The Call

Today, I have a treat for you all.

A good friend of mine and budding author, Shuaib Ghaffar, has written a short story he’d like to share with you guys. It follows a young man struggling to make a tough decision, something I’m sure we can all relate to. It goes without saying all credit goes to Shuaib for this wonderful piece.

-Aqil


I lay down against my prayer mat, body slumped, half in prostration, half in yearning. The prayer may be complete, but no other time have I felt so close and humbled before God; a tangled mess on the floor with my eyes flickering from half open to shut.

My chest rises and falls as I breathe as calmly as one can in a time like this. I finally muster the strength to get one knee up, then two knees, one foot, two feet, and up I stand.

The meditation has me feeling like a floating cloud. The outcome of the next few minutes will determine if a dark storm brews or blue skies reveal themselves.

I swiftly reach for my phone from the desk, flip it into the other hand and jump into bed backwards. I may be acting cool, thinking cool. But feeling cool continues to elude me.

Her name appears high up on the contacts page. She is expecting a call. Whether she expects its content remains to be seen. I’m glad I hold the element of surprise; I would hate even more to be on the receiving end of such a thing.

With a minute to pause and reflect on why I am doing this, I begrudgingly fight my desires to the death. Each whisper and memory trampled by the wounded steed of my reinvigorated need for peace of mind.

One last breath. The next second, I call.

The swiftness of her response catches me off guard. Her familiar, mellow voice warmly welcomes me, blind towards my grave intentions.

“Hey, are you okay?”

The classic question of pure ambiguity. Answering ‘no’ signals weakness and insecurity, as well as a lack of decisiveness. This is not who I am.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”

I don’t even bother returning the question. Engaging with this topic will only make it harder for me to get through this.

A long silence ensues. I am the one to break it.

“Erm, I need to tell you something,” I say, lacking conviction but knowing I must press on.

“Go on, what is it?”

I deeply sigh. I pause again. She remains patient, which makes me glad. Upon recollecting my thoughts, I open my mouth once again.

“Okay. What I’m about to tell you, it might be a bit much.”

“Um- okay.”

“Alright. Listen up. Basically…”

I bite my lip as my body tries to prevent my mind from expressing itself. But somehow, I am able to overcome it all.

“I don’t want to see you anymore.”

The anguish enters my soul as the guilt spills out. The circle of emotions that envelops me from all sides is a polarising war of two sides.

I am prevented from speaking again. I am not able to. To my fortune, she does instead.

“Oh… okay then. Uh-“

“Uh… yeah. I know that might be a lot to take in right now,” I interrupt. Sensing her voice dwindling down, I wish to clarify my words.

“The first thing I want you to know is you are not to blame. Even I’m not to blame. The only thing we should blame is the situation.”

Her sustained silence is unnerving but allows me to better express myself.

“I don’t have even one issue with you. There’s not one bad reason for doing this,”

I await her response, yet nothing comes. After a deafening silence, “mmhmm…” she gingerly murmurs.

I must try my best to explain this insane decision as rationally as possible, treading the fine tightrope of stabilising her emotions and being pragmatic enough for her to understand. I prepare myself to push forward.

“The simple fact is… I’m not ready to get married. Neither are you.”

She says nothing. “Now, I can sugarcoat this all I want and just say, ‘Aw, but I was only speaking to her to get to know her for marriage!’” I exclaim in a tone to lighten the mood. “But I think we both know why we’re really here. What we’re really doing.”

“…Yeah,” she says, finally.

“We’re living in a state of denial with each other. We know we can’t get married now! And I don’t wanna disrespect you anymore by continuing with this,”

Sensing her mood slowly drowning in my ocean of mental turmoil, I begin to construct a dam of reassurance.

“Think of it like this. If we give up on this now, for the sake of God… just think of what He can give us later down the line!”

“Hm.”

“Just think about this. My boy was telling me, ‘Yo bro, if you forget this now, there’s gonna be some 10 outta 10 lengerz waiting for you in, like, 3 years from now’. Trust me when I say God will never forget the sacrifices we make.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” she mutters.

“And whether that person happens to be you or someone completely different… I’m gonna make the tough decision to please God. And I want you to learn that, too.”

“I can respect that,” she says, with an air of optimism peeking through the darkness. “I just want you to be happy, that’s all.”

This statement makes me grimace as I wonder what the hell I am even doing. I’m throwing away the rewards I’ve been working towards for years. All my efforts, all my pain. For nothing. A beautiful girl who loves me on a silver platter, who I can love back. My left eye painfully twitches as I resist the urge to double back on myself.

“It’s- it’s not about being happy. You made me happy. Believe me, you made me so happy. But…happiness only lasts so long. In the end, where is that happiness gonna get you? Huh? Can I take care of you with happiness?”

“Hmph. No,” she mutters, as close to chuckling as one can be in this situation.

“I’m out of my depth here. How am I gonna take care of your crazy ass when I can’t even take care of my own?” I ask, smiling bittersweetly. Though we are over the phone, I can feel her smiling back. “A girl like you deserves a great man. And at the moment, I’m not that man. Whoever he is, he’s out there somewhere, and he’s so great. He’s waiting for you to get to his level. You’re capable of it.”

She shyly laughs in a way so innocent my eyes close from yearning and disbelief. Blind to the world with a hand over my face, I speak once again.

“To tell you the truth… I’m gonna miss you a hell of a lot. You were the best waste of a Thursday evening I ever had.”

My humour is a thin pane of glass concealing the truth about my feelings. It is my sanctuary through every adverse situation or event. I’m laughing now, and that’s what people see. Maybe that’s all that matters.

“I’m gonna miss you too. I guess I’m gonna miss trying to understand you. I still don’t,” she admits.

“And you never will, bitch!” I exclaim hysterically. I swiftly quiet down my tone. “But I did enjoy seeing you try.”

Each second I reminisce about solidifies the difficulty of moving on, like walking backwards through rapidly drying cement.

“The next few days are gonna be tough, you know. I can’t believe I let you weasel your way into my frozen heart. Nobody is meant to go in there!”

“And you’re never gonna forget me. No girl you meet again will ever know you have a soul behind those lifeless eyes.”

“Shhh. Don’t tell anyone about that shit. I have an image to maintain.”

“You know whoever marries you is gonna be so fucked. Tryna sort that mess of a mind out.”

“Eh, all things considered, I think you were doing a pretty good job,” I relay as we both laugh away in blissful ignorance, knowing it can’t end like this.

Our back-and-forth bickering goes on for a while. I wish it would never end. After all, it’s what we do best. What we did best. As the conversation timer ticks over an hour, the grim sense of inevitability starts to peer into my fractured mind. I can’t bear to bring this to an end. A little voice in my head whispers to give her one more chance, that I am wrong, that this whole thing is just a misunderstanding. But one thing he fails to realise is that I am never wrong.

“I just wanna say… thank you so much for taking it so well. I know it was a little unexpected,” I say, my emotions soon to overflow and burst the banks of the river of composure.

“Yeah, we’ll. I’m always gonna be on my toes with you. You’re so bloody unpredictable. That’s why I always let you drag me along. I’ll never forgive myself for that. But that’s okay.”

I look to the ceiling and breathe slowly in peace, “I’m glad you see it that way.”

I can feel her presence beside me, so tangible I could touch her silky hair and tuck it behind her ear. I turn over to embrace her, but she is nowhere in sight but in voice and spirit.

The longest silence so far ensues. But this time, it is no longer a deafening one. This one is serene. Comfortable. Safe.

“It’s been good talking to you,” I say with a smile, despite the ailing heart its expression stems from.

The sealed chamber of my iron heart had finally been prised open, and it would need a lock as hard as diamonds to cover it again.

Although it feels as if only the hard times are ahead, in truth, I’ve left them in the rearview mirror. Today was the day I stood up against my desires, laughed in the face of my slave master and turned instead to my real master.

With a shaking but defiant hand, I smash the red button and hurl my phone across the bed, tears welling in my eyes but feeling born again, ready to enter a new chapter in my life. One where I make the decisions, fight for my goals and reap the rewards. Nothing else matters.

“My prayers and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, Lord of All the Worlds.”

Surah Al-An’am, Verse 162.

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