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     Volume 4 Issue 51 | June 17, 2005 |

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That Night

Tisa Muhaddes

It seemed so simple…ridiculously simple. Yes, now I see what has happened. I am a fool, my mind says, I am fool to have believed…

The wind thrashing against the windows compel me to allow it free passage to engulf the small bedroom with its warm moist-deprived whole. I looked beyond the darkness that stretched indefinitely over the blackened fields interrupted by small patches of light from petty make-shift bamboo huts, and a silvering lake that gleamed from the oft-hidden moon. If I remained motionless, I can almost hear the cries of dissatisfaction and miseries emanating from the countless souls inhabiting along the perimeters of the sunken field, segregating themselves in stench-filled slums. Even the city, in the midst of its loneliness, exemplified the state of my soul. We, alike, appeared disconnected and disabled to rectify the deteriorating state of our milieus. The presence of the wind in the bedroom soon jogged me out of my pensive trance. I hastened to close the windows before the wind wrecked havoc upon the meager furnitures. I noticed the skies fast darkening into a purplish hue as if bruised by an unforeseeable enemy. The smell of fresh monsoon rain permeates the air. Ah, he always enjoyed the monsoon season. He said once that the presence of the rain inspired him to write better. He said that during nights when the skies are howling and crying, he is at his best. A writer, is only as good as his inspiration.

I sigh, as more unwarranted reminiscences of him pervaded my mind. No, I cannot allow memories to interfere now. Memories are but fragments of lost happier times that are better left locked and thrown in some inaccessible corners of the human abyss. Tonight I shall not allow memories cloud my resolve, I must have answers.

I walk away from the windows as the sky release itself. Torrents of rain hurl against the windows, obstructing my view of the outside world. As I walk out of the room, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I stop and return to the mirror. All I can discern is a shadowy figure cloaked in a sari that is quickly coming undone. I angrily pull the sari around my hips, tucking at the anchal. My face is partially shrouded in darkness. I lean closer to the mirror hoping to trace my face. But I only see a pair of glassy eyes staring back intensely. I delicately trace the contours of my face, the sunken eyes, the puffy cheeks, the once-ripe full lips. Suddenly angered, I walk away from the mirror this time. I enter the room that we labelled as a library. It is sparsely furnished with wooden shelves lined against the walls, filled with books. I gingerly brush my fingers against the books, recalling happier times spent in purchasing them from New Market. The sound of a car halting to a stop outside brings me back to the present world. I rush to the windows just in time to see him sprinting across the yard towards the building. It will be only mere minutes till I hear the familiar keys jingling as he unlocks the door.

I stand in front of the door just as he appears. I see he is thoroughly wet as his linen shirt clings to his exposed body. The sight is almost obscene and I turn my head.

"Bloody weather," he mutters, as he angrily shuts the door and throws his bag on the floor, "what a horrible time for it to rain. God, Dhaka weather is so unpredictable".

He brushes past me into the bedroom, and I can still hear him muttering incoherently to the empty walls. I shrug and walk to the kitchen to heat his food. Lately, he has been in a foul mood just about all the time. I wonder fascinated how the light of the microwave screen manages to sting my eyes. Am I already accustomed to the dark? I look for his shadows in the bedroom and wonder why he has not mentioned anything about the darkness shrouding the apartment.

"Don't bother heating the food, I've already eaten," he says from behind me.

"Thanks for letting me know," I reply softly.

He glares at me but said nothing. Instead he switched off the microwave and walked away. I realises that lately I have been seeing a lot of his back. He always seems to be walking away from me now. I want to make him stop and come back to me. I want him to tell me everything is fine.

"You know she called today," I said.
The words did their trick; he stopped suddenly and turned around.
"Who called?"
"She, who else. Who do you think I'm referring to? Are there other shes that I should be privy to? "I childishly respond.
"What did she say?" Though I could not discern his face because of the darkness, his angry tone of voice allowed me to visualise his annoyed expression. But it is I who should be livid, I tell myself. I should be the one with the irate tone.

"Nothing in particular. Nothing really." I pause meaningfully, "just to talk, I suppose".

Hearing that he turned around and continued walking away.

The heat stifle me and refused to allow me any relief. The unbearable humidity returns duly after the rain has stopped. I toss and turn on the bed, hoping to catch some relief from the ceiling fan. Yet even the fan seems disinclined to offer me any solace. I stretches out my hand in order to urge him to re-open the windows, but all I could feel is empty space on the bed. Without checking to confirm, I realise that I am alone. In spite of the sudden hollowness inside, I smile…When will I ever learn?

Our society dictates that arranged marriages lead to longevity and happiness. But than you also have equal number of naysayers claiming the opposite. Some even say it is not love that matters, but that the longevity of a marriage depends on the faith of the partners in them, in each other, and in the sanctity of marriage as a holy institution. I can just imagine what they are saying about us now. Oh look at Mr. and Mrs. Rahman. Fell in love while in college in America. Returned to Dhaka and got engaged. Mr. Rahman took over his family's garment business and Mrs. Rahman got a top-notch job as a teacher in the country's premier school. Married in less than a year in lavish wedding festivities that continues to be the talk of the town. An example of blissful matrimony. Match made in heaven. But a year into the wedding, and the same tongues began prognosticating trouble between the exemplary couple. Domestic troubles plaguing the young Rahman household already. Such a young couple, shame they rushed headlong into the marriage. Both are such headstrong stubborn characters. Too westernised for their own good--attending weekly parties, staying out till the wee hours of the morning, drinking and frolicking in public. How shameful! No wonder than that trouble is brewing in the home front. Now wife is concerned that husband spends too much time living the "fast life" without her. Husband ignores wife's worries and continues his bachelor-like weekly excursions with close pals. Wife does not accompany husband to parties any more. Rumor is that husband is doing more than just harmless cavorting with young girls at those parties. Some dare allege that husband is sleeping with Sadie, causing strain between wife and her childhood friend. When she last visited from New York, they did not organise their annual charity function at Sonargoan. Mrs. Rahman has lost so much weight recently, what a shame to see such a beauty deteriorate. Husband and wife rarely make public appearances now.

I finally force myself out of the bed before succumbing to the drowning heat. I re-open the windows and take respite in the dry demure breeze that whizzes past into the room. I check the clock to affirm the lateness of time. In a mere few hours, the skies will lighten. I can already hear faint stirrings of the early birds. I go to the library, where I find him in front of the computer. He turns around to face me as my sari rustles against his back.

"Did I wake you?"
"No, I couldn't sleep. It's the heat..."
"You never could bear the heat here. You know at times it can be a blessing."

"Blessing, god forbid!"
He chortles and stretches out his hand to hold mine. He nuzzles his face against my hand and gingerly kisses the palms. Excitement and desire prickle throughout my body at his touch. I yearn for more.

"I have to finish this story," he abruptly says, putting my hands aside.
Startled, I remain standing wondering how erratic his moods are lately.
"Aren't you going to get any sleep tonight?"
"As soon as I finish this."

"Why are you here then? You could have easily just spent the night at your office, you know. You didn't need to trudge home to do work!" I fling the angry words at him.

He ceases typing momentarily, leans back in his chair, and looks directly at me.
"Not now. Don't start all over again," he softly replies.

"Start what? Start what all over again! You always push me away when I want to say something. You never listen to me anymore. I feel like I'm stuck in a limbo when it comes to us. I'm feeling trapped. I feel that you don't care to see or hear me anymore," I angrily shout, feeling relief sweep my body as I finally voice my thoughts, "and…and…you don't even want to discuss what has…no…what is happening between us now. You're in denial…and you expect me to remain in denial as well!"

"What is the matter with you?" he asked harshly, panting heavily as he tries to control his anger, "You feel trapped? I'm the one who feels trapped here…not you! And what do you mean by saying that I'm in denial…in denial of what? Of who? What do you expect me to do? Can't you see that I'm lost…I'm confused…I don't know how to rectify this mess. But I don't need you to remind me about it every bloody day. You're not the only one suffering here, you know, we all are. But look at you, acting like a child, a spoilt child! God knows what I ever saw in you anyway!"

Even before his last words escape his lips, my hand swiftly slaps his cheek. He grabs hold of me by my shoulders and roughly pushes me towards the door. I wanted to continued, I wanted to kill him right there and then! But knowing the violence I am capable of wrecking, he hurriedly pushe me out of the room, and locked the door.

I don't know what awakened me again, but I found myself on my bed, my pillows drenched with the many tears I shed after our altercation. I did not dare venture out of the bed, lest I find that I am alone. I cannot cry any longer, my body feels dry and my head throbs with the heavy load. I cannot cry anymore, I feel void and washed out. I wished that he can leave her and then maybe we can begin afresh somewhere else, as far away as possible from this god forsaken city. But he cannot bear to leave her, now I understand. He loves her as much as he does me, if not more. But he cannot bear to be without us both. And I cannot bear to be without him. And she, I wonder what she thinks? She must know now about us, yet she never confronted me about him. No, instead she is going out of her way to ensure that our paths never cross. When she does rarely calls, it is always about some mundane issues. We both carefully and cautiously skirt the real issues. But I suppose she suffers too.

"Listen, I've been thinking, Sadie," his voice echoes from the door, "I know something must be done about us…about all of us. I just need time…I cannot stand if either of you are hurt…but I do want to be with you…but…but I also have to think about her too, you see….especially now with the news of the baby…"

I close my eyes as fresh tears well up, but I only manage to softly mutter, "Yes I see; but I still don't understand."

"Yes, you cannot possibly understand now, can you? But that's okay. Everything will be sorted out. Everything will be okay."

He approaches the bed, and slide under the sheets. He cradles me in his arms, and whispers softly that he love me and will never leave. We cry in each other's arms, each fearful of the uncertainty of the future. We cry together because we cannot fathom the conclusion of this pain. We cry together because we love each other unbearably yet we know we cannot last any longer. We cry together and fall asleep in each other's arms. I hug him closer to my body, vainly hoping to stall the inevitable, because I know he made his choice. In the morning he will return to his family for the final time and then there is no more us.

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