A love of a different kind
Note: Fiction - All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
As she lay there listless, straining to breathe, there was no fight left in her, she wanted to just … go!
It had been a painful four weeks to say the least. Through the agonizing aches and pains which continued to grow with each day. She had been detoxing her body of all sugar and medicine since the past three months. She had not felt as good as she had that last week before her health suddenly took a toll for the worst.
It started with muscle cramps in her legs, randomly in the middle of the night or during the day, while lying in bed. Then the cramps began in her feet and her hands and arms and back. It was crazy. Then the strange sore throat developed. The uvula swelled up and hung low enough to touch the back of her tongue, making her gag every time she swallowed. She was constantly fighting back the urge to vomit. Then came the fever, the rash, and the bleeding gums. The excruciating pain in the back of her neck. The pounding in her head. Her eyes ached. Her stomach felt raw. Her intestines felt charred. With each passing day, the symptoms kept getting worse. She refused to take any painkillers. She decided to brave it out. She did not want to go to the doctor. She felt silly even mentioning all the symptoms to her mother. She would only worry more. She figured “It’s possibly just some viral, it’ll come to pass … I’ll just bear with it.” It did not pass. It just kept getting worse.
The last few days her fever had been fluctuating between 102°F - 104°F. Every inch of her body ached, she wanted to sleep, but could not. Every time the stabbing pain would attack one would hear her moaning in agony and whispering “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin” (None has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allaah), Glorified (and Exalted) are You (above all that (evil) they associate with You). Truly, I have been of the wrong-doers.) Sometimes raising her voice with the level of pain striking at her from the inside. Finally, she had agreed to take Panadol to break her fever and perhaps because she did not have the strength left to fight it anymore. She would dose off in between the bouts of hammering pain or maybe she just passed out from exhaustion.
Weeks of lying in bed and being drained of all energy, all she could do was think. Sometimes she did not even have the energy for that either. She thought of him endlessly. She had never stopped. He had always been there with her through every moment of her being, since the past 8 years. Luckily, she was in such tremendous physical agony that she could no longer feel any emotional pain. It was as if her broken heart was finally numb. She thought for a while, perhaps she should muster some strength and write a few lines to him. She had never replied to his last mail. Maybe she should just write, “I forgave you even before you asked me to, I never wished you ill, I kept my promise and loved you to the end.” Then she remembered his last mail, He had implied that she was one of those who wished him ill and he was clear about not wanting to communicate with her. She had not since. She decided to comply still; it did not matter to him anyway whether she was dead or alive. In some imaginary world his friends thought she was mad anyway. It would have been good riddance to bad rubbish as far as he was concerned. It did not hurt anymore. It was just another fact that she had learnt to accept and live with and perhaps now, to die with.
2:30am “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin” … “Oh Allaah, Oh Allaah, Oh Allaah forgive me!” … “mama, my lower back is killing me” tears rolling down her face. “I need to go to the loo.” Her mother rushed to her, supporting her as she struggled to walk. She threw up again and again and again. Back in bed, breathing heavily, palpitating heart, she knew perhaps her time had come to go. She was glad. This is what she had wanted. She could not believe it was actually happening. She realized the pain it would cause her mother, but she realized in the long run it would be less painful than seeing the way she was supposedly alive. She thought she should give a heads up or some sort of warning to relieve her mother of the shock of what was about to come. “Mama? What if my time has come? Maybe it is time for me to go.” There was nothing morbid about what she had said and the way she said it, it was very matter of fact. Her mother stood silently then kissed her on the forehead and slept with her hand on her.
She lay there thinking, still confused about so many things. She wondered who that imposter was, the one who had stalked her online, his name Rameez Mohammad Haseeb, RMH. She had mistaken whom for her love, Haseeb Ahmad aka HA. He had really messed with her head. Who was he? What did he want from her? For years, she chatted with him assuming it was HA. How stupid she had felt, how utterly crazy. She speculated that perhaps she had the “Fregoli delusion”. It was all because of the other person on that other social networking platform Haseeb Abdali. Why had either of them bothered to initiate any form of interaction with her and that too at the precise time they did? It was all one big coincidence and she got had, because she had never believed in coincidences. She had promised herself to never fall victim to such rubbish ever and decidedly stopped visiting any or either of their profiles nor responding to any random stranger’s emails or chats or any other form of interaction. She had disappeared from the online and offline social scenes because of losing her mind to all these confusions, caused thanks to the infinite coincidences at exact times in the online world, and the deliberate Machiavellian wounds brought to her heart and soul in the offline social networks. “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin” “Hai Allaah, meray Allaah” ooof the hammering in her head. She stifled her screams. Taking in deep breaths. It felt like there was not enough oxygen.
It was funny how the human mind worked. When you loved someone it found endless ways to justify their behavior and continue to find them irreplaceably cute. Take this entire situation for example, if she were told it was HA behind all these crazy interactions from multiple fake accounts, she would think it crazy but find a gazillion reasons to understand it and ultimately justify it. However on the contrary if they were not fake accounts after all and were random people communicating with her at the behest of some phenomenal bizarre coincidences, they would still be understandably psychotic and a billion reasons were there to ensure and justify why they must never be interacted with again. She recognized this, but it was what it was, and this is how it is. She smiled. She decided to forget all the negative, painful things for now and just focus on the good things that were real and true. This is what she had done all through the years and this is how she had dealt with every painful situation and life. She got through it mainly by deriving strength from her meditations and feeling Allaah’s Love and by holding on the love that HA and she had once shared. It made her smile through her tears and live bravely facing her fears.
She still had his texts. She would not throw away that old phone of hers even after all this time. She had it hidden away in her bedside drawer. She would sneak it out at such moments and just read some of them. It would make her feel some of the joy of those moments and allow her to experience somewhat the feeling of being loved; the mortal love, that involved hugs and affection and all those things that every mortal needs to express and share with their beloved. It still made her smile. No matter how many times she read it, the emotions he had stirred in her were ever so real and perhaps the closest thing to the feeling of being truly alive that she had experienced in this illusory world. She whispered his name ever so slightly, she had done this uncountable times in the past 8 years, more so with each passing year and with every painful incident she lived through. She inhaled deeply as the stabbing pain jabbed at her again, this time attacking her feet. She leaned forward achingly, grabbing her foot to massage it. She whispered his name again with a sigh, asking the perpetual question “Haseeb, where are you?” and realizing the useless futility of this she would replace the hushed whispers with Allaah’s remembrance, calling out to the One Who is there, the Knower of Hearts and all that lies within, the One Who Listens, the One Who Hears, the One Who Loves “Allaah Hoo, Allaah Hoo, Allaah Hoo …”
Her mother watching her deteriorating state day in and day out and witnessing the casual acceptance and graceful solitude in her daughter's eyes, which came from knowing that it was time go. “You must pray for your own health. You must do it. Allaah expects that of us!” she spoke to her daughter with an earnest request. She did not look her mother in the eye, her mother knew why and quietly walked away. As Muslims we are not allowed to pray for anyone’s death, not even our own. Unless it was worded such that it was for the benefit of the person, e.g. if someone were in agony and terminally ill and the only relief were to come through their death, then praying for their relief from any more suffering would be justified albeit it would indirectly mean you were wishing them death. She had been wanting to wish such a relief upon herself for years to rid her of the emotional pain, but Alas, that is unacceptable. How could she be expected to wish for her health when she was so close to getting what she wanted. Every year she had lived through near death experiences and somehow, much to her dismay, she had survived each time. Only to exist in this strange illusion called “Life”.
Life. What was her life? For days, at times even weeks she would not step out of the few rooms called “home”. Sometimes she would remain silent from morning to night, when even her own voice would sound alien to her when she would whisper his name. She would sit there day in and day out working on some online web project she was voluntarily doing or some other art project she was inspired to create. The things that interested her were not of common interest, especially amongst women. She hated the typical conversations amongst the female friends, the gossiping, the endless complaints about house help, or bickering about the husbands and the in-laws, the talk of their children and their parental issues, jewelry, handbags and clothes, bla bla bla. When they were done with all this it would turn to her, and of course there was no other topic to discuss with her except marriage and why she should or shouldn’t or could or couldn’t and that was something she refused to get into. She did not want to talk about it, because it inevitably meant talking about him and then why he left her and why he was not worth it, bla bla bla. She did not want the world to think badly of him, they were harsh and judgmental and if they had to judge someone and be unkind, then let it be she rather than he. Therefore, she would just not bring him up and simply pretend she had stopped loving him ages ago and did not even remotely think about him except for in passing. She was left with hardly any friends because of the crime of being past the marriageable age and still being single. Women have a tendency to become insecure and the first to get victimized is the unmarried friend. It was best to be safe than sorry, so she usually just spoke to people when spoken to you. Never initiated plans, and avoided social scenes as best as she could. This was life, it was claustrophobic. He was right to leave her if she made him feel claustrophobic. She hated the feeling of claustrophobia, which is why she wanted to just go. It was not fair to ask her to pray she should stay, when all she hoped to do was finally leave.
He was sitting beside her, holding her hand. She could not believe it. She could smell him. She barely had the energy to smile. She wanted to say so much. She looked at him. He was looking at her. Just like that night 7 years ago, the last time they met. “Trust me, I will come see you, trust me!” he had said while holding her hand. He had kept his promise. She smiled. Tears running down her … “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin” Ouch ouch ouch “Hai Allaah, forgive me, meray Mawlah!” the light stung at her wet teary eyes. She stretched her hand to get the glass of water. Her mouth was parched and dry. Her mother’s earlier request echoing in her ears. She did not want to pray for health, she wanted to pray for a graceful and easy end. She wanted to pray for her permanent physical and emotional relief. She wanted to be enfolded in the embrace of her Beloved Allaah. She just wanted to feel loved with an unimaginable intensity. She just wanted to go now. “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin.” The hammering would not stop. Sometimes her head, sometimes her legs, sometimes her back. It just would not stop!
What had she wanted from life, from him? Love? Her intense love made people feel claustrophobic, perhaps they didn’t understand love the way she did. Nevertheless, they were all normal and understood each other. She was the misfit. She did not belong. The problem was with her, not with everyone else. She had tried to fix it. She had tried to grow up, to harden up, and to become cold and callous. She had tried to love less. She only pretended she did not love as much or did not care. She was never cured of this problem. She had never been able to overcome this weird disability. She knew her love, was of a different kind. She only knew how to wear and mask and pretend. She would have made a great actress maybe. She did not have what it took to survive or even understand this life. She knew she did not want to disappoint her mother and she knew she wanted to give her hope. Hope is the only thing that saw her through all these torturous years. She prayed “Oh My dearest Allaah, the Knower of all that is, was and will be. Oh My Precious Lord, if he loves me and if we will get married to each other and live happily together forever and eternity, then and only then grant me health and please now in all urgency just allow for us to be truly together if it is destined to be. Else please My Lord make my departure from this world graceful, easy and urgent. Aameen!” It was not that she could not accept the truth for what it was, it was in fact that she had accepted it wholly, in its entirety and knew this prayer was perfectly worded for the latent prayer she had been intensely wanting to seek. It was the only prayer that would ensure that this prelude to the end, would in turn miraculously allow it to finally be, her ‘END!’
When she opened her eyes, her head was placed in her mother’s lap. Her mother had been placing a wet towel on her head to bring the fever down. “Are you feeling any better?” Her mother lovingly inquired. She managed to smile and say “Jee (yes), a little…”. As she was about to close her eyes again her mother quietly asked “did you pray for your health?” She looked up at her mother, she looked into her eyes this time, then she confidently said “Jee (yes) I did”. Her mother had a look of relief as if all was going to be well now. She closed her eyes again and blew her mother a kiss. She wanted to go and hide under the bed. She knew this feeling. It was all too familiar, whenever she was in a strange situation where she felt vulnerable and raw or hurt or an urge to cry like a baby, she wanted to hide under the bed.
She had done that for years. Running and hiding under the bed until she was much older and finally designed a bed for herself where the possibility of hiding under no longer remained. She could not understand why she had felt like doing that. It was silly, childish and stupid. Suddenly as if it were an epiphany she saw a visual of the underside of the bed, it was so familiar, it was the bunk bed she used to sleep on as a child. All through her childhood she had slept on the lower bunk of a double bunk bed. Her elder brother had slept on the one above. That was her safe haven, where she felt cozy and secure and protected and loved. Her elder brother had adored her and she was his baby girl, and the feeling she got lying there knowing he was on the bunk bed above was something she could not explain to anyone and something she had continued to yearn every time she was faced with a trying situation and it did not matter how old she was. And that was the reason why she wanted to run and lie under the bed staring at the underside of the bed above her. The stabbing begun again, “Ya Allaah Reham, Ya Allaah Reham” (Oh Allaah have Mercy!). She curled up in agony. Tears streaming down her face. She whispered his name, she blew him a kiss, then two, she pretended she was kissing her hand when she was in fact kissing what he had once held. She quietly whispered, “I’m sorry I made you claustrophobic”.
She was giggling, it was a beautiful day. It was raining, but it was not cold neither was she wet. It was pleasantly chilly. She was standing there, greenery surrounding her. Where was she, it looked familiar. There was fog, or was she in the clouds. It was divine. He walked up to her. She stood frozen in disbelief. A semi smile plastered on her face. An intense look on his face, too intense for words. He was looking straight at her. She was glad for the rain, otherwise he would have noticed the tears. She was in his arms, He was holding her. They stood like that for some time. She finally spoke, she whispered hoping he would hear her “Haseeb, hold me tight, … like you would never let me go!” He hugged her tightly, not saying a word. “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin.” She breathed deeply “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin.” She sighed. “la ilaha illallah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin…”