Asif tried to concentrate on his assignment over the noise of the electric drill from the next room. He had to complete this now before going to tutor his evening students. He had four students a day on weekdays and more during the weekends.
As he put on his sandals before heading out his phone buzzed with a notification. It was a group chat for a hangout his friends were planning. He sighed and put the phone back in his pocket.
Three hours later he was back home with his eyelids drooping. The men still weren’t done with their work in his parents’ bathroom. The electric drill droned on.
He had a quick dinner, looked disdainfully at the almost complete assignment on his desk, and hit the bed. He checked his phone again. His friends had been tagging him in the messages asking for a response. Rezwan had noticed that he had seen the first message and commented, “Of course Asif is ditching as usual.” Farhan was defending him saying, “Guys Asif has a lot of students now. I’ll ask him which days he’s free.” That explained Farhan’s WhatsApp message asking after his schedule.
Asif checked the initial message again. It was about a new burger joint in Gulshan. It would take out a clean one thousand taka from his stash, which he had already almost used up to pay his tuition fee for the university. He muted the conversation.
It had been like this since his Dad’s huge losses went down. At first he only began going when his friends had planned to go somewhere moderately affordable. Next he began pretending he was full despite having not eaten since the previous night, just so he could see his friends. Now he had to skip almost every time because even transport costs had started to hurt his wallet. He had only once voiced his financial troubles to a friend, and next thing he knew they had started offering to pay for him. He didn’t want to be a charity case for crying out loud!
When his phone pinged again with another group chat, Asif opened it with some trepidation, but his face lit up immediately. A friend’s sister was getting married. He could definitely squeeze this plan into his routine. He could finally see his friends.
However, before the excitement could even fully materialise, another chat box opened up discussing how much each friend would contribute to the group gift they wanted to present at this wedding. Asif almost wanted to chuck his phone across the room, but he couldn’t even do that for fear of breaking it.
The sound of the electric drill rose to a crescendo, and then suddenly ceased. The last thing Asif saw through the tears swimming in his eyes, before he buried his head in his pillow, was the bathtub of his parents’ room being taken away for sale.
Rabita Saleh is a perfectionist/workaholic. Email feedback to this generally boring person at firstname.lastname@example.org