Day One: Qayamat.
July 28, 2018
After what seems like a lifetime of regrets put together as doomsdays that have gone unaccounted for, today the world has ended again; and perhaps for the final time. For the record, we’ll call it day one. If I survive this, what follows will be memoirs of my survival. After an entire month of being upset with me, one of my best friends decided today would be the day to reach out to me, clarifying that it wasn’t to rekindle but to see if I was okay.
“What could possibly be wrong with me?” I thought to myself.
I’ve gotten used to lying to myself and fighting with the heaviness that I carry in my chest. Of course, it hurts but not more than how much it was about to. I’ve dealt with a lot of pain, and different kinds of it too.
In 1998, I was 9 years old. We lived in a small apartment in Scarborough where I would spend the next 5 years of my life growing up. My dad owned a gas station; business was good until the long hours took a toll on his health. One night I was awaken by the sounds I still can’t get out of my head. I fell asleep watching cartoons in the living room, I guess somewhere in the middle of the night my mother had put a blanket on me. Being scared of where the sounds were coming from, I did what a brave 9 year old would do. I closed my eyes, and tried to sleep through it. Then I heard more voices I couldn’t recognize, and at this point I had to peek through the blanket to see what was going on. I saw the paramedics at my door lifting my dad on a stretcher, I could tell from his face he was in a lot of pain. My mother was as brave as ever holding his hand giving him strength to hang on. My dad suffered a major heart attack, and I cried myself to sleep that night not knowing what tomorrow would bring. That was the first time I experienced helplessness.
In 2001, I became friends with this girl I secretly liked since grade 7. She was from Afghanistan. She had these beautiful eyes, cherry red cheeks, she was short, and absolutely adorable. She had the smile you couldn’t get out of your head. It was the most innocent of crushes you could have on someone, where you’d look at them and you’d be happy without ever having to say a word to them. We had a few classes together in grade 7. In grade 8, her locker was right next to mine. I would wait around pretending to fiddle with my books looking for an excuse to see her first thing in the morning, and I did that every single day. I remember this one time my hand accidently touched hers as I was grabbing my locker door, and she hid her face as she blushed. I was quite embarrassed myself, especially after she told her friends who shared the lockers next to her. I can still hear them giggling as they looked at me. Life was beautiful back then, but that changed for me sooner than I wanted it to.
One day in grade 9, she didn’t show up to school. This was known for being the girl who had perfect attendance; she never missed a day since grade 7! She wasn’t there for first period, second period, third, and then fourth. You can imagine how worried I got at this point! I remember I was at the water fountain during lunch, and I saw her walk by. For the first time in years I saw her as if she was broken. I smiled and waived at her, as she did something very strange. She pointed at me and walked away. To my surprise, two grown men walked up to me, and put a knife to my stomach and took me off school property. Like a Bollywood movie, her elder brothers misunderstood our friendship, and for that she paid a huge price. I never saw her again, and I would spend the next 17 years of my life hating myself, thinking she was pulled out of school and sent back to Afghanistan. That was the first time I lost someone I cared about.
In 2005 I was ruthless, I was young, and I was on top of the world. I was the alpha of my group of hardcore teenage monstrosities. Losing someone I cared about, and being bullied by her brothers changed me as a person. I became aggressive, and careless and that led to consequences of its own. I remember clearly, it was April of that year and a rival gang caught me completely off guard. My reflexes acted out and I punched a 250lb guy through a storefront window. After twenty four hours of feeling like the Bollywood hero that I was beginning to believe I was, the bubble burst. The gang retaliated, and found my sixteen year old overconfident self completely cornered, and they fractured my face with brass knuckles. That was the first time I experienced physical pain.
In 2011, for the first time in my life I was madly in love. She was beautiful and I was awestruck at the sight of her. I avoided relationships for the longest time, but I was a point in my life where I knew I wanted to be with her forever. Twenty-two years old and hopelessly in love with a Pakhtun nurse that lived 75km away from me, the drive itself was a torment. I drove to see her whenever I had the chance, and every minute of it was worth it. I started learning Pashto for her, and every now and then she’d teach me a new phrase. My family was in Pakistan, and I’d go see them in the summer and tell them all about her – it was all planned. I met her best friend who totally approved of me; I had yet to meet her sister after which I planned on taking them with me to buy a promise ring. However, prior heartbreaks and depression led to decisions which still haunt me. One day everything was over, and that’s the first time I experienced excruciating heartbreak.
I remember burning a CD with the song “Heartbeat” by Enrique Iglesias, it was my absolute favorite! I’d play it on repeat while I was stuck in traffic, and I used to laugh at the thought of how angry she’d be because I’m always late. I never thought the same song would eventually bring tears to my eyes. It wasn’t too long after I started suffocating in my city and I decided to travel to Pakistan to find peace of mind. I got worse by the day, and eventually depression became a friend of my own. I spent a year there getting into trouble, learning Pashto, and simultaneously trying to move on. It didn’t work.
Eventually, I started suffocating in Pakistan as well and I found myself back in Toronto. I started praying, and reading Islamic articles on life, destiny, and decisions of God to try and make sense of things. A few years went by while I fought through depression, trying to finish school and battling the urge to experiment with drugs. I prayed it all away, and God helped me through it without ultimately becoming the monster I thought I was going to become.
Fast forward to 2016, I let my guard down and let someone else in. I fell in love again. As simple as it may sound, it wasn’t. This love was also meant to be a roller coaster ride of balancing religion, love, culture, family values, and not to mention surviving through her hoops of mind games and endless confusion. I fought my family for her, convinced them to ask for her hand in marriage. I was up for candidacy along with her maternal cousin, and she urged for me to speed up the process or I’d lose her forever. After being disrespected by her family who showed no interest in my proposal, I was met with more mind games and even more confusion, along with an expectation of $100,000 USD in Mehr (matrimonial gift to the bride) by her father; a secret which led her to cut ties with me by claiming she had no feelings for me to begin with. I guess it was easier to do that than telling me the truth.
A year of trying to make sense of everything that made no sense at all, for questioning myself of not being enough for her, and hating myself for everything I did in trying to win this battle, there I was ultimately broken again. I was blocked from everywhere, making it clear it was over. One day, she decided to come back and I found an email that read, “I have good news.” What could the good news have been?
“I don’t have to marry my cousin anymore, I rejected the proposal.”
To my surprise, I got blamed for leaving, and for never trying to reach out to her again. That’s the thing with a guilty conscience; you try anything and everything to blame someone else for your own shortcomings in attempts to console your conscience. No apology was ever given to me, no explanation, and on top of that there was continual refusal of having any feelings for me to begin with. Remember how I said she was confused? She was! She demanded my attention like I owed it to her. She was jealous of my best friend, she hated me for talking to her, she wanted me to urge my family to speed things up, she missed me more than anything, she kept everything I had ever given to her, she dreamt of marrying me, and she claimed to have no feelings for me at all at the same time. I hated lies, and I never understood why it was so hard to be honest, especially after all that we had been through. Of all things, why couldn’t I be worthy of the truth?
What was expected of me? Was I supposed to go on being a puppet? Was I supposed to continue validating her existence, and making her feel wanted? Was I wrong for my commitment towards her, expecting it in return? Was I only a safe choice, a backup plan for her to fall back on? What was I, and why didn’t I deserve to know? I had never been as honest with my feelings as I had been with her, and I am an honest guy to begin with. With her, there were no secrets. I was an open book. I don’t like playing mind games, and going in circles, and being far from the truth. Then why was it that I of all people was taken for a fool? I haven’t spoken to her since she lied to me again; I had no energy left in me to go through more hoops of mind games and confusion, and more pain.
Love has a way of either making you Godless, or bringing you even closer to God than you had ever imagined. These past few years I have experienced both to some degree. I prayed for her in ways I never imagined myself doing, I called out to God with every name He has, I have fasted, I have cried, I’ve done it all. I’ve stopped doing that now completely. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I believe in His being wholeheartedly. I just don’t have it in me to find something else to ask for as strongly. I talk to Him every now and then, I thank Him for the mercies and the blessings He has bestowed upon me, I just don’t have it in me to ask for anything any more.
Another year of numbness, and being greeted by my old friend depression brings us to today. My best friend reached out to me and asked, “I wanted to know how you’re coping with the wedding and all?” My heart dropped.
She sent me a picture of my promiscuous beloved, on her wedding day. “Officially his,” a caption read below the picture. I stare at it with a heavy heart. Over the year, I’ve been through many ups and downs with coming to terms with myself. To better phrase this, over the year I’ve learned to lie. Even though the thought of her comes to mind every now and then, even though I listen to her voice notes every night, even though I still haven’t deleted her pictures off my phone, I convinced myself that I’m over it. Even though it hurts just as much as it did a year ago, I’ve probably lied to myself enough times to almost believe it. I was right back where I started. My heart is caught in my throat, I can feel my pulse racing in my chest, my hands tremble as I write, and every last bit of hope that I held on to was shattered.
Two hours later the question still remains, “are you okay?” I still haven’t answered my friend. I don’t know how to put it in to words.
Between you and I though, today is the first day my soul has ached, July 28, 2018. It’s a different kind of pain than I’ve ever experienced before. I write this with a heart heaver than it has ever been, and perhaps writing to you is the only thing that’s holding me together.
Despite everything, I want you to know that this isn’t about her. I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I’m unpredictable. I may not come out of this, but here I am promising you that I will. I also pray that you as the reader may never find yourself in a similar place where your soul aches, and may you never come to a point where you’ve stopped praying, and you don’t know where to turn to. However, if you ever do find yourself in this place, I want you to know that you’re not alone and I want you to hold these words close to your heart. Today I promise you, that I’ll survive the end of the world, and so will you.