It's me
by Zahra Naazir

‘Ohhhh my GOD!’ He erupted and then froze. An explosion of silence smogged the air. Finally he expelled the words, ‘It’s you.’

‘Of course it is, why would it be anyone else? I’ve always had a way of speaking so outwardly with no sense of direction. Sometimes I feel bad and yet continue on. ‘Yikes… I’ve never seen you with an overgrown beard before. What happened?’ My confusion was called for. I mean, it was his birthday yesterday and he looked beyond hot! That sexy stubble and ‘perfectly’ messy styled hair. How did he change overnight to someone that looks so disheveled? Sunken, tear stained eyes, lines in his forehead, greasy hair and a beard that simply conquered his face. I didn’t get it!

‘It’s you!’ He repeated, this time not so taken aback.

‘Yes, again… It’s me.’ I couldn’t help but giggle. ‘What’s wrong with you men?’ Realization began to dawn upon his handsome features. He smiled a sulky smile.

‘Oh… I’m not okay am I?

‘No you don’t look like it, mister… you look terrible.’ I looked around the room. Four years of marriage and everything I’ve ever said to him: put your clothes in the freakin’ bin, can’t you

make the bed for once, don’t keep your mug directly on the wood men. All the training that had eventually groomed my man to be the husband I had just yesterday; it was all gone. Every mistake lay there before my eyes as they spanned around the room; ugh men!

‘Look at this room. What the…’ He simply laughed at my face. ‘That’s it, I’m not talking to you.’ I said playfully.

‘I can’t believe it’s you?’

‘What nonsense? Where would I be? ‘You have no damn idea do you.’ ‘No, tell me so.’

‘No, darling…no, no, no… let’s just enjoy our time together.’

‘Oh wow! Now you want to spend time with me and not your job.’ A joke, but the look on his face; regret riddled his features and that made me want to take my words back.

‘I… I had a dream last night, that covid had taken your life and… well.. You’re not dead now, so.. well I get how precious you are. I- I love you.’ Tears welled up and pain seemed to drown him.

‘Hey it’s not real man! I’m here. I love you! ’ Trying to turn the atmosphere upside down I said, ‘Let’s go and make some breakfast, it’ll be fun, some toast?’

His face suddenly exploded with the sense of being alert.

‘WAIT..NOOO! DON’T GO!’ He screamed and then helplessly whimpered ‘don’t go…’

Confused as I could ever be, I saw him a few seconds later in front of the television. ‘BREAKING NEWS; the covid 19 virus is still at large…’ He sat on the couch, his legs folded, a cushion hugged close. His stubble was back and hair trimmed. Not to his usual perfection, but he looked so much better. I was surprised to see that the sun had been swallowed up whole by the night sky. A single standing lamp provided a small glow of yellow light that made him look even more mysteriously fine!

‘How is it night time? What did you scream before? DON’T GO, for what? Oh gosh I’m so confused… What is the news saying now… anyone we know who died?

‘Oh man! Wow… your back. ‘

‘Ummm… how many times do you intend to say that to me? Do you want me to go?’

‘NO! No no no…. sit with me let’s talk. I just wanna look at you. Ohh… the dress… the one I like.. you’re so… gosh… so beautiful.’

I couldn’t help but find this amusing. He was never the romantic kind and here he was selling his soul.

‘Ok I’ll bite…’ I wore the same chiffon, flowy dress many years ago when we first met. It was my favorite too. I still remember poking my best friend.

‘Damn look at him.. yikes, he’s NICE!’

He looked at me for a moment and then simply got up and came over. Gosh this man and his ego and his confidence. ‘Intimidated’ is not a good enough word to describe the rush I felt. I mean, we women are used to the pick up lines and side looks, but he was just out of this world! He pulled me over and we simply spent the rest of the day together, talking like we had been friends forever. Conversations were fluid. He licked his lips, smiled and promised we’d meet again. We did. Many times over.

Now I stood here in a very different situation. I looked back at him, but this time he had his hand covering his face. The trauma was evident, but why was I not in the loop?

‘What’s wrong?’

‘What’s wrong! What’s wrong?! My parents came over and they told me that this,’ he gestured with wild hands to the both of us, ‘ this is wrong and I’m not okay. I am to meet a therapist and all! Ugh, I want them to leave me the heck alone. I just want YOU!’

‘What? Your parents love me? When?’ ‘You left.’

‘I did? What?’ I could not shake the tumult of confusion that seemed to send me on overdrive. ‘I DON’T CARE WHAT THEY SAY. I just want you to stay, so please just stay!’

‘Us, we? What? Why?’ ‘Let me show you.’

He took out his keys and strode quickly to the car. He calmed down and tried to focus on the drive. I could not take my eyes off him. I tried to stay silent throughout the 20 minutes, I didn’t want him to get upset again. But my agony screamed at me. What has changed so much! The night sky looked amazing as silver clouds encircled the full bright, brilliant moon. Tonight seemed to be one of reasoning, but he seemed to have understood more ‘reason’ than I did. I looked at his brooding features and long eyelashes that hooded his brown eyes.

‘Why does a man like you have such long lashes and here I am, a woman, putting on fake ones… how is this fair?’

It’s because you’re the handsome one,’ he taunted. ‘Very funny, pretty boy.’

‘Well, my dashing beard handled that.. so ya I’m handsome – and so are you.’ He laughed mockingly. This was so us, even the most dreadful times would be simmered by simple mocking.

“Where are we?’

His boyish smile disappeared. ‘The cemetery.’

‘Yes.’

We meandered through many sections where bodies lay. This was morbid. A night at the cemetery.

‘Why are we here… I’m scared.’ He walked purposefully to one patch of square land. A gravestone stood erected. He began to sob. Who passed and left such a giant hole in his heart? My eyes struggle to see the name etched in stone.

‘Here.. look. His phone’s torch light aimed at the carving and the name stunned me so much I felt a ripple hit me hard.

‘Me! Me? What?’

And then it happened. I was pulled out of this world and submerged to a timeline a year ago.

‘I can’t breathe.. I can’t…’

‘Okay…let’s go… let’s go to the hospital.’ ‘Please send her to the covid unit’

‘Sir she’s too far gone.’

‘Please help her.. it’s okay to put her on the ventilator.’ ‘There isn’t that many, she’s too far gone.’

‘I can’t breathe.. I …can’t’

‘Wait darling, I’ll get someone to help you..’ ‘Noo.. stay…’

‘Sorry sir.’

‘Ok beautiful, my angel…just stay with me…’

A void surrounded me. The night could never be this black. My train of thought was brought to an abrupt halt and then there I was, face to face with the man of my dreams… Only was I his dream?

‘ I’m not real.. I’m your thoughts trying to hold on…I thought today was the day after your birthday…’

‘No… it’s been a year.’

A year! He’s been like this for a whole year! I’m a hallucination. He’s sick! I didn’t want to say it, but I did.

‘You… you need to let go. Your parents are right. I can’t let you live your life like this.’

‘I know…but covid took you away so soon, you couldn’t breathe, you couldn’t breathe… I can’t.’

‘No… I want you to be happy… have… have a family. Love again. You can… just say it… it’s ok… I will be fine- I am fine. Say it…’

I could feel his pain. He fell to the ground and looked towards the real me, with fingers digging into the soil to connect with the urn in any way. He cried out aloud. I moved to hug him. He turned my way.

‘Ok.. I’ll do it.’ he whispered.

‘Yes, say it.’ He tried hard to steady himself and find the will to do what he needed to do. ‘Okay… my love… you..’ I knew I had to push him to the closure he deserved.

‘Say it please, please say it!’

‘You a-are dead.. you are not alive…’ ‘Yes-say it.’

‘I love you,’ tears streamed down his face, ‘ I love you, but..’ ‘Just say it.’

He reached over to touch my skin, I felt fire grow within. It would soon be extinguished forever. With immense love in his glistening eyes, he did it.

‘Goodbye Christine.’

Goodbye Ashen.

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