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     Volume 4 Issue 22 | November 26, 2004 |

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Love on a Blue Afternoon


(Continued from previous issue)

But Shormi was not thinking about it anymore; Bobby was having a painful death and she blamed herself for it. She put her hands into the grille and called the cat again; Hasna joined her soon, but Bobby did not respond, neither did she move away. The cat only looked up the window and cried shrilly. Shormi turned round, gripping a bar and said, "Hasna I can't take this anymore".

Shormi saw tears rolling down the girl's eyes. She held Hasna's hand tightly and said, "If the cat doesn't die by tomorrow night I will kill it with the gun".

Hasna started weeping. Shormi put her hand on her shoulder and said, "Listen, silly girl…I just want to relieve it of the pain." Then she added, "Just look at the way Bobby is crying…look…"

Two women then wept, holding each other. Shormi held Hasna's head to her neck and said, "Silly girl". The cat screeched even louder as it staggered around to lie on the other side of the ledge.

Power was out when Shormi woke up in the evening. Bobby was still crying. She put on a pair of pyjamas and a short-sleeved shirt and drank a glass of water from the bedside table. Warm sunlight came through the mango tree and fell on Bobby's decaying body. The cat looked up and tried to leap up the grille. Shormi clasped the grille as Bobby missed it and fell on the garden below the sunshade before bumping on the edge of the façade wall. She ran down the stairs, almost toppling over the white banister, and found Bobby alive. Blood spewed out of its neck and both of the cat's front legs almost came out of its body. Bobby tried to get up to her feet when she saw Shormi walk down further towards the flowerbed. But the cat could not get up to its feet; it tumbled down and staggered on the thorny surface with its chest. She reached down, picked Bobby up, and took her to the house.

Shormi waited for Hasna to come before taking any decision about Bobby. She had placed the cat on a rag and it had not moved since then. Meanwhile, she fidgeted across the room, holding both her hands together, praying. She was born in a Muslim family, but had abandoned the faith as she grew up. The bell rang and, to her surprise, she found Nasser standing at the door. He had grown a beard and was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

"Hey," she almost screamed and said, "come in".

Shormi looked at him more closely. The long strips of thin white fabric that had been wrapped around different parts of his body were gone. Nasser sat down on the sofa bed and as if to give a reason for the visit said, "I was passing by and thought you might not dislike it if I drop in".

She smiled at his innocence. Bobby's cry came out before she could say anything. She strode down the flat, ushering him in, and sat down on the floor. Nasser followed her; and when he reached Bobby, said, "God…how did it happen".

Shormi did not reply; she looked pointedly at the cat's eyes; she thought the cat had been pleading to save it from its agony. Cats did not shed tears, she knew, but she somehow felt it was telling her, begging her, with its brownish eyes, to rid it of the pain. She looked at Nasser, who was staring glumly at Bobby.

"Nasser, I want to kill her. Do you think it will be wrong if we kill her now, instead of let her suffer?" she asked.

Nasser did not take his eyes off the cat when he replied, "No. But I don't know how we will do it."

"I have a gun," she slowly got up and took the gun out of the drawer. "I don't know if it will work or not. It's my ex-husband's but he never used it," she said while leaning on the wall.

"Do you want me to do it?" Nasser looked at her and asked.

"Nah," she replied and walked down slowly to the rag.

Bobby stopped crying and stared at her eyes when she pointed the gun at her head. She could not fix her aim as both her hands were trembling. It was almost dark; the electricity had not come yet and Shormi had forgotten to light a candle. Beams of red, yellow and blue lights came through the window from the billboards and fell on the two impassive human figures. Nasser came forward and put his hands around hers to help her aim. Shormi turned round, surprised, and said, "Thanks".

Nasser, now holding her hands, could hear their hearts pounding. Shormi looked at Bobby for the last time, closed her eyes and pulled the trigger, but the thirteen-year-old lever failed to fire the gun. Bobby cried shrilly as she tried again; the gun did not let her down this time, blood splashed out of the cat's head and fell all over the blue rag. Shormi, eyes still closed, turned round, hugged him tightly and cried.

They dug a hole at the giant trunk of the mango tree to bury Bobby. Both of them cried when she wrapped the cat in a dark chador and put it in the hole. Nasser replaced the soil and walked back to the house with the shovel in hand. Shormi followed her and said, "You need to take a shower".

Shormi almost walked up to him when Nasser replied, "I should go home now".

"What a day for you…" she opened the main entrance and said, "But your home is far away from here…"

"I will take a cab, don't worry," he entered the house, following her, and said, "But I need to wash my hands first".

"Go straight and then turn left," she said and replaced the keys on the windowsill.

She put on a brown sari and black blouse after having a shower while Nasser washed his hands in the bathroom. Electricity had come a while ago; she went to the kitchen to make tea. Nasser, meanwhile, came back from the bathroom and stood in front of the bookshelf; he carefully pulled a book out of the rack and leafed through it absentmindedly. A copy of Jackson Pollack's Moon Women hung on the wall of the bedroom, just above the dresser. He looked through the door, still holding the book, and gazed at the painting.

A soft clatter of pots and spoons came out of the dining room, as he looked back at the book. Shormi called Nasser and told him to have a cup of tea.

"Were you reading something?" she asked, sipping at her tea.

"Not really," Nasser replied, "I was just browsing through a book."

"Which one?" she asked, smiling; she was half-sure he had already forgotten the book's name.

"God…I forgot," he smiled meekly and sat besides her. "I feel really sad for the cat," he continued.

Shormi had cried a lot since the evening and the bath could not take the signs of it away from her face: her eyes were still blood red; and there was a pinkish glow about the edges of her nose. She crossed her legs and sipped at the tea again. Nasser thought she might start crying again; he put a hand on her hand and patted softly.

Shormi put the cup down, looked at him and said, "Thanks."

Nasser stared back at her watery eyes, held her hand and said, "You look good when you cry".

She smiled, a teardrop rolled down her cheeks and fell on the saucer, and said, "I know that".

Nasser laughed and said, "Let's go for a walk."

She went to the bedroom and opened a drawer at the side of the dressing table. As she was rummaging through it to find a lipstick, Nouman called. He was sorry, he said; he should have informed her earlier that dad had been with him, he continued. But Shormi stopped him and said it was ok. She also said that she was about to go outside with a friend, so she would not be able to talk now. Nouman was surprised and he could not hide it; he said sorry twice before hanging up.
(To be continued...)



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