GIRL LIKE ONION

Chapter 7- Lovers to Sinners

Theres absolutely none to very less welcome for Pakistanis beyond our right hand side border. Their film industry, politicians, media, anchor persons, storylines and pretty much just about everything else has portrayed that loud and clear to people on this side of the border. We may have been part of the same subcontinent for centuries but decades of partition and independence has divided our mindset and our preferences and made us enemies overnight, insecure and envious of each other over a variety of issues, all thanks to the aftereffects of British imperialism. The same split of 1947, had also divided Empaths paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather, who were siblings and led the former to the Muslim country post marriage and the latter to stay behind in the secular state.

Empaths mother was from across the border. She was married to her aunts son and came to Pakistan as a young girl of 20, with dreams and aspirations. Empaths maternal cousins were therefore a two hour flight away every summer since she was about six years old. They had a huge family there and vacations were always fun there with shopping and vegetarian food and all the love and pamper they showered over her cute self.

On her last visit as a teenager she never knew she wouldn ever be able to return. With the political scenario becoming more cut throat everyday, Empath had enjoyed all her trips there, except this years. The monsoon rains had been terrible and ruined any plans of outing they had made for the week. Stuck at home she had barely anything to do but engage in conversations with her cousins young and old alike. When she left, there were a few tears and sniffs but nothing really more than that. The farewell she had had from there, would become a source to welcome light at the end of the tunnel her life had downwardly spiralled into, was ironic to even suppose at that time.

But when that morning of 26th July, she was preparing breakfast in a hurry for hubster in order to catch her ride which was due at 9:30am, her phone suddenly rang.

Really? Its 9:30am already? Ride is here, gotta hurry… She kept urging herself to flip the egg faster, strain the tea in the cup in seconds and leave through the door, but the irritable ringtone did not stop. SHUT up! she exclaimed. Phones ringing were weirdly interrupting. Like uncontrollable babies, they just wouldn stop with their noise and one had to attend to them regardless of how much ever preoccupied one was. She picked up the cell and looked at it, expecting to see the name of the driver that rode her everyday to work. Instead she saw a 14 digit alien number with unknown area codes at the beginning. This is a foreign phone call her mind wandered to her other set of paternal cousins in the States and she imagined them ringing her up for a quick chat. It was evening there by their local time, maybe they didn know she would be rushing to her work. She hastily picked up, Hello?

The voice on the other end was new, slightly unfamiliar. Empath was the kind of person who remembered these things, sounds, voices, scents, feelings, words and most importantly faces, much more than names. You didn recognize me did you? He asked. Umm sorry no. Who is this again? Empath politely replied but actually irritated having to entertain random foreign callers for identity riddles. Oh so you forgot me already. I sent you numerous facebook friend requests and you kept declining so I decided maybe I should call you up. You know facebook exists at this side of the border too.

Empaths heart dropped! Ofcourse, the voice was new but only slightly unfamiliar, because she hadn heard from him in literally a whole decade! She had last bade him goodbye at the airport when she was boarding a flight back home. They had never spoken to each other again and well, life happened in the meanwhile (so did facebook) and here he was trying to reconnect and she had been so utterly naive!

Oh my God! Dani is that you??? she exclaimed into the mouthpiece. The egg sizzled and she forgot she was in her kitchen. She was back in the playground in the country next door. He was in his shorts and t-shirt and she was the cool older cousin and he was the dumb adorable kid with pimples on his cheeks. Like finally somebody remembers, had a memory loss eh? How are you? Where are you?

You are married, wow I saw only a few of your pictures, accept my friend request let me see pictures please, its been ages! Dani exclaimed back.

Empath was nearly in tears of happiness. This unthinkable and sudden bestow of an old friend, cousin, acquaintance, it was like the fresh splatter of rain on barren, dried up grounds, dull and brown, bringing back colour and life. It was like a hot sizzling pan being put into ice cold water. Dani I am so so sorry, I had my profile privacy settings on and I don respond to unknown requests and ooh boy! You have grown up! How on earth was I supposed to know that the man in the profile picture is supposed to be that introverted dorky kid from a decade ago?!

Empath was laughing and Dani was giggling on the other end. It was like walking in clouds. She was giddy with excitement. She was late to work that day but extremely happy. He hated having to hang up when she told him her meetings with fellow teachers were about to start and she despised disappointing him. She promised she would call back as soon as she returned back home in the afternoon. She told him to catch up on his sleep till then, as they had a lot to catch up on in their next phone call.

She hung up, but all day she was smiling and hanging onto each and every word shed exchanged with Dani. She swung from one corridor to another in school as if there was light wind below her feet lifting her mood and her existence. She was back in the memory of being that silly teenager goofing around the neighbourhood and snooping in the park for dingy figures with Dani. All the infidelity issues of hubster, the wails of her Baby M and the demands of Baby S seemed like things far away. Empath was ecstatic to stumble upon an old companion rekindling a happy time of her life, before life became hell.

She was counting hours to late afternoon, when she would reach home and return his call and finish their interrupted and much-delayed conversation. It wasn until 3pm finally when she was done for the day at school, returned home, prayed, eaten, and resorted to her bed to breastfeed Baby M, that she excitedly grabbed her cell phone and dialled his number. Thank goodness for the internet and calling apps, or else the phone bill would have been out of her expense limit. The dial tone rang for a mere few seconds and he received, okayyy, you are back? Rested? Now where were we? Dani began.

One month, dozens of phone calls and hundreds of texts exchanged later, there was light at the end of the tunnel for Empath.

At Least thats what she thought it was. A break from her sexual frustrations and disrupted marital bliss. But what she believed was light, could also be nothingness, because the colour of nothingness is ALSO white.

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