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General

I look up at the defiant, calm and serene sky ‘the dome of our existence,’ as we called it, the star constellations always had some sort of pattern as if God had sprinkled them so sweet upon the perfect black birthday cakes. “That’s a unicorn, look at the horns,” the voice of Zoya echoed through my ears. Just like her name she brought life into me, we always argued about how her parents knowingly named her that, they knew she would bring life into us. As always, she stubbornly tried point out that the pattern formed a unicorn while I always argued about how it looked like a horse. The night sky had an effect on us it made us wish to fly, it was the most gorgeous piece of art, alive with raw energy, a song for our eyes. The wind engulfed us with a sense of warmth and made us travel to a place. A happy place. We always found it funny how even though we look at one star we yet somehow see them all at once. The stars shined on us giving us hope, it brought life into our world. She always said it was as though God was smiling at us and perhaps sending a ray of hope towards us.

Our meeting was indeed unexpected. I was impatiently waiting for the 9 A.M. bus, I always hadn’t been and still am not a morning person to add onto that I did not have my daily dose of masala tea I was not ready for any sort of communication with a human. I tapped my foot eagerly, checking the time at least a hundred times, my hand was freezing from holding the cold metal rail. I wanted to sit but the dark wooden bench was occupied with a group of old people and a young man who seemed to not have features of a gentleman. I felt someone pull my fur coat, I was not ready for any of this nonsense today. I turned my face, filled with annoyance to the person who would dare bother me at this time of the day, it was Zoya. “OH MY JEEZ! I’ve been waiting for you Aleena,” my name was not even Aleena! I stared at her with a confused expression and a look that would definitely kill, before I could say anything she pulled me into the side. I pushed her arm of me ready to jump at her and she suddenly started apologizing continuously. She explained to me how the man on the bench had tried to pull my wallet out of my open backpack. At first, I did not believe her, I continued to stare at her weirdly. I turned to check my backpack and she was indeed right. This was the start of our very long friendship.

I turned to stare at Zoya. Her deep-set brown, tiny eyes covered by her large eye glasses were focused on the bright painting above and it was hard to ignore how they glistened every time she smiled, her eyes were resting not unblinking but slow. I took in her appearance; her skin so flawless, her chestnut brown hair cascaded down into her shoulder covering half her freckled face, just like the ocean waves slowly reflecting the light of the moon. When she laughed her voice was so free and pure, it came to my ears as a tickle and a bounce and she always let out a cute little snort. Her smile was a feature from God and I knew I was home. She had on her stranger things hoodie that she had begged Aunt Komal to purchase for her, under that was a pair of denim jeans that we had just purchased last week from the Forever 21 sale to complete her look she had on her fuzzy bright yellow socks that I always told her was too bright to be worn.  When she spoke, I couldn’t help but listen to every word she said; it was as though a melody flowed out of her.  

Honesty was always the best policy for her. She always said “Be honest,” I’d always lie to get out of situations be it avoiding going out with my friends or having to do my laundry and she’d always put her hands on her waist dramatically, stare at me while trying to make her eyes look bigger making sure her eyebrows made a weird crease. Every time she did that I couldn’t help but laugh and blame it on her Indian dramatic genes. I always said life was too short for us to not make mistakes and she always asked me why we would make mistakes when we can avoid them. I still remember the day when we had gone to the supermarket and just like any teenager I wanted to create havoc. I put on a fake smile and walked to one of the 15 year old employee complaining about how I couldn’t find my pet rat Stuart. The employee apologized, her face looked horrified as though she didn’t know what to say and just wanted to escape from the situation and maybe even regret taking up this job. Before I could fake scream at her, Zoya pulled my arm rigid with fury, her face crimson red with annoyance and she quickly muttered an apology and released all her temper on me. She again put her hands on her waist dramatically and I let out a loud chuckle and told her to look at her face. “Everyone is human, how could you do that?” she went on and on and spoke with such logic, her complex vocabulary made me look at her as though she was speaking alien. I realized at that moment how my playful joke might have caused problems for the young girl and how even a small lie can make a difference.

Zoya was just three years older than me but she spoke like a wise old woman, she gave me advice and had a little notebook in which she recorded every tiny detail of her life. I remember her holding the bound in brown leather, cracked and dry with age cover of the book, when she turned the pages she made sure to tilt her fingers in a way that not even a crease would come to the page. The book was so old and heavy but the leather still felt so soft and delicate due to way she had maintained it. When she was so into writing she tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear as though that made her focus more, she made sure she sniffed every new book she purchased and always told me to appreciate the little things in life. She’d write me small notes when I was having a bad day, held my hair when I would complain that I couldn’t straighten it and every time we went to Starbucks she would lean over the black, marble counters the smell of coffee beans, delicious pastries and caramel hitting our nostrils and tried to make conversation with the baristas. Every moment for her was important and she made sure she appreciated every good and bad thrown at her, it made me start seeing the other half of the World.

Our conversations were much more than just words, it was the smiles, the shrugs and the light in our eyes that communicated more. She would listen to my every word as if they were golden, hours would pass by but our words would just flow one after the other. I guess that is what happens when two loving people connect with one another. I still recall the other night when we both laid on the rough, shaggy, coarse, dark green grass staring at the night sky. She experienced a long day, failing her Mid Semester tests really got into her. She looked tired but not the kind that needs a good night’s sleep, her eyes weren’t glistening as they do when she’s happy this time they looked lost nonetheless she still managed to keep a bright smile, she said to me “There is no failure except in no longer trying,” I was confused and stared at her weirdly. I clearly knew that she was not okay but what I always loved about her was how she gave herself a power that no one; not even I could take from her and that was her positivity. She was the kind who brought out the good in a storm and took out the bad from a war. Each time I complained about how I didn’t have the freedom of going out since my Indian parents were so strict, she always managed to bring out the good in the situation, her encouragement was intoxicating.

Selflessness is difficult to find especially from us teenagers. However, she always put others before she would put herself. During Eid last year, we both took fancy of this really amazing anarkali we had seen in one of the stores right across my house. It was elegant, long and wavy, the navy blue complimented the golden design that had been beautifully stitched by an angel, the silk material was such that you could just run your hand through it and the best thing about this suit was that it was available in two colors meaning we could both purchase it. We were so excited when Ammi and Aunt Komal agreed for us to buy it after hours of constant begging since it was really expensive, we both purchased it and were to try it on luckily they were the last pieces available. The same day we had purchased it, Rhea my cousin visited and was complaining about having the dullest of suits. Me being me, I didn’t want to show her my suit as I knew she would be tempted to want it. Anyone would. Zoya being Zoya showed it to her and of course Rhea wanted it. I completely refused to give it to her even though Ammi convinced me, even promising to buy me a better one. Of course Zoya had to be selfless and gave it to her, not out of pity but with a good heart and instead wore one of her old suits on Eid that year. I was amazed by her. Throughout all these years of our friendship she made such generous sacrifices, be it sacrificing her ladoos for me, not going for a movie premier since I did not get a ticket or giving away her stranger things T-shirt to a small girl who wanted it when we went to the Orphanage despite her spending all her savings on it.

Today, as I look beside me there is no one on the grass that I can admire. The stars have come out to play and the crickets are singing with joy but for me it’s just a dark and dull night. Thinking about her makes a single tear slide down my face followed by another one and another one. Pain rolls down my face in the form of tears. I wish you didn’t leave! I couldn’t believe how someone as genuine and generous as her could leave us so fast. Sadness drained through me rather that skating over my skin, even though it had been 6 months since she left I still felt the pain every single night when I stared at the sky. I lay on the grass and still feel her presence next to me, it’s as though her body has left a print on the grass. As I stare at the dark night sky, the wind is chilled and the stars are burning with the brilliant sapphire pallor of electric light. The star constellation make a pattern. I finally see the unicorn. Everyone wants to land on a moon but she wanted to land on the star and she did. The constellations who have witnessed centuries and millennia just the same watched over this tiny moment. As I stare at the stars that are far far away I know the distance between Zoya and I is so small and she shines as the brightest star from above.

July 24, 2020 09:51

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10 comments

07:21 Jul 30, 2020

I love this! The descriptions and imagery's are great.

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11:45 Jul 30, 2020

Thank you so muchh!!

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Anna Rogers
05:29 Jul 30, 2020

Although drawn out in places this is a moving story of friendship complimented by some very powerful imagery eg “the dome of our existence” for the night sky and how you describe a garment as “beautifully stitched by an angel.” I could picture the sewer a poorly paid contract worker perhaps. In the same way I was able to picture Zoya and emotionally invest in the protagonist’s account of their friendship right up until I realised that she had died. I presume going by the effect of failing the test that she took her own life, if I’m correct...

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11:50 Jul 30, 2020

Woahhh Thank you so muchh! Especially for the feedback i will keep that in mind! I did not want to however bring out her death as suicide i wanted it to be a more natural one and that's why i did not bring it up. But, regarding the cross cultural background, i did want to mention it especially regarding how much pressure the youth face. Once again, thank you so much for taking out your time to read this and give me amazing feedback :)

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Anna Rogers
01:55 Jul 31, 2020

My apologies for wrongly assuming that Zoya took her own life. It’s just that how you described her apparent change of mood after failing her test and knowing how in some cultures there is added pressure in young people to succeed I reached this conclusion, You don’t mention how she dies, so were you leaving it up to readers to imagine rightly or wrongly? Anyway, it’s a powerful piece and the cross cultural element only adds to that. Keep up your writing.

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09:58 Aug 09, 2020

Yes, i totally get it. I didn't want to put much emphasis on the way that she died as i wanted the focus of the story to be on her good qualities and the culture that she was brought up in. Thank you so much for the feedback i really appreciate it!!

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Fizza Nanji
10:15 Jul 25, 2020

Woooww!! I'm in love with this! 😍

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14:35 Jul 27, 2020

Awwww! Thank you so muchhh , ilyyy

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Zainab Jagani
10:06 Jul 25, 2020

Wow I love this storyy, the imagery is awesome! the crickets the descriptions are also enthralling. I like how you brought out Zoyas characteristics through small stories and the fact that Zoya means star! 👏

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14:37 Jul 27, 2020

You motivate me and make me feel like writing , i am glad that you could take your time out to read my story and even give me feedback on it. ilyy bubb

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