We had buried her under a big pile of earth and rain was falling on her grave!
|Bash’s voice navigated its way through the drizzle. It was chilly. Even by London standards. I stood near the grave. Both my boys clinging to each of my arms. Mustafa was seven and Mike was four. I tried to keep the umbrella over both of them. Have they grown bigger? The umbrella seemed too small to shield us three while before it used to suffice. Then I realized that this was the first time both the boys were with me. Before only Mustafa used to be with me, while Mike shared his mom’s umbrella. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. Now there was no one else to protect these boys but me. I was left alone in this task. What seemed like a possible nightmare a while ago became the ugly reality. Muneera was dead. She had died in an accident the day before. Had she? She was hit by a drunk driver on her way back from work. My head swam. I felt faint. The people in front of me became a blur.
“Ash- hadu Alla illaha- illalah….I bear witness that there is no God but Allah….”
Again Bash’s voice.
“May God bless her soul, amen.”
“Danny are you ok?”
Bash shifted from Arabic to formal English to his Highlands English. He and Rebecca ran towards me. Bash held me while Rebecca took the children. People started leaving murmuring their condolences. I don’t remember too much of what they said. All I remember is that I thanked the Almighty that my best friend and my sister were there to support me.
“Be brave Dan-dee!”
Bash called me by my childhood nick name for the first time after a good fifteen years I think. Bash is my best friend ever since I can remember. We spent our childhood running in the meadows of the highlands in Scotland. Fishing in our Loch. Going to school. Laughing together, crying together, sharing everything from clothes to food to growing up pains. Weddings, holidays, births, deaths. We were always there for each other.
Bash’s full name is Hafiz Bashir-ud-Din Chaudhry. He is a third generation immigrant. Grandchild of a Pakistani couple. But now more of a Scotsman that me. The red hair and pale skin he got from his Scottish mother, while his flawless Quranic Arabic he learned from his Grandfather. I think I should mention that I had a secret crush on his sister Shakeela when I was a boy. He knew that. So did Muneera.
“I guess that is where my infatuation with black eyes and long dark hair began,” I told her once while she was pregnant with Mike.
She had smiled and her dark eyes sparkled like never before.
“Maybe…”, she said.
“Or maybe your soul knew what his other half looked like and you tried to find me in every woman who looked like me.”
“You always scare me when you say such things.”
“Souls and life and death and fate and what not.”
“OK. Then one down to earth thought for you. I think Mustafa is awake in his room and he is calling for you.”
She was right. I could hear him.
“So now ‘Dad’, see what your son wants, as I am tooooo tired to get up yet again with this belly.”
She closed her eyes and I got up.
But that day none of it mattered. We had buried her under a big pile of earth and rain was falling on her grave while we were slowly walking towards our cars. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust!
But what about those of us who were left behind?
The lady in front of us was wearing yellow stilettos. With sequins on the heels. Her dress was a bright yellow too. Too small, too tight, too transparent. All this could have really hit off well with the boys if she was in a night club, at three A.M. in the morning and “the boys” were half-drunk. But she was not. She was walking besides the sea. It was June. It was one in the afternoon. It was way too much.
Mustafa looked at me and I looked at him. And we non-verbally communicated a whole book. Shoot! She turned around. Her silicone assets in full artificial view. Oh Dear God! She must be sixty!
She smiled. Or at least I thought that is what that facial contortion was meant to convey. Botox can limit your ability to express emotions in many ways you know. Then she said something in Arabic and a bit of fractured French to Mustafa, turned away and started walking again. We stopped.
“What did she say Flabby?”
“I don’t have a clue, man. How am I supposed to know?”
“But you fit right in. Every third guy looks like you.”
“Yes. You are right. Lebanon is famous the world over for good looking chaps.”
Our conversation ceased for a couple of minutes as three good reasons for conversation cessation crossed us in full summer glory.
After we had finished studying these fine specimen, or speci-women, obviously out and about for the very intention of being closely studied and maybe even picked up for even closer inspection, we resumed talking.
“I am really hungry Mike.”
“Again? Sweet mom in heaven! Where do you put all this? And still stay skinny. Flabby, yet skinny.”
“It is a gift. Oh! There is a café. I am saved. This place should be called Café-stan.”
We crossed the road and started walking towards the café. Mustafa was quiet. OK, now that was really disturbing.
“Why so quiet Flabbs?”
“I don’t know man. I was thinking about what you just said.”
“That every third person here looks like me.”
“Hey come on brother! I was just kidding OK? Since when did you start taking my comments seriously?”
“I don’t know Mike. I have this funny feeling since we landed here. I can’t describe it.”
“Then don’t. See cupcakes…..?”
We had reached the café.
“I missed you the love of my life,” Mustafa rushed to hug the display window . Great! Things back to normal! That’s the guy I know and love. That’s Flabby all right!
END OF PART 2