The airport is the most interesting part of my life. Of course, the jetlag was the second, just kidding! Reaching the waiting hall always seemed an accomplishment, because there, I was able to interact with people. The people who didn’t know me and to whom I introduced myself as an artist. The actual fact is that I am a scientist and l hated the impression that people got from that introduction. Seating myself comfortably on the chair and just observing the movement of aircraft on the runway and the taxiway, I was lost for a moment. A beautiful lady came and asked for my permission to which I replied affirmatively. She seemed young, almost in her mid-twenties. She had large luggage with her which was quite unusual as a handbag would not have rung any bells. She moved her trolley forward towards me and said, “Excuse me, can you take care of it until I help my mother to get up to here”. I agreed. I don’t know why I reacted like that, “This could be anything, it could be a bomb, you idiot!” I said to myself. I was still regretting the decision, a well-known face just appeared. For a moment I lost my breath, a chill went through my spine. I could not believe my eyes, she was alive, a friend, partner in every crime, and an accidental bedmate. A soul-shaking experience rendered my body trembling and I had no idea how to react. A strange feeling just crept in and I started noticing her wrinkles which got conspicuous as she got nearer and nearer. She looked old, her face had lost the lustre. I could not have thought that much if a mirror had been there for me to look into. As Falak approached, the young lady was also accompanying her, I just pushed the trolley to make space for her to sit or to make Falak sit there. She nodded with a thank you gesture. I was surprised to notice that the facial expression of the old lady had not changed a bit. I was apprehensive about my cognitive abilities, as I thought I might have made a mistake. So I opened up and asked the lady about her mother and she replied that her mother is suffering from mild Alzheimer’s disease and she has lost most of her memories. I was shocked and could not respond for a moment. As I was still unsure, I asked the lady the name of her mother and she replied hesitantly, “Falak Naaz”. To clear the doubts I told her that I’m a psychiatrist and I might have treated the old lady. This was my first lie for that encounter.
Seeing plight of the person I had known for a pretty long time, I felt sorry for her. I still remember her face when I left her, her eyes were closed, her face glowed in the light of the morning sun and she had no idea what life is going to unfold. I was still afraid to talk to her as it seemed that she remembered everything. “So, how is the treatment going?” I asked the young lady. She replied, “she is taking the medicines, but there is no substantial recovery and also she is having frequent episodes of dementia”. I took a deep sigh and advised her to take care of her as she is traversing through a bitter phase of her life. I said so because I had no idea about the technicalities of the said disease so I had to do that and deep inside I meant that. My mind was still recovering from the shock of seeing the most lively person trying to remember life. I still remember her smile that had a magical charm.
Of course, that was the best time of my life and I always wished to live in that moment. The nuances of that life still resounded in my memories. Gathering some courage I tried to start a conversation with her and the first question that came out of my mouth was, “How is life…Falak”. “Sorry, do I know?” the answer was heart-breaking. But I understood its feasibility, so I introduced myself, “I am Basit and we used to be good friends in college.”
“Sorry, I don’t know you”, she replied with a strange expression.
“Okay, you remember your college” I questioned.
“Of course, it is err….” And she could not remember the name of the College.
She looked a bit confused, so to reduce the confusion I diverted the topic and said, “You like stories?”. She got more confused and said, “How do you know that?”.
“Actually I was asking”, I jumped in to save myself as I knew she was fond of tales. She took a sigh of relief as she thought her privacy might have been breached.
“It is the story of my life, can I start,” I asked her permission. She nodded and said, “the time is ample and also I’m getting bored, let’s give an upcoming writer a chance” she closed with a sarcastic smile.
Some years back I got admission in one of the elite engineering colleges and I started to dream about my career as a successful engineer. It was my dream to become an engineer and I always envied the life of some successful design engineers. I was totally focused on my goal and I studied a lot to achieve that. As I was introvert it helped me a lot in getting my work done and in dealing with the distractions. As I was quite competent most of my classmates hated me except that girl. She seemed always interested in my talks related to studies that happened less often usually involving me and her only. Actually, she was not an average student, in the first semester she was topper only after me and we both got the nickname of bhaiya and didi (opposite sex siblings).
In the first year of our college, we had a little interaction. But in the last quarter of the first year, I started to open up to her. In the subsequent period, she knew everything about me and my knowledge about her was still less than half. The reason behind it was that she seemed always more curious about my life. I started to see her as a friend, a friend whom I can call upon anytime and she always replied in affirmation. A friend for whom I would sacrifice anything but not the number one position. But still I cared for her as I remember the day when her phone rang in the class and the teacher scolded us and ordered that the student with the phone leave the class as the teacher was strict, so someone ought to leave the class and everyone knew who was the culprit, so most of the students looked towards Farheen and she was blush red. I stood up and left the class to protect her from embarrassment and also the teacher was ruining my concepts. She seemed shy to everyone except me because I knew her and whenever we talked she has had the most share in the conversation time.
I still remember that moment when she came to my house and gave a pair of goggles and a muffler. I was startled to see her outside my house. I belonged to a conservative family so in an awkward response I just dodged her and took her on a walk in the outskirts of my dwelling without introducing her to anyone.
The smile she wore on her face was the most beautiful smile and it worked like magic every time I met her gloomy faced. I think she was the best thing that had happened to me in years. We had unusual chemistry, we were so bonded that a weekend would seem like an epoch. In the final years of my degree, I even gave her my first place ironically, but it seemed my life would not be easy without her.
Suddenly the young lady who was reading some magazines in the reading section of aerodrome came and said, “Mom, let’s go, the boarding is about to start” she left with a thanking gesture on her face. But Falak’s face was filled with strangeness and she seemed to have some questions. I wanted to stop her but I didn’t have the courage to.
I stood up showed my boarding pass and started to walk towards the flight door via a closed duct, as I entered the flight I searched for seat 3A and I found it, but someone already sitting on it. She was none other than Falak and the young lady was standing on the aisle side. As I approached the young lady started with an apology and requested me to allow her to sit on the window side as she had already told the booking agent that her mother had problems sitting on the aisle side. I just shut her up by saying it is no problem as I would like to help my clients in any way. I was so happy I felt like jumping but I controlled myself and helped myself get seated and turned towards Falak. As the young lady found her seat on the third row behind me on the opposite aisle side, so she had a direct view on me. She came forward and inquired about her mother to which Falak replied she is okay as she is with her friend. The answer made me anxious, “does she know me now?”, I asked myself. She added that her daughter will be relaxed to know that I’m with someone known, “you know these young kids” she added.
“So, you remember me know”, I asked hesitantly. She replied with a negative gesture and smiled. After that I had to repeat the whole story and when I started to describe the fateful day she became teary-eyed. I stopped and asked her “is everything okay?” to which she just okayed.
A farewell party was thrown by our juniors. For the first time in my life I was at a party and for the first time, I was drunk. I was drunk as hell puking and my senses were plummeting and unfortunately, she was there to hold me every time I staggered.
“why you drank when you know you can’t handle your senses,” she said caringly
“who wants to handle senses?” I replied with disgruntlement.
“I can’t live without you don’t leave” I pleaded. She felt embarrassed, in response she dragged me called a taxi and went to her place. During the entire ride, I held her tight like a baby and she just remained silent and startled.
She held me and helped me reach the bedroom that was shared by other two girls who had taken off for the summer break. She took off my shoes without uttering a single word. Once again I opened up, “don’t go, please”.
“what do you want?.. what do you want?” she said in a husky voice and she seemed emotionally broken. She came forward and leaned I looked in her eyes and I only could see the fire. In the turn of events, she kissed me and I held her face as I was also reciprocating. That was my first kiss and probably her too. I didn’t stop, I held her like I was quenching my thirst and she responded positively to every move I made. The feel of every inch of her skin was driving me crazy and everything seemed perfect, except that it was happening with my best friend. After that, I don’t remember.
“After that, you had sex with her and sorry to say it is Falak, not Farheen,” Falak said in a broken tone with teardrops sliding down her cheek.
“And how can you call yourself a friend, you left the morning changed the phone number and lied about foreign training to your parents, how could you? Basit, how could you?” she was just weeping
“When I woke up that morning, I thought I had breached your trust, I had crossed the line and I was not able to digest it. But you could have stopped me as you were in senses, why didn’t you stop me there?” I asked as an emaciated investigator.
“Because Goddamnit I loved you. I loved you from the day I first saw you, from the day you wore those bloody nerdy pants” she said with an emotional outburst. I was astonished to know that and I could not make words to flow out of my mouth for a while.
“I left the place as I didn’t know about your feelings. I just thought it would be better for both of us if I leave without complicating things” I said clarifying my stand.
“Impregnating someone is not a complication!” this time with a high tone.
“Pregnant!” I could not believe her this time as I was utterly surprised.
“I became pregnant and I found it in the subsequent cycle and at that time I was in my training programme in the company and also the HR was gracious to grant me a pregnancy leave” she confirmed.
“What! You didn’t abort the baby, Are you crazy?” I replied in extempore without realising its consequences.
Her expressions changed and her face became furious and I realised my mistake, so I quickly apologised. In response, her tone came limping back to normal
“The baby seemed to be like medicine to overcome you after the incident, and you have no idea what happened to me after that. The last support, my dad, died in a car accident a month later, I tried calling you but you seemed like a ghost” she said while leaning her head on my shoulder. I could not understand the situation, she was a brilliant top of the class student how could she fall for a guy like me and fall in such a manner. Maybe she loved me, but is love that powerful? I still had no idea, because my feelings for her were not LOVE.
Coming on to next phase, “So where is the baby now, was it a boy or a girl?” I asked.
“A girl, her name is Maria and she is there, sitting behind you” she replied with the former sarcasm.
A huge burst of emotions happened as if loads of endorphins were released. I could not hold myself back as I unbuckled myself to stand and run towards her hold her face for a while, but the flight attendants stopped me and advised me to sit as the plane was traversing through turbulence. I sat back on my seat still looking towards her with loads of anxiety and of course LOVE. But she had not a faint idea about my feelings as she still knew me as a psychiatrist and ironically her mother’s co-passenger. Anxiously waiting for the turbulence to end I just looked at her helpless. Suddenly the plane changed its course and it seemed it was also losing altitude at the same time. The plane had probably stalled and suddenly the air pressure in the cabin seemed to be inadequate and the oxygen masked dropped down. I took one and helped Falak get her too. Still, in the masked avatar, I desperately looked at Maria. A huge thud sound occurred and the tail of the plane got whipped off rendering the middle and front part to perish in no time. A second thud occurred and I passed out.
When I came to my senses I was buckled to my seat blood was oozing out of my right knee and my vision was also blurred. A few metres on the left was Falak who was covered in blood unconscious or may be dead. I unbuckled myself, held my knee and dragged myself towards her. Coming close to her I noticed she was not breathing. I began to search Maria and I found her alongside an escarpment on the snow-covered ridge. I reached there sat down holding my knee, I caressed her face with my bloody fingers reaching her nostrils I could not feel her breath. I shook her body and for the first time I cried, I cried my heart out, I just uttered one phrase, “look at me I’m no psychiatrist I’m your Dad” and she lied there lifeless with a youthful face. I waited and waited for the death to come and instead a rescue helicopter dropped the harness a rescued me on a stretcher. Of the total 120 people, only 3 were alive. I was rescued but, rescued without the soul. As I was being airlifted I heard a voice coming from the Falak’s corpse “Abdul Basit… Abdul Basit”. My body shook as someone was waking me up. “Sir it is your last call” the ground crew member informed me. I rubbed my eyes to see things properly stood up and left for the boarding. I was still thinking about the dream. As I entered the flight I sat on my seat 3A and I could see the 3B and 7C seats are vacant, the seats that were booked in the name of Falak Naaz and Maria Naaz respectively.