The dying of the light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Aftermath of a suicide attempt.

It was midnight and we were on a boat in the middle of the Dubai creek when Tariq finally talked to me about it.

“You know, I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven myself.” he said.

The Dhow rocked gently and I could hear the lapping of the water against the slick wood. I and my brother, sitting on the faded cushions, were the only ones on board except for the old Arab over by the motor, and we were both a bit drunk. The liquor in my stomach felt warm against the chill sea breeze that flapped our clothes and tugged at my hair. Tariq was speaking quietly and the breeze was loud so I moved a bit closer to him.

“To tell the truth, sometimes I’m not sure I’ve forgiven anyone for it.” he said and turned to face me.

“Including you.” he said.

I did not say anything. Let him talk. Let him let it out.

Tariq sighed then, “Ah I’m sorry. End of the day I was the one who did what I did. But it all comes back; it all keeps coming back every now and then. And when it does I feel like shit.”

“And it’s coming back now, huh?” I said.

Tariq shrugged, “Seeing dad like that today. He looked so small in the hospital. You remember how big he used to be. He was a big man. And I always wanted to be as big as him. Sometimes when I was angry I just wanted to cut him down to my size. And now I have.”

I shook my head, “Shut up okay.” I muttered.

“He’s never been the same since I tried to commit suicide Aisha. I broke something in him. I know it.”

He was right but I didn’t tell him that. I could hear him breathing softly next to me but it was too dark to see his face completely. I could not make out his expression. The moon was dull and blurred as if it too was a bit drunk and a bit feeling like shit. In the distance the lights of the city glimmered coldly and there was no respite, but here on the waters it was too dark to see a person’s face and too dark to tell the sky from the waters.

I asked Tariq, “Do you like to beat yourself up?”

He snorted and I could see his teeth for a moment and I knew he was grinning his crooked Tariq grin.

“You were always the perceptive one weren’t you Aisha? The smart one. Yeah, I like to play the martyr. You know how seriously I take that.’

And he shook his wrist in front of me, the one with the pale knotted crescent of a scar. In spite of it and in spite of the lurch in my stomach, I laughed.

“And you were always the funny one.” I said.

Tariq nodded.

“But I have my good days.” he conceded.

“Everyone has good days. It’s all relative. And I have mine.” he said.

I had been in my last year of school when Tariq did it. And that was when he and I lost touch. He was put in a place and I left to Delhi for college. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself in Delhi. But I was even more surprised when some of my friends there told me I always looked sad. Which one was it?

And now after two years here I was back in Dubai and here was Tariq back from the hospital. And now dad who had never been the same had had a stroke and was in the hospital.

But still right then on the dhow, the liquor from our evening drinking warmed my stomach and I did not feel unhappy.

“Do I look sad to you?’ I asked Tariq.

“You look drunk.” he retorted. “And skinnier.”

He reached out and pinched my cheek.

“Don’t they feed you anything in Delhi?”

He often used to pinch my cheeks before. I used to be quite chubby. This was the first time he had done it after we’d met again.

“I need a smoke.” he said and I could feel him fidgeting next to me as he searched his pockets. He placed the cigarette between his lips and he flicked the lighter. And then, in the darkness was a small light. The flame was sharp, orange, and white at its centre. Tariq brought it near his lips and I could see his face properly now. My brother is not ugly but neither is he handsome; as the light passed over his face it was thrown into sharp relief against the darkness. And he looked beautiful and tragic; suffused with a tired but patient innocence. And then the light died and his face sunk back into shadow and only the end of the cigarette glowed dimly. He leaned back on his cushion and issued smoke into the air. I looked down at my legs.

*

Dawn was breaking in the distance by the time we made it home. We had been quiet the whole drive back. We crept into the house silently so as not to wake mom, who was still asleep. Then Tariq and I both went to our separate rooms.

Lying in bed I thought about the last thing Tariq had said before we had got off the boat.

“There are no guarantees.” he had said.

“That was my mistake, seeking some sort of answer. Feeling entitled. I was a fool. Maybe I still am. I don’t know.” he had said.

I thought of that later and felt better not only for him but for my dad too. In the darkness was a small light, and I was asleep before it went out.

 


Submitted: December 12, 2014

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