The pearl beads of the rosary were scattered like snowflakes everywhere. On the carpet, under the table and on the glass of the table its seeds had rolled. I picked up a white bead of rosary; the same perfume was still on it.
I last saw him two years ago. In my phone book, I’d scrolled over his name a few times until I finally decided. I pressed the green button on the phone. My arms and legs were numb, my voice was trembling. I gathered all my energy and said, “Yes, sir.”
It was as if he had lived with this sound for years.
“Yes,” hung in the air for a few seconds. The clock stood still and the birds were silent.
I finally broke the silence. “Can we see each other, once?”
“Yes. But I cannot stay long.”
I was hearing his voice after two years and a few months. I was full of contradictions. I was both happy and sad. Some days I’d missed him so much that I wished I could see or hear him for just five minutes.
“Is it okay?” His voice took me out of my past thoughts.
I said, “Okay.”
He gave me the address of the meeting place.
“How much I have missed you—” but when I finished, I realized that he had cut off the call.
I remembered the days when we had fought to end our conversations and never wanted to say goodbye to each other.
I reached Pul-e-Sorkh crossroads and entered the cafe where we were going to see each other. We chose a table in the quiet corner of the cafe. The coffees came. The sound of the music, which was very calm, made me sadder.
“You have not changed a bit; still pretty. Like me.” When he smiled, wrinkles appeared around his eyes.
“You are still sweet also.” I noticed that not only a few strands of his beard had turned white, but also some white strands on his hair. Ahmad Zahir’s voice wrapped around the cafe, Come back, my soul, all souls are sacrificed for your soul.
“My daughter is two years old these days. I can’t believe it at all, it’s as if it were yesterday,” he said.
I was surprised. “Do you have a daughter?”
“Yes, a cute and happy girl.” He pulled his phone out of his bag and entered the password. Went to the mobile gallery. All the pictures were of his daughter. From the day she was born until an hour ago when she was taken to kindergarten.
“She is so cute. She looks like you—see her eyes.”
He smiled, a laugh that did not reach his eyes and dried on his cheeks. Silence reigned. The surrounding voice rose again. Her hair shone under the cafe’s golden lights, sings Ahmad Zahir.
“Do you remember that day?” He rolled his eyes, turned to look outside the cafe and stared at the cars, clenched his lips tightly and waved approval. “Like today, it was a spring day. It was the first and last time we went together—” I cut him off.
“Sahel, whatever you mean, let me tell you that I’m married. I have a husband and a daughter. I am no longer that young girl.” I jumped in between his words. “Why did you deceive me? If you did not love me, why did you get so close to me? Why did you turn off your phone the day we returned from the hunting? Why did you get married just three days later? Why?”
He grinned and resumed his speech.
“As if you do not know the reason for our separation. That night, when my father found out that I had not gone to university, but out hunting with you instead, the resurrection took place in our house. He told me about the prostitute, the headless girl. I endured all of this. But I still could not forget the scene where my mother took her heart and fell down the stairs. My mother was my last hope, and my mother’s last wish was my wedding. When he asked my uncle to take me for his son, I was tired of the cries of my sick mother, who was in the last days of her life, and of my father’s bitter taunts, saying, ‘You have disgraced her.’ My uncle made me take my bride with thousands of taunts. He said God forbid that the girl did not do something wrong.” When he finished, there was a heavy hatred in his throat.
He continued again. “I could not forget you either, but sometimes the circumstances of the time force a person to make a decision that is against the inner desire of a person. The day after my wedding, my mother passed away.
I have not thought for a long time who was to blame for those circumstances and the decision. After my mother, I live only for my daughter. And my daughter loves her father very much.”
He left without saying goodbye. If he had not said the last sentence, I would have cried before him. Maybe I would have fallen on his hands and begged to start our lives again. But some things are just fantasies, and if they remain fantasies, they are more beautiful.
It was night, I came home. I opened his last gift, which was still sealed. A white rosary whose beads were like pearls. And a watch, beautifully packaged, a wristwatch. The watch had been silent for a long time. I was reviewing the memories of the day and spinning the rosary when the string of the rosary slipped. It was three o’clock at night and Sahel was awake.
I still have your kisses on my lips, Ahmed Zahir sings.
Smoke and Mirrors with Maryam M.
Interviewed by Jemimah Wei
How do you hope readers are changed by your story, and how did writing the story change you?
In most stories, there is positive advice and words that change the reader. Making a new and different experience of stories attracts the attention of readers. And so many stories have changed my way of life. There are positive and useful stories.
As an artist, as a writer, how would you like the world to know you?
An artist and writer is known to the world based on what they create. I want the world to know me as a writer, based on the ideas I create. And in the fog, art must go to a peak and state the truth clearly.