll go”, I mumbled
I am so positively sure that she must have had a smug grin on her face hearing that, before she turned around and faced me…”See that wasn’t so hard now was it”
“When and where?”, I asked, ignoring her question
“I’ll message you in the morning”, she smiled…and then proceeded to ignore me during supper
I was honestly so sick and tired of this and I knew that for as long as I was single, I’d be subjected to this every so often. Why do people class you for not being married????
I was not waiting for her morning message, in fact, I had hoped that she’d forget about it, but promptly after fajr lo and behold..the message of Aara
“North beach pier in an hour, join me for a jog”
I wished that I could put my hands through my phone and strangle her! Okay not strangle but you get my drift.
When I reached the pier, she was already there, facing the ocean, all alone. The sound of the waves crashing gently on this shore that we loved so much, the peace and tranquility of the early morning sunrise, the entire ambiance…calmed my heart and soul. I felt so at ease and so much at peace. Sometimes all we need, is to just step back and look around, take that deep breath in, and marvel at the beauty that Allah Ta’ala has placed all around us. We get so awfully engrossed in our lives that we fail to appreciate these bounties that are around us all of our lives…
I didn’t have the heart to disturb her so I stood a few feet behind her and took in my surroundings. And when Madam finally realised that I was running late and tried calling me-and well obviously my phone rang right behind her! Lol! She jumped in shock! Priceless!
“How long have you been standing there?”, she asked, still recovering from her mini shock
“Long enough to enjoy the same thing that you’re enjoying”, I grinned, forgetting for a second that I was actually mad at her
Aara looked down nervously as though she were gathering her thoughts and then just as suddenly, looked up
We had often jogged on the Golden Mile, many years ago and even though we were going forward, in my mind, it was as though we were running backwards into those years…
Aara loved running, and I knew why. The gentle thud with each step empowered you..the stretch ahead made you feel alive and free, the wind in your face reminded you that it was just you and no one else…the amazing feeling of being free was unbelievably awesome. These precious moments, away from the reality of our daily routines was simply unmatched.
She was silent for a good fifteen minutes, until she stopped and looked at me. Catching her breath and almost as though she was analyzing me..she then did something that I would never ever forget, although at that moment, it took a good few seconds for it to register…
With no words spoken, she reached into her small backpack and took out a container filled with…samoosas!
Tears filled up in her eyes as she finally looked up at me. Dumb as I was, I still didn’t get it. Surely there had to be a catch somewhere?
“My name is Aara Ismail and I may not have much to offer you…”
My heart literally stopped!
” There are many scars on my heart, and many wounds too…but my friendship and you, have always been there, inside it all”
She wiped away a few tears and took a deep breath in….
“I have grown to understand that there are different kinds of love in life, different stages of love, and while it is true that I did love you a long time ago, the admiration that stems from my heart for you at this moment, outshines even that”
I was completely awestruck and my eyes filled up with tears of joy and shock. I couldn’t believe that this was happening!
“This is not pity or anything of the sort, it’s not for Hana either because I know that you are there for her and you don’t need any relationship to justify your presence in her life….”, and she swallowed hard as more tears fell from her eyes…”this is not even for the who Aara you grew up with, not for our years of friendship, and no, Zoheb hasn’t left me any letter with an elaborate wish for me to settle down with you…this is for me..now…with all my faults, tantrums and breakdowns…this is for the realization that a story remains incomplete, one that began years ago…and it had to go in different directions else the value of it would never be felt”
She was right. Had it all been hunky dory all those years ago, I would never have appreciated her value in my life, and had life not taken her happiness from her, she would never have realised her own value or mine. The truth is, we had learned from each other, through each other – and we didn’t even know it.
I couldn’t help myself and burst out crying as I held on to her words…
” People may not see it, and even if they do, some may see it as convenience…but I don’t care, a part of me will always be incomplete without you…”, Aara cried..”Life has taken much from both of us, but it has taught us a lot too. We were blessed with many wonderful people, the best of whom was Zoheb…destiny’s card…”
Bittersweet are the tears of the heart, when it remembers the one who it loved so dearly….But our Maker has given us more strength than we admit…more resilience than we understand, until the sun shines on it one fine day when we open our always closed eyes. Closed to reality, closed to realization.
“And I have this strong desire in my heart to change my life and I can’t do it alone…There’s so much to do Nemo..There’s a world that we haven’t seen yet , a world that was there from the beginning. Our true calling…to be better muslims, to be better human beings, to do things in the right way… Until yesterday, I wasn’t sure if what I wanted to do was right, but when you handed me that bunch of Zoheb’s daffodils, I knew that I wasn’t wrong. I knew that you would always respect his memory and his place in my heart and he was right, he would always say that our lives were joined, we were connected by fate and that we didn’t understand it then but we would one day…”
And my mind momentarily went back to their wedding day when Aara wrote our names on the sand, with a heart around our three names in particular…
“Life is not a fairytale, and who would know this better than us?”, she said, as she wiped away a tear, “but life is not life without you either…we’ve been together for so many years…Will you spend the rest of my life with me too?”
My bruised heart cried tears of relief..I knew what she was saying, I knew what she meant, because I had felt it too. We had passed the stage of young love, we had understood that love and romance wasn’t everything- we were a part of a greater cause. We had learned that love wasn’t soppy movies and red roses, nor was it fancy weddings and parties. Love was a tree inside our heart, that weathered the roughest of storms. Love was in silent companionship. Love was that gentle wind that swept and picked up pieces of its beloveds broken heart and kept it with it safely. Love was a tender smile that hid deep lines of pain and anguish. Love was being there, unconditionally, without any expectations. Love was Allah, loving was for his sake. To live the life that He had given us, within the boundaries of his commands. And when that bond becomes halaal, the love that is placed in it by Him is one that we would have never felt before. For He knows our pain, He has heard our tears fall, He has tested us, He has rewarded us and He will give us the courage to begin that new chapter.
“So, I’ve taken this chance even though you told me yesterday that your answer would be no…in the hope that you will change your mind. I don’t know if my heart will ever heal Nemo…but atleast it will beat again”
I didn’t care if this was a joke or if this was whatever, nor did I need to hear anything else. Images from our past flashed before my eyes…our school days, our pond moments, our mad moments, our terrifying moments, the way in which she fought for me, the way in which I hurt her…the way in which she lay unconscious struggling for her life, the day that we dashed through the hospital with her on a wheelchair darting through those corridors without a care in the world, her wedding day, Aara in the snow, Aara staring into emptiness…Aara standing in front of her house handing over its keys…Aara in front of me. Aara who I had loved and lost. Aara who I had learned to live without. Aara who began the story of love in my life with her tiny handshake and peanut butter sandwich, Aara who had changed my mindset and made me love my life. Aara, my prayer answered.
What was I if not a wounded man…what was she if not a wounded woman…We understood each others pain, we knew what we had lost. We respected each others sorrows, through the thread of a bond that could never ever be seen or named. But it would have a name now. Even if it was just for the remainder of this worldly life.
“I love the girl”, I said, smiling through my tears, as I picked up a samoosa to solidify it
And with that, Aara cried fresh new tears and so did I…
If those tears could be accumulated, they would have been plentiful raindrops falling from the sky. And in the distance, there would be a rainbow celebrating a story that was ours all along.
I wiped my eyes and smiled at her from the bottom of my heart, and took her hands in mine..”I have no expectations of you sweetheart, whatever it is, however it is, we may not be perfect, but we’ll be together”
And just like that, in the way in which a hand fits perfectly into a glove,in the way in which the four seasons melt into each other,in the way that a story comes full circle eventually, ours did too.
Strange is life, our story spanned over 30 years of twists and turns… Strange is love, which had never died within us….stranger is destiny, which took us to different times, different people , different lives. And here we are today, as better versions of ourselves, wiser, stronger, mature, battered and bruised from life’s challenges..but alive, as we hold each others hands and walk towards a new future, a new beginning. We can never forget our tests, we can never forget our angel, and maybe our time together, is only for this life only, in this world only, for He will ultimately give us what is best for us, on the day when we will all meet again.
This was our story, this was our friendship.
Hardened by the boulders of life.
Softened by the yellow daffodils of love.
Joined altogether, all nine of us, unrelated, different individuals, by the hand of destiny.