The alarm on his phone rang at exact 6 am. For once in a very prolonged static time, Zarrar didn’t wish to leave the comfort of a warm slumber that he had been yearning to have for years. He could hear the mild rain drops from last night, still tapping on his window shed, humming to him the most soothing lullaby that there ever was. He wanted to fall asleep again, go running about in the same dream he had been dreaming all night. The past had been dreadful and it had robbed him of peaceful nights. Nevertheless, he stepped out into the chilly aura of his room.
He pulled the curtains; his fingers traced the dripping rain on the window. It was darker than usual outside. But somehow that cold November rain was anything but a gloomy sight that was pacifying the hidden frustration in him.
Zarrar laid a prayer rug on the floor. He held his hands up to thank the Lord for the serenity in the morning. He got up, changed into his office attire, picked up his briefcase, and left the room. He went through the small hallway and stopped at his parents’ door; it was slightly opened. Mother and father weren’t happy, he knew. It would take time for them to get used to things. Zarrar, however, was entirely gratified.
The rain started pouring down heavily. However, he calmly walked towards his vintage ride, feeling each drop of rain on his skin. Islamabad had always been the epitome of beauty, but today it was extraordinary.
He drove to his office, delighted like a little child on his first day of school. He went inside his room, sat in his chair, and began setting his things up. The junior cubicles were all empty, for it was only 6:50. Nobody ever came before 8, and Zarrar always appreciated that opportunity of solitude for himself. Instead before today, all he had to give his mind to in this time was stress and apprehension. But today, it was faith. Today there was hope.
He opened the lower drawer of his table and took out a frame. He stared at it for a while, his lips curving to form an intense smile. Hamza; it wasn’t easy leaving him behind, getting to see him every fortnight. He ran his smooth fingers over the picture and kissed his son’s forehead. A teardrop strolled down from his left eye. Even though he was free now, but the past was still a part of him. He wanted to let go and foresee new beginnings, but the pain was endured so deeply inside of him. Mother and father were at fault, or was it his own juvenile pronouncement that had
caused the immense distress back at home, Zarrar couldn’t care less. For all he knew, he had freed himself from the daily agitation and was now at peace with himself.
The wooden door to the room flew open and Sarmad walked in, a gray briefcase hung on his right shoulder and a wet black umbrella in the opposite hand. The tiny raindrops were so prominently enhanced on his sheer baldness. Zarrar’s lips formed a smirk on the sight of his subordinate’s sparkly hairless scalp.
“Salam Sir!” Sarmad greeted. “God this rain doesn’t seem to stop any time soon, does it?” He shrugged the umbrella and made it stand in a corner for it to dry out.
“No.” Zarrar turned to the window to look at the pleasing waterfall. “But I don’t wish for it to stop either.”
Sarmad shot a skeptical glance at his boss. He took his seat in his cubicle. “You seem a bit offbeat for a Monday, Sir.” He pointed out grabbing a tissue and soaking the rainwater off his head.
Zarrar breathed in heavily as if letting all his thoughts out in a single blow. “Mondays have never been this beautiful.” It was the start of another week and so was the fresh start of a new life; Zarrar was anticipating a life that he was meant to live all this time, but had somehow lost his way to it.
“Ah Mondays are a blur, but how come the sudden radiance on your face?” There was a tint of curiosity in the way Sarmad spoke.
“Radiance?” Zarrar chuckled. “My face is fine.”
“But with all due respect Sir, it’s not what I see on it.” Sarmad held out his forefinger and motioned it in a circle around Zarrar’s face.” The joy is quite apparent from your expression.”
Zarrar pulled himself back on his seat; the wheeled creature made a creaking sound. His eyebrows came together in a wrinkled manner and his forehead tightened. “God, we have got to something about these chairs.”
“And this,” he pointed to his face the same way Sarmad had, “is not radiance, my friend. This is composure. This is relief. This is the face of a man who set his foot right to make things go his way for once.”
Sarmad looked confused. His eyes twitched and he stared right at Zarrar. “But you always get your way Sir. I don’t remember you ever caring about what anybody thought. Isn’t that why you’ve always been so secluded?”
“Yes, that was by choice. Sarmad, it is okay sometimes for people to not agree with you. You need that at some point in your life.”
“I don’t understand, Sir.”
Zarrar left the back of his chair and rested his arms on his table, joining his hands together to interlink his fingers. “It has ended.” He said, his eyes staring down at his son’s picture on the table. “My marriage has ended.”
“It was three weeks ago when she left the house, taking Hamza along with her.” They still had some time before work started, so Zarrar began pulling out his story to his most trusted associate. “It was becoming excruciating day by day; the fights, the agony, and the torture. I just couldn’t seem to set myself to peace. I began craving for tranquility.”
Sarmad was now seated on an elongated stool right across Zarrar’s table. He was looking at his boss’s face with disbelief and cynicism. He had never imagined the man to have that ample amount of stress just casually walking around in his mind. He knew Zarrar was a bit inexplicable, but the fact that his life was an endless ocean of wretchedness was beyond him. Baffled by his confession, Sarmad couldn’t quite fathom out the entire dreadful situation.
“But… you never said anything to anybody. How long exactly?” he asked, trying to put the vague pieces together.
Zarrar smiled at the obliviousness of his friend. “Ever since she came into my life.”
He shut his eyes for a while and went down the memory lane. He could see Ayeza draped in a black velvet ensemble, standing in front of the mirror piercing her gold earrings into her left ear. She wore a complementing gold necklace around her solid neck. Her fingers carried exorbitant rings and she had worn her hair down like a streaming black waterfall. Zarrar remembered she had looked ravishing that day, only she wasn’t quite equipped to hear it. He had come steadily walking in the room stopping to see the grace and the elegance that awaited him in the shape of his newly wed wife. He had paused to admire her; admire the beauty that he had believed her to be.
Ayeza had turned to him, held her hand in front of him and had spoken in a very unyielding manner. “Please, I’m not the kind who would take that.”
She had come closer “You see, I did not sign up for this. This was a mistake. Yours, your parents’, or my parents’; I don’t know. All I want to say is that just don’t expect me to be your perfect homemaker. Ever. The rest is just the red tape.” And she had picked her clutch and left. She had said that gazing right into his dark gray eyes, with not even a tat bit of shame. That one little conversation had changed so much.
Zarrar pulled himself out of that humiliating reminiscence. Sarmad had his eyes laid on him in immense shock. The butler came in carrying silverware with cups of tea. He gently placed both cups on the table and left. Zarrar drew one the cups closer to Sarmad. “Drink up.”
“What happened next?”
Zarrar took a sip from his cup and peered at the ceiling. “You think you have it all, but you have nothing Sarmad. You give your everything to what’s important to you. But do you realize how much power does a single wrong decision hold in one’s life? It destroys you, my friend. It rips you apart; crumbles you like ants stepped onto by a man’s feet.” He stopped to catch his breath.
“I have always believed that my parents opted for the best for me in everything. I always wanted to keep them happy, agreed on anything they said. I couldn’t bear to see them blame themselves
for the wrong decision they took for me. So I went on; for five years making compromising with a women that had nothing but hatred for me and would not live a single day without reminding me how she was forced for the union. But things got pretty bad lately.”
Zarrar’s mind flashed back to the trauma.
Mother and father had demanded to have their grandson brought back. Ayeza had finally left owing to the series of conflicts and anguish with her husband and his family. Zarrar couldn’t control the stress taking over him and the pressure on him to make things right. He had left, alone into his solitude to cry to his Lord, to ask for peacefulness, to question His actions. It had been over for him.
Zarrar took out a large white file out of his drawer and held it out to Sarmad. “My report. I have been going to the doctor for the past four years now. You wouldn’t believe it, but this is the constant worrying. And as per the hospital folks, I’m this close to dying anytime soon. I have had enough of it, Sarmad. So I chose to put my foot down.”
“You chose to end it.” Sarmad prophesied.
Zarrar gave a slight nod. “You have to stand up to yourself, man. You were right; I have always never cared about having people agree with me. Yet I never pulled that out onto my family. But you got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to create your own escape. You deserve to live the life you’re meant to live; never compromise on that. I know this may seem hard in the beginning, but there is always hope. Look for that epiphany. You need to go after your forbidden happiness.”
A car horn brought the two gentlemen out of their deep conversation.
“I guess it’s time to work.” Zarrar pronounced. Sarmad stood up to go back to his chair. The rain had stopped and the skyline came into clearing.
“You’re really brave to go through this suffering for so long, Sir.”
“I do not want people to be very agreeable.” Zarrar pointed out. “I guess I have truly lived by it now.”
Contributed By : Haniah Nawabi