GIRL LIKE ONION

CHAPTER 2-Humming of the brain

Young dreams are made up of all sorts of imaginations. Real or not, youngsters sometimes hang onto them, as if their dear life depended on it, as if anything else was a piece of reality too harsh for them to absorb.

Pink clouds, no scratch!! Blue clouds? Heck no, back to pink! A black sky with stars that lit up the night. Girls giggling and a handsome man stood amidst them searching for his lady love. They were all dressed up, for it was that night for a bride that everyone merely hints at or talks about in hushed whispers in our part of the world. The bride looked self-consciously at her reflection in a mirror closeby. She saw her radiant face that reflected back innocence and happiness all intertwined into one. She nervously played with her bangles and adjusted all that gold jewellry laid on her, the streams of necklaces on her boney neckline and her hourglass shape befitting a bridal gown, red, of course accessorised with the head jewellery or teeka lining her neatly centre parted hair twisted in a bun at the back of her head. The ornament made her ordinary hair bun look spectacularly royal and majestic. It was the kind of jewellery that I thought was only available on the other side of our national border, where, I back then thought, existed actual love stories, thanks to the endless supply of their film industry and (now clearly toxic) idea of romantic relationships.

So, those pretty bridesmaids all scanned through the clouds to see when the groom would arrive, riding a horse? Ugh no! Too 90s, riding a corolla (closest to what we had as a status car back then), white yes, it has to be black or white, (I didn like blue, and they didn make any in purple). He stepped out of it, the wind blew in my face as I rushed to and stole a peek from the balcony above where his car stopped. He looked up, our eyes met and my heart skipped a beat. He smiled and winked, which said a hundred things romantic but inappropriate in that thousandth part of a minute Later i was escorted down and my hand given into his. We all sang songs of love, loyalty and happiness. He whisked me away into his car toward the clouds, we rode high on our emotions over them, towards the stars that twinkled, like his eyes when I looked at him. The guests behind us wished us a happily ever after and I smiled and blushed everytime he looked at me and grinned as if I was a trophy he had achieved.

THAT piece of shit is my earliest memory of what love looked like.

I must have been a mere 10 year old. We danced to these melodious Indian numbers at a friends sisters wedding and heard her circle of friends laugh after whispering some kind of inside jokes to each other. I thought she was going to be so happy her entire life because her parents had married her to a rich man who would whisk her away to the States, a far off land with better opportunities, lifestyle and certainly whiter (read prettier) people. As promising as this sounded, I cannot show anything but pity for the concepts my megre preteen self had developed about marriage, the act that completes half of my faith as per Islam.

For us underage girls living in a Muslim country, this was the highest definition of success. Marrying in a rich family and moving to a first world country where our offsprings could be born and become citizens. It didn matter that the groom of my friends sister was a man nearly a decade older than him, or that he was half bald, or even that he was almost an inch shorter in height than the naive seventeen year old who was to wed him. The child bride was just as unaware of the challenges that she would soon encounter in a strange country with an entirely new family escorting her to a completely different lifestyle than the one we were accustomed to in Pakistan.

However, all such outlandish ideas that I had in my mind, to fall in love and be taken away to a land of dreams and wishes in the clouds were soon dashed, when I agreed to make a solemn oath.

As teenagers I hung out with my four best friends. Our gang of five had a leader Mona. She was that type of a person who just directed everyone for everything wherever she went and wouldn take no for an answer. Hot headed and confident, she was a pretty picture i would seldom argue with. So, when she said that we all should make an oath to NEVER, EVER, fall in love, none of us said anything. With Mona, you didn argue, you followed suit if you didn prefer an ugly exchange of words. She believed love and romance was nothing but a facade. It was trash and for weaklings only! Her girl gang, she pressed, was smarter than people who drooled over boys and only felt complete when paired with the Y chromosome holder.

The oath was a sacred undertaking by us all, because boyfriends are prohibited in Islam too. Dear God, have mercy! I did not even think about holding hands with anyone, all the boys we played or rode bicycles with in our apartment complex, they were all divided into two simple categories. They were either our brothers or our enemies! NOTHING more or less!

Lying to loved ones was easier and simpler back then, because such an oath was certainly ridiculed when before my fourteenth birthday, on the afternoon of 20th Aug. there was a fateful phone call. It lasted for two hours, because I kept convincing the caller that girls and boys could play together and still be like siblings and he kept insisting that sisters are only blood related or they are NOT, there is nothing like-a-sister/friend whose a girl and it was only always mostly loosely translated to girlfriend.

One month and hour long frequent landline phone calls later, I had decided Umar was the guy whose hands I wanted to hold, whose arms I wanted to snug in, whose car I want to sit in (no he didn have a corolla, oh but his car was silver, even more royal!). By late August, I had conveniently forgotten the oath we had solemnly taken with Mona and I had decided, Umar was the one I wanted to get married to.

There was only one small problem. Umar was Monas elder brother!

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