CHAPTER FOUR (Episode Two)
“A Love Letter”
Couple more weeks had passed…
“I will do that ma’am. Allow me.” I stood up with a heavy heap of innovation concepts project assignments.
Ms. Roohi wanted me to give my points of view for each concept while she evaluated in the staff room on a holiday. She might have mistaken me for Einstein or someone of that genre. I stacked assignments in the cupboard. The innovation concepts of my brilliant classmates seemed heavy. My arms were paining. If you are intelligent, teachers think you are superman. Being the star of the eyes of Ms. Roohi, I had little choice but to help her out with such stuff.
“Thank you, Shayaan”, she said on a parting note.
“You are welcome ma’am”, I had to say this though I was not willing to spend my holiday like this very frequently. “Shall I leave ma’am?” I asked as an obedient student.
“Sure, sure. Good bye and Thanks again,” her smile was as graceful as always.
“No problem,” I left with a smile too.
Missing Sarah in college had become a habit for me over last couple of weeks. She had stopped coming to college and nobody knew why. I had a strong feeling about her changing the college, I don’t know why but I had always thought that she wouldn’t continue here. Even though I wanted to change things, I had somehow managed to accept this fact. With these thoughts in a corner of my mind, I went past HOD’s cabin. There was a peon standing by the door. Principal used to work often on holidays. It was not unusual. What was unusual was the bag that was outside his room. In a long distance glance, I saw an orange sunflower on it. I stopped and turned back to have a closer look at the bag.
“Kya chahiye” peon asked.
“Kuch nahi” I had to keep the conversation going to stay there. I asked, “HOD Sir hain?”
“Haan busy hain”, I was not even listening to what he was saying. I got a good look at the bag. It was Sarah’s. The only way that bag can be there is by Sarah being inside HOD’s cabin.
“Andhar aur koi hai?” I asked the peon.
“Haan, ek student hain”
“Kaun?” I inquired. He gave me a suspicious look telling that was none of my business.
“Maloom nahi, koi ladki hai. Tumko kya karna hai?”, he seemed irritated at working on a holiday.
“Kuch nahi. Aise hi. Thank You,” and I left.
I walked downstairs and waited at the lobby. As luck would have it, just a few minutes later, Sarah appeared. I saw her after weeks. I was delighted. My heart pumped. Emotions. I started suffocating. My chest was heavy. I got a tiny attack of anxiety. It was an anxiety due to extreme delight.
She was busy adjusting her bag over her shoulder, wearing a blue jeans and a white t-shirt. There was a white scarf covering whole of her head. Though her usually-silky-smooth hair weren’t visible today. I positioned myself so as she cannot see me. She was walking very slowly. She looked weak and gloomy but adorable as always.
As she approached the staircase, I could not resist.
“Hey…” my voice echoed more than I had thought because of a quiet surrounding on a holiday.
She stopped and turned slowly.
“Hi Sarah,” I went towards her.
“Hi…” she paused for a second, and continued with my name “Mister Shayaan with an advice…” she smiled. “I remember your advice…”.
I was almost overwhelmed. “Good” was all I could say.
“So?Studying hard on a holiday?” she tried to dig me up to my reason to be there.
“No, just for some help to Roohi ma’am.”
“Hmm. Star student. Big responsibilities,” she felt comfortable enough with me to pull my leg. I enjoyed that.
“Nothing like that” I acted modest.
“I know”, she laughed. I could not get my eyes off her face. A little dull today, but yet she was so beautiful. It was quiet there except her childlike candid laughter.
She was there, right there, standing just an arm away. God was making up for my thirst for last two weeks to get her glimpse. God did a wonderful job!
She coughed. She appeared unwell too. Throat infection, I assume.
“So why are you here today?” I wanted the conversation to go on.
“I needed to meet HOD Sir,” she kept it simple and short.
“For?” I detailed my question.
“Nothing”, she was not willing to unveil the details.
I gave a frowning look. She did not care much.
“Ok, I got to go,” she said to my dislike.
“Please don’t” is what I wanted to say, but I had no reasons to stop her.
“Okay bye. Take care”, I said as I waved like a kid.
I was atleast happy seeing her.
I stayed there to keep her in sight till the last moment I could. She stepped down the stairs towards the sidewalk. As a pleasant surprise to me, she turned and waved a bye. It brought a big goofey smile to my face which I couldn’t resist. I looked cute with that smile. Hence, she reciprocated. Alright, I mean “I might” have looked cute while smiling, ‘cause that’s why she reciprocated with such a beautiful smile. I wanted to say “Aww” at her smile, but I wanted to look more chivalrous and manly.
Before I could cherish the moment completely, she slipped and missed a couple of steps. She stumbled over the stairs. I hurriedly ran towards her. However this was just a 4-step staircase, I almost felt like a hero running to save a heroine from falling over a mountain cliff.
I reached her. She was fine. She was just sitting instead of standing on the staircase. I bent down to help her get back up. She preferred to stay sat.
“Are you okay?” I was concerned and I wanted to exhibit that too.
“Just a little wobbly. But, I’m fine. Thanks”, she coughed. She tried to get back up. I wanted to seize the opportunity. I offered my hand and… she held it. I had goose bumps. A current ran through my body. She smelled amazing. I held her palm tighter. Had I held it loose, she would have noticed my shivering hands more vividly, and I didn’t want her to know how nervously excited I was.
I had imagined this moment in my dreams. But, this was far more impactful than that. No matter how exciting you find fantasizing a cricket game, when you actually have a bat in your hands on a dusty ground; it is a different feeling all together.
“Sorry for troubling you” she said.
“It’s no problem at all” I meant it.
“And sorry again” she continued.
“For?” I wondered.
“Nothing” she replied.
As she tried to get up, she still felt dizzy and could not balance.
“Don’t get up. You need water” I suggested, “Let me get it, stay here.”
I ran as hard as Usain Bolt to get a bottle of water from outside. I did not want to miss a moment of staying close to her.
Well, everything… almost everything was perfectly alright till this paragraph of this last episode of the entire story, if perceived from my optimistic perspective. There seemed to be infinite possibilities not only in my life, but even to the readers of this story. Just like most of you reading this story right now have that tint of excitement about the unknown, I too had it. I too was optimistic, I too was hopeful about – ‘whatever the future brings’. But… this particular paragraph of my story had the biggest flaw of my fate hidden beneath. A flaw that changed the entire dynamics and dimensions of the universe I had been living and imagining in; the universe where I had imagined of infinite possibilities of things to happen in more exciting and hopeful way. But… I was wrong. This universe had an altogether different fate written for me, for my story. As I came back with a bottle of water, what I saw was extremely beyond my abilities to withstand. I couldn’t stand. My legs shivered. My heart, that had started pumping few moments back, came back to an abrupt halt. The excitement was temporary. Unaware of me standing at a little distance, Sarah was tying her scarf that had loosened when she slipped. She was removing the scarf to refold it. I could not believe my eyes. Sarah was completely bald. My eyes opened up as wide as they could. I was stunned.
Is this why she always wore something over her head since the college reopened after that strike-call break? Is this why Rizwan had issues with her? Is this why she has been dull? Is this why she has stopped coming to college?
All weird questions struck my mind in a split second. I wanted to believe it was a dream, my weirdest ever dream. I got a reality check when the bottle fell from my hand.
“Shayaan?” she was as shocked as I was.
“Oh, you got water?” she tied her scarf back as quickly as she could. She pretended nothing happened. She hoped I did not see anything but she knew it was otherwise.
Still stunned, I picked up the bottle and went to her. She had water and composed herself.
She looked at me into my eyes and smiled. I could not smile. I was not being judgemental but I was still in shock. She knew it.
There was silence.
I wanted to ask what had happened without hearing that it was actually true, whatever I just saw. Gathering an involuntary courage, which I’m unaware of, I broke the silence…
“How?” my voice sounded weakest.
She looked at me, in my eyes, while my eyes had lost the capacity to look into her eyes. On a scale of 10, I was ‘infinitely’ anxious. She gave me a smile. Said nothing.
Silence followed again.
We kept sitting there, just like two statues, saying nothing at all to each other. I hadn’t thought of anything like this in any of my dreams I had of her till this moment. Everything was happening in contrast.
“LEUKEMIA”, her voice broke the silence this time with a big thunder. The biggest ever. The earth shook beneath me.
I froze. I turned still like a stone.
There was silence within me. Leaf drop silence. I could not speak or even blink. I just kept looking at her like dumb. She was not looking at me. I badly failed to reorganize my inner self and absorb the shock.
When words fail to describe an extreme rush of emotions, two things follow. Silence, and wet eyes. I had attained both of them by now. I wanted to hide my eyes though, but I couldn’t hide the loud silence that banged and banged and fucking banged into my ears… BC. There were screams in my fucking head. It wasn’t silence. It was hyper-silence. The kind of illusionary loudness that exists beyond the point of silence. I wanted to plug my ears with my hands. I wanted some miracle to rewind time and recreate this particular scene of my life. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry bitterly. I wanted to disappear before hearing that.
She was breathing rigorously. I was too. I had a flood of skeptical feelings storming through me after she broke the shackles and said that word which moved earth beneath me.
Her smile never seemed so helpless. I felt weak. I did not know what to say.
“I want to study for as many days as I can. Yes, I just have ‘days’ now. On my request, college has allowed me to study from home and appear for examinations too. I had come to meet HOD Sir today regarding the examination forms. I stay away from coming to college in working day to spare my friends from embarrassment. Actually I want to dance too, but I can’t. I dance in my mind. Haha.”
“Why have you come alone?” I managed to ask this out of my shock.
“I have come with my mom. She is waiting in car outside. I asked her to wait there. I want to feel normal when I come to college, not like an escorted patient. I am strong enough to go through this on my own,” she was strong.
“But what if something would have happened to you today?”
“Nothing would happen. And infact something is going to happen someday soon. Just like they say in old movies – I am going to go to God soon. But he is kind enough to grant me some discount. Today, you were my discount”, she winked. Had she winked fifteen minutes back, I would have been flying. This wink was overshadowed by the facts surrounding it.
“Don’t think like that. You are going to be all right. I know it. You will be totally fine. Trust me,” I sat closer to her and held both her hands with mine. I was telling more to myself than to her.
In last fifteen minutes we both had bonded more than we would have ever imagined. We had found friends in each other.
“You have already heard how it went with Rizwan. Why would he be associated with someone like me now? Why would he care? That is fair on his part too. I cannot force him”, she was telling this to herself.
“See, don’t get me wrong but you wanted someone to hold your hands and just sit with you for a moment, right?” I said. “So here we are,” I smiled after a long time, “I am telling you Sarah, you are going to be fine and back to bright life once again. Just keep faith.”
She knew the facts but probably she didn’t want to disappoint me. So she nodded. I understood the sensitivity of the moment. She wanted to be cared about. She wanted to be loved. She just wanted to have someone to tell her it is all going to be okay. And all I wanted to tell her was – ‘I love you’.
Sarah. I have loved her when she didn’t even have an idea that a guy namely ‘Shayaan’ exists. I thought I loved her for her beauty, for her innocence and her attractiveness. But I was wrong. Even after seeing her without her scarf today, I had realized I loved her. Truly. I felt good about feeling this.
I realized that I didn’t have a crush or an infatuation. It was goddamn love. I had learned the true meaning of love.
I carried on, “I do not want anything from you. Not because you cannot give anything to me; but because I cannot give anything to you in return. I can’t return the happiness that you have already given me by just being. I just want you to be happy. I want you to know that your smile brings happiness to someone. So do not underestimate the power of your smile. Make most of it.”
I said something I myself couldn’t believe. But she did. She just kept listening to whatever the bottomest part of my heart poured. I was still wondering if I was actually saying this looking into her eyes and holding her hands. I had unwrapped my long swathed heart for her in last few minutes. She was smiling thoroughly.
“Thank You. Thank You for showing so much concern, Shayaan…”, she said.
“It is my pleasure, always.” I responded.
“I should be leaving. I am not feeling well”, her health interrupted. I could see pain in her expressions. Her body had turned out to be fragile. I held her hand. She stood up and started to leave.
“Sarah”, I stopped her. She turned around.
“Promise me something?” I requested.
“You will not think negative about your physical circumstances ever. You are going to be fit and back to normal life very soon. I know that. Let us fight your physical weakness with mental strength; you and me, together. Please co-operate with my prayers.” I was over-flowing with emotions. I just wanted to run to her and hug her. Tight enough. Never to leave her. Never to let her go.
She nodded and carried on. I followed her from a distance till she left in her car.
About a month later…
My world had turned upside down since that afternoon. I could not think beyond praying for her wellness. There was next to none scope of getting to know anything about her condition. Even fatso’s sources had failed this time. She had isolated herself from college.
About a month later, as I reached college, I saw everyone assembled in the lobby, some of them moving into the auditorium. There was a lot of whispering. I saw Danysh and Davar standing aside; waiting for me.
“What happened?” I asked quietly.
Without a word, he hugged me first. “I am sorry. She disappointed you.”
“Whha.. Whaat?” I choked.
“Sarah passed away,” Danysh gave it away straight for me die inside. I wanted the judgement day to occur that very moment. I was reminded of Surah-Al-Zalzalah from the Qur’an. I wanted the final earthquake to hit the entire earth and swallow everyone and everything that ever existed, most importantly, me.
“She fought hard, very hard; but quit yesterday. She was a brave girl. Department has put a notice about this. We are observing a day off in her memory today. I pray her soul rests in peace.”
My strength collapsed down my knees and earthed. I could not stand. All my prayers had gone unanswered. I was angry, very angry. I had no words to say.
“Shayaan, I know this isn’t the right time but before I forget, take this”, Danysh handed over a red envelop to me. “Busheer, our peon asked me to give it to you”, he explicated, “he said some lady gave this to him”.
“Let’s go home”, I said. I wanted to be alone, as much as I could. I left the place without attending any commemoration.
Just as I was leaving, I saw the ‘wall’ that had made a special place in my heart. I went there, just stood there. May be I was trying to relive the moments that were never going to return.
After reaching home, I threw my bag and myself on bed. I placed the envelop on side table, and
I cried bitterly. Something told me to open the envelop. I picked it up and opened carefully.
There was a paper, probably a letter. It was neatly written in decent handwritings.
I unfolded. It read…
Oh, I mean, Mister Shayaan with an advice,
I hope you are keeping good and kind as you have always been. I am pushing myself hard towards staying good too.
I am writing this to Thank You. I have not been able to thank you enough as I would have liked to. Our short but strong bond has given me strength to sustain the pain and strain positively. I never got a chance to tell you but your few words in a couple of little conversations of ours have changed my way of looking at things, looking at my life, how much ever is left with me. You are powerful in your words, and have motivated me to stay and feel alive when the string of my life seems to be stretching every passing day. Your words have been my strength all this while. Thank You!
A secret I want to share with you. I knew about your feelings for me. They were evident. Your eyes spoke for you.
Yes, we girls have that secret sense of judgement in these manners. You were also conscious about your average looks whenever we crossed paths. Just for your information, girls are fond of intelligent men more than just handsome. Only fairytale kids run after handsome guys and fictional characters. Anyway, you are not bad at it either. You have a fair chance. Stay you! Wink.
And yes, never exchange your answer sheets with anyone else in future just to help them top and yourself flunk. Be mindful of that.
Untill I met you, I was always loved for my appearance, not for who I was. That day, on the staircase, those 15 minutes were one of the best 15 minutes of my life. There are very few better feelings than knowing that you are loved, by a pure heart, for no reasons, but for just ‘being’. When you are loved above the appearances and physicality, you are blessed. Even after seeing my appearance and imagining my future, you still loved me. I could see that in your eyes and feel in your touch when you held my hands. I did not say ‘I Love You Too’ because I do not want you to be weak. For me or for anyone, I do not want you to cry. This ‘wordless’ love story is not going to end with this letter. These are just words; while you and I, we share feelings, eternally. Yes, love is eternal.
By the time you read this letter, I may be long gone. I want you to promise me something. Promise to be yourself and be happy. Keep making yourself proud, and me too. I am leaving a part of me with you as a token of our short and strong connection. Value it and pamper it. God Bless You!