Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
“Who is it?” I asked, slightly less obnoxiously.
Curiosity caught hold of me as I found myself straining my neck to see past the doorway. I didn’t have to wait long.
I inhaled the scent of the perfume before I saw her. Wasn’t sure what it was, but it was definitely something new today.
“Salaam,” she said, studying me. Well, more like scrutinising.
Under other circumstances, I would have been annoyed. That was just my usual temperament, but I was just so glad to see her. Everything negative that I had felt before this seemed to diminish as she came inside, sitting on my two-seater leather couch, with a look that said so much more than words could ever mean. Somehow, the words I wanted to say didn’t make way through my mouth.
“Are you okay?” She asked, still looking a bit reluctant and uncomfortable.
I knew why. My mother was still standing in the room, unsure of what to do. It was the first time a girl had actually been up to my room, and I assumed that she didn’t know how to behave. Waseem had brought girls home before, but never under these circumstances.
I nodded at her, gesturing for my mother to go. She obliged, and left us alone.
I wasn’t sure what to say to Farah. I couldn’t even look at her properly. I felt.. Weird. Conscious of something. Everything felt strange after yesterday. It was strange how confident I usually felt, but even in my own room, I couldn’t even feel comfortable enough to say what I needed to.
Well, I thought to myself, obviously feeling flattered that she had come. YOLO. You only lived once. When words failed you, I knew that actions never would.
Something within me altered as I forced myself to just be normal. I had to show my true self… My true colours. A subtle whisper within my conscience said; be the Zee that everyone knew and obviously loved. Give in. Be who you want to be.
I caught her gaze and moved towards her, missing her more than ever at that moment.
It didn’t feel wrong any more. Nothing was stopping me. Opportunity was knocking at the door. I was going to make it up to her. I knew that I just needed to show that I was worth it… That I could live up to be the caring, compromising person that she needed.
But as fate would have it, my newly enlightened brother entered the room at that precise moment. Without even knocking or announcing his arrival.
Awkward wasn’t the word.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said, looking away when he saw Farah.
Say what?! Waseem couldn’t even look at a girl?
I glared at him, waiting for his explanation.
“I didn’t know you had visitors,” he said, saying it with a certain undertone.
“Just one,” I said, gritting my teeth.
Waseem mumbled something back and I was sure I heard something about the devil there, but didn’t leave. He just stood there, despite my glares. Like, didn’t even budge.
“You guys carry on,” Farah said, sensing the hostility and standing up. “I have to go. I just wanted to leave this.”
She gestured to a small gift bag she had left on my coffee table.
My eyes pleaded with her to stay, but I knew she was already mentally not here.
I watched her walk out, then turned to Waseem. Every devastating emotion I had previously felt, resurfaced. Every ounce of relief that Farah had brought with her presence disappeared, the moment she left. On top of it all, I was just so furious.
All that had come with seeing her had now gone, leaving with me a bigger hole than before. It was all… Just.so.temporary.
I knew exactly what Waseem was going to say before he even said it.
“That satisfaction,” Waseem said, cocking his head and shrugging. “It’s wrong. It’s just an illusion. Temporary.”
“Really?” I asked, being sarcastic. I was getting angrier by the second. “So, do me a fave, boet, can you make your being here also temporary?!”
I edged closer to him, trying to be a threat.
Waseem still didn’t budge.
“You still think you know better than everyone else?” He said, coming close to me, poking me with his extending hand. “Even after yesterday, you still act like you got no worry in the world?! You need to do some growing up, Ziyaad! Be a man! Not a bloody fool!”
“I’m not a fool,” I retorted, enraged. “You’ll just can’t leave me alone! Even with my chic here, you’re sitting on my head! You’re not perfect yourself! Can’t you just lay-off?!”
“Lay off?! When I can see what’s happening! You walk around like you’re not gonna die,” he said, striking a nerve. “You’re caught up… You are your own worst enemy. No-one else!”
I couldn’t help myself. I flung myself at him with no warning, using all the strength I could muster, and gaining the upper hand with Waseem for once. It was a short-lived victory.
He tackled me back, breaking free, pushing me off him. He held my face tightly for a few seconds, getting me to look directly at him.
“I’m not provoking you, Zee,” he said now, speaking calmly. “I’m just tryin’a get you to see the bigger picture.”
I knew I wouldn’t see it unless I really wanted to. And I couldn’t fathom his desperation.
What was so great about what he was trying to tell me anyway? I wanted to live. I wanted to be me. Why must I follow all of these rules…? Why must I be so… Limited?
“Come with me,” he said, giving me no option but to follow him outside and straight into his car. His ‘new’ car.
“Where’s your car?” I asked, missing his two-seater that he had driven for the past year. He drove a less flashy Mercedes. Decent, but not my kind of ride. It was a definite downgrade.
“A car is just a car,” was all he said.
He sounded like how I had felt yesterday. In those moments when every materialistic thing meant absolutely nothing. When I truly realised that having the top of the range of almost everything was so futile.
“These things are not for us. I learnt a lot… You’ll never believe the kind of people I’ve met… The places they’ve come from.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“I mean…. We don’t belong here,” Waseem said, after a few seconds, concentrating on the road.
We don’t belong here?
He continued, enlightening me.
“I mean… This is not our home,” he said, as if clarifying everything.”But, the good news is, there is a place where we do belong. A place where there will be no discomfort, like you feel now. No anxiety… No pain. A place where nothing, and I mean, nothing at all, is just temporary.”
My heart beat just a tiny but faster, in anticipation for what he was saying.
Yes, I knew about that place. And yes, I wanted it.
Waseem’s voice dipped now, almost to a whisper.
“But, Ziyaad, are you earning it?” He said, as if he was seeing right through me.
It was like he had been building up this great golden tower, only to knock it right back down to the ground.
“You want to be special, right?” He asked, taking a turn. “Look around you, bru. Everyone you know is just like you. They’re all looking for some kind of worldly recongnition… Some happy-time here. Pursuing it like a dog catching his tail.”
“So?” I asked rudely, missing the point.
“So, Ziyaad,” he said, all matter-of-fact. “If you want to be different, you don’t do the stuff that the normals owes do. You wanna be conspicuous, you do what the special people do. You wanna be a cut above the rest, look at the ones who know their Creator. Look at the ones who go the extra mile. Look at your friend, Junaid.”
“Junaid?” I was confused for a few seconds.
Oh, that owe. He was different. Yeah, definitely.
“That, my friend,” he said, glancing at me. “That’s where you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Ah. The gold. The ever-so-evasive gold.
How did Waseem even know all of these things?
The car halted. We were outside what looked like a house to me, but was actually something else that I had no idea about.
“Where are we?” I asked, looking around.
Waseem had a mysterious look on his bearded face.
“I’m taking you to meet a real man,” he said. “You’ll see.”