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General

“He is lying still on the bed,

sleeping like a baby.

I love seeing him sleeping beside me—

the way his lips curl up even in sleep,

always makes me smile;

it makes me feel complete.

But when I try to embrace him

in the warmth of my love,

he lies there lifeless.”

Alia wakes up from her sleep as she hears a loud bang outside, but does not bother to find out where it came from and sits down with her back straight against the headboard. Looking straight at the wall in front of her, she moves her quivering hand towards the other side of the bed, fearing that she might find it empty . . . again. She feels the emptiness of the sheet enter her heart, which has got many cracks like the wall she is staring at. Before the tears welled up in her eyes get a chance to roll down her cheeks, she sends them back to where they came from. Not forever . . . but she knows she must wait.

Getting down from her bed, she looks at the clock, uninterested in knowing what the time was. But she can see the sun setting from the window to her right. She knows she is running late and so she hurries herself to the bathroom and freshens herself up. She then starts moving towards her kitchen which has a very neat appearance, with all the spices placed in the first half of the lower shelf, the packed containers in the other, and all the beverage ingredients on the middle shelf.  On the topmost shelf are the things she no longer uses. She lights the stove and starts preparing her regular cup of tea—with half a cup of milk and water each, cardamom, and one spoon of tea leaves. She looks at the sugar container placed on the topmost shelf, which is out of her reach, and reminds herself that sugar must wait . . . and so must she.

Finishing her cup of tea, she runs back to her room, as if pulled by an urgent need. She runs straight to her wardrobe which looks less like a space used for storing basic necessities and more like a photo album full of memories. With a nostalgic smile, which was still in the process of formation on her face, she looks at the pictures from her left to right—pictures of her as a little girl, of her ancestral home back in Punjab, the stills capturing her laughter, moments from her graduation ceremony, a blank frame . . . followed by another, and then one more, and her curled lips turn back straight. From the last blank frame, her eyes roll upwards as she randomly picks a dress to wear for the rest of her day. For Alia, living through each day is not easy. Hers is not a 9-6, five days a week job, with a fixed salary. Hers is a job that moves in a circle where it is impossible to point out the beginning or the end; she is always working, mostly when she’s asleep. With no guaranteed outcomes, her job requires her to be patient and to wait . . .

In the past year, Alia has changed significantly as a person. From being someone who everyone wanted to hang out with and talk to, she has become someone who is now only talked about behind her back. Instead of looking at the beauty of things in their external form, she prefers trying to find the secrets which they hold inside, which is also why she is often found staring at things.

“What are you looking at?” her best friend once asked her.

“Umm, I am just trying to find . . . search for something.”

“But what are you searching for?”

“I don’t know . . . I will know that once I find it”, Alia said and very casually got back to staring at the ceiling, as if it was the new fun activity trending in town.

But this was months ago when Alia still had friends in her life. Now she is both alone and lonely. It’s been three months since she has talked to the person she was once closest to in her life—her mother. But today she feels different, slightly invigorated; she has an inkling that she might finally find what she has been waiting for. So, she decides to call her mom. “But where is my phone?” she wonders. “Should I find it or just let the thought of calling mom go, like always?” She is actually afraid of confronting that 'enfeebling device' which cripples a person’s heart and soul, after three months of distancing herself from it. “But no . . . I have to call her today”. She starts moving from one end of the room to another, thinking where the phone could be. She just had to think of the places in her home that she had distanced herself from in the past few months, which hold memories . . . both happy and sad but endearing. “Got it. It must be in the dressing table drawer”. She rushes to the dressing table in her bedroom and stands facing in the direction of the wall opposite to it.  Without even glancing at the mirror, she extends her right hand backwards and starts rummaging through the drawer. Just when she feels the touch of her phone again, she seizes the phone in her hand and grabs a seat at the corner of her bed. She keeps the phone beside her and starts cracking her knuckles. Next, she looks at the phone, holds it in her hands, reluctantly dials her mother’s mobile number, and finally hits the call button. She is amazed yet happy about the fact that despite not talking to her mother for three long months, she still remembers her contact number. “Hello! Alia, Is that you? Hello! Hello!” comes the sound from the other side, with each “Hello” sounding louder and more worried. Unable to deal with this sudden outburst of emotion, Alia drops the phone on the floor and sits motionless. “Hello baby, it’s me. Please talk to me”, her mom cried on the phone. Alia tries to regain her composure, “It’s alright Alia, everything is going to be fine today. Just be patient and talk to your mom”, and she picks up the phone from the floor—“Hi Mom, Alia this side and I am doing fine and in fact, I will be better by tonight”. “Hello baby, it’s so great to hear from you. I am so glad to know that you are finding life back”. “Mom, what do you mean? Anyways, tell me how are you?” “I am fine. Please don’t get annoyed but I think it’s time for you to get your life back on track. Come meet me someday or at least go out and have fun with your friends. How long will you stay confined in your home and keep sleeping on your bed all day long?” At this Alia hanged up the phone.

“Why doesn’t she understand! She thinks I am crazy . . . Well, everyone thinks I am crazy. They think I am just being lazy, procrastinating, and wasting my life over one loss. But how do I tell them . . . that it’s neither easy for me nor am I having fun at home. Yes! I try hard to stay asleep the whole day because I am waiting and it is when I am asleep that I feel closest to what I am waiting for. It is then that I feel there is a hope for the waiting to come to an end. My mom tells me that I should meet people, and start living life again. But how do I tell her that it’s not life that I am interested in anymore, but knowing and experiencing the mystery of death! I am waiting to embrace death . . . so that I don’t have to confront the empty side of my bed again; so that when tears roll down my cheeks again, he wipes them off with his gentle hands; so that he picks me up in his arms again to get the sugar container from that topmost kitchen shelf, and I get my happiness back; so that no frame in my wardrobe ever needs to be without a memory again . . .

I am waiting to embrace death so that when I try to embrace him in the warmth of my love, he doesn’t lie lifeless on the bed . . . and embraces me back!”

P.S.- Alia has finally embraced death but . . . did she meet him after death? Did her wait finally come to an end? Did he embrace her back? Nobody knows—neither her mom nor her friends, not even me.   

July 10, 2020 19:38

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73 comments

Lori Svensen
13:46 Jul 21, 2020

Wow. That's hard hitting! Very well constructed, just a few things that I notice that shows that English isn't your first language, but it's very, very good. Thanks for that.

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Shivani Manocha
14:39 Jul 21, 2020

Thank you so much, Lori! I would appreciate if you could tell me a little more about how I can improve, as and when you find time. Thank you!

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Lori Svensen
21:39 Jul 22, 2020

I'd say read more books and watch more movies/TV in English. That will help you more than anything else, I think.

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Adah M.M
13:20 Jul 17, 2020

I love how realistic and relatable the story is. I just wish she had persevere a little longer

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Shivani Manocha
19:15 Jul 17, 2020

Thanks Adah! I can totally understand how you feel. But it's just that in real life, it's really difficult for people to keep on living when they are depressed. The best we can do is to be with them whenever we can and help them deal with their trauma and pain. Thanks for the compliment!

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06:17 Jul 17, 2020

Nice read indeed! I however guessed the end somewhere during the phone call to the mother. You have a knack for 'tense narratives' ✌️✌️✌️

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Shivani Manocha
07:56 Jul 17, 2020

Thank you Parvathy! Yeah, you are right. I was actually trying to create a build-up throughout the story. Thanks for reading the story:)

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Spirited Wings
23:58 Jul 16, 2020

It's a beautiful description, and the way she finally understood her need, what she was waiting for, was awe-inspiring. You are very talented. When Alia speaks out loud, or thinks, she solves this puzzle she's been trying to solve all her life, and the finale... so endearing. It tugs a sad smile on your face. I love it.

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Shivani Manocha
07:57 Jul 17, 2020

Thank you so much for such a kind and encouraging comment! I am glad you liked the story:)

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Rhondalise Mitza
18:58 Jul 15, 2020

I love your story! You already have a lot of good feedback, so I would just follow through with that, but I like the way you write. It's definitely your voice, Shivani!

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Shivani Manocha
19:05 Jul 15, 2020

Thanks!

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For your first submission, it is amazing. The P.S. sounded so mysterious... Like you ended it, but it's trying to tell you it's not over yet... It's very clever. I love how you wrote about Alia - "it’s not life that I am interested in anymore, but knowing and experiencing the mystery of death". I had to think for a second about that, and it really fit in with the story. Keep going! 💗

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Shivani Manocha
17:30 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you so much!

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