By Maryam Piracha
“You will learn to forget me,” he had said.
Said it like we were strangers whispering conversations in cloak closets, through racks of sleeves; polyester, wool, suede. This is what we’ve turned into. Ironed out figments of our imagination. But I’m not going to let him do this to me, to us. You have to fight for what you believe in. Isn’t that what we’re taught by indulgent parents — to never give up, to always rise above the tide and do what you have to do?
In better days, village elders were the definitive source for all wisdom. So really, my holding onto the ghosts of ourselves is just a natural inclination to follow well-meaning and all-knowing advice. I can justify this till the ends of time which, of course, is exactly what he doesn’t want me to do. But isn’t love the opposite of logic? Isn’t it meant to defy it? Surely, I am allowed my whims — we all have needs don’t we? Aren’t I just acting on human impulse?
Life was a lot less complicated when I first saw him or thought I did — when I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, processing, believing. Stuff like this wasn’t meant to happen to me, wasn’t supposed to happen in real life. Once you said goodbye, that was it, it was meant to be final. But our goodbyes have always been persistent, if not consistent.
But everything’s different now. You’ll learn to forget me, because unlearning isn’t really in my repertoire and learning is a disability I proudly champion. I can still see him, if I squint really, really hard; he’s standing there, in the doorway, hand on his heart, head against the frame staring at me, smiling. How dare he, really? How dare he be the one to choose to pronounce this as our final goodbye? What did I do to deserve this… desertion? Plain and simple. We are army corporals in a faraway land, fighting a losing battle because our superiors are telling us: this is the right war, this is the right way; sanity awaits through bloodshed. Countless wars have been fought with their followers indoctrinated to this rite of will. How are we different from terrorists?
We are terrorists, racing through daffodil fields, cutting them off at the heads with arms stretched out, hands plucking mindlessly. We are flower children, faces to the sky, hands inches apart looking up to the glorious future. We are mindless gunmen, machine gunning down reds, pinks and yellows in our lives, leaving them on the ground, oozing out love, happiness, forgiveness — cowardly assassins, stalking off with grief as our only reward. We are cardiothoracic surgeons, patching up broken leads — thoughts, ideals, visions and stitching them on to the seams of our conscience. We are army corporals again, lying stretched out in empty hospital beds, our daffodil heads clamped on to happy feet, bloodied arms and glorious fingers interlocking.
We have stomped across the world together, atop bridges and through coliseums, seeing them through eyes that only dreamed as children so often do. Our muddied boots leave messy footprints behind us, starting their course from the house of my parents; the house of my youth; the house of better days and happier times. Sitting there, having to listen to them, having to contend with their cautious stares, worry lines and crowfeet beginning to course their way onto their skin, pockmarked and pitied. Where was he then? Why not tell me then, when I was most willing to hear it; you will learn to forget me. Yes! Yes, I could have, then. I would have, then.
Why come back into my life? Looking out at me across the mirror, making love to me through bedsheets, standing by my side with every gust of breezy, beachy air? Why torture me needlessly, if only to desert me? Love ‘em and leave ‘em. Why now? Now, that we had found each other again?
You will learn to forget me.
I feel like we are speaking across a chasm, our voices echoing with every backwards step we take. Almost as if we are atop two ships out at sea, a deafening gulf between us, and the plank should it be laid with some foresight between the two ships, crumbling and falling into the sharky waters below.
We have been passengers on parallel ships for a long time. Let me go. You will learn to forget me.
He has been a part of me; I have carried him everywhere, taken him into my dreams. What do you do with a person like that? Do you let them go, drop them to the wayside as they are asking you to? Pretending like they don’t exist, to assuage some guilt—some residual guilt you can’t quite understand, because you can’t quite grasp—seen only, perceived only by them.
Is that meant to be fair? Seen as some misplaced act of justice especially now that they’ve walked into a land where you cannot possibly follow.
Is that supposed to mean anything to me?
Maryam Piracha is the Editor-in-Chief of The Missing Slate, is currently working in communications for the development sector and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, UK. She likes keeping busy and occasionally moonlights as a couch potato.