I looked at my husband.
He was crying like a baby, the sides of his face in my hands, his four days old stubble grazing my palms.
At that moment, the line between romantic affection and motherly love wasn’t there anymore and my heart went out to him like he was my own kid.
I felt like I was dying of cancer, not by suicide, and that he was my four year old son.
It was as if he had been looking at the doctors coming at our house for days and although he hadn’t quite figured out what really was wrong yet, he knew in his heart that his mother was going away, somewhere very far.
All I could think of was how he would get very lonely soon.
The furious storm had turned into a mere drizzle when the rickshaw stopped beside the road. It appeared Zeus was done for the day.
The rickshaw puller was all drenched in his “lungi” and shirt. He mumbled a bad word, probably aiming his own anger at Zeus or some similar figure. Or maybe it was meant for the last passenger, who couldn’t be persuaded to give a few bucks extra for the rain.
He took out his little packet of weed and its paraphernalia and started to make a stick from scratch. Then he cozied up on his rickshaw seat, gave it a puff and uttered, probably at Zeus or at the raindrops or the last customer, “damn you!!!” and closed his eyes in ecstasy.
As the twilight came closer, the shadows became more and more lengthy, making them resemble works by Giacometti. The cat didn’t appear to be informed of that fact, nor did he seem to be in a hurry, he had his dinner planned. He had been observing his meal for a week then, that one was special. although it also lived in the alley, it had fat in its body. The cat could use some animal fat for himself.
He slowly entered the room through the house. A child was sleeping peacefully there.
He sat there all day, with his pen and paper, surrounded by the customers and the cash-memos. The manager of the famous road-side restaurant “Salam Kebab House”, Ahmad left for home each night smelling of burnt meat. He didn’t notice the smell anymore, but his wife, rokaiya, after all these years, still did. She was a petit woman, with the fury similar to the spices they used to make their famous “shik kebab”. People had tears in their eyes from the spices used in making their famous “shik kebab”.
He didn’t want this life for himself. He imagined himself to be a musician, creating music, with his muse, a woman he would call his wife, but would never be able to truly get through the veil of mystery that kind of covered her from everyday monotone.
But he got this life instead, the life of burnt meat. His father, Salam Uddid was as famous for his fury as he was for his kebabs. It is said that one time his pious father literally kicked out a customer from the restaurant because that customer was drunk. When he told his father about his dream of the life of music, people say that Salam Uddin was so mad that his veins were visible on his forehead. Music was strongly prohibited in their religion.
We don’t know what exactly happened next, but after that day Ahmad was never seen anywhere else other than his home and the table of the manager of this restaurant. He learned to conform himself to the rules of this life, married the girl his father chose for him and continued living this life even after it had been 6 years since his father died.
What people don’t say, because they don’t have the necessary knowledge, is that under the cash register, one can find what looks like a regular cheap notebook, that is filled with the lyrics of hundreds of beautiful songs…
Things were getting tougher as the days went by. He was supposed to be brave, but he could only manage to gather the courage needed to really look at the darkness that was coming towards him, slowly, but surely, to grasp him, to take him in, to devour him whole. He couldn’t move, he had neither the strength nor the courage to step away…
It had been about half an hour since his last passenger left him there. On a hot day like that, passengers were hard to come by. People stayed inside their homes, under the shade of their roofs and the cool of their air conditioners, where the only warmth came from their loved ones. He felt grateful for the flame tree; it looked like it was on fire but the truth was it was the only shade for not-so-lucky rickshaw pullers like him who had to work on a day like that. He thanked his God for the existence and presence of that tree there, and kept on looking behind his shoulders with the hope of watching the face of his next passenger turning the corner…