And in it all, in the last week, I have lost so much. I have no words for the loss. Words fail me here, they fail me utterly.
It started on Saturday night. My family holding me while I shook and shook and shook and shook. My world grows small, my past grows smaller, everything seems so much more urgent. The phone calls come, at 2 AM, at 3 AM, at 4 AM, at 5 AM and I toss and turn, listening to voices in anguish from far away places, trying to sleep but my mother's agony keeps me away, from India, from Pakistan, the voices call and scream in pain, if shared sorrow is lessened, it didn't seem that way on Saturday night, Sunday morning.
Mercy, I wanted to say, but there was none to be had. The stark realness of loss, the naked reality of a person vanishing into memory, just a memory, a voice I will never forget and never hear again, a person reduced only to what I can remember. "I saved her shawl for you," my mother said over the telephone, five days later, and is it enough?
It was raining in the graveyard. It was raining in the house, it was raining in the funeral home, it was raining in the mosque. The day was gray as it gets, and cold, and the sun never dared show its face, so dusk ate the day with the luxurious slowness of a cat with easy prey. And we moved her from place to place, and I saw him come outside, too late, only to stand in line again, and I saw him touch the body, too weak to carry it further, and I did not know how deep the pain could cut until that afternoon in the parking lot. And then, helping carry her down, doing the work with our bare hands as my cousin stood ankle deep inside the grave, it cut deeper.
Afterward, after everything, I sat in the car and called my wife and purged one last time while sickly, a world away, she said, "I'm so sorry," and "I'm so sorry," and "I'm so sorry" and somewhere in that final flood of tears and snot and complete breakdown, in there, I found some small sense of closure.
A week later almost now, a blink of an eye, yet it feels like forever ago. Undulating memories, undulating thoughts, and memories building up in me, pouring out of me, I remember everything, the locks on the folding top of rickshaws, the pattern on the walls of our house, the color of bougainvilleas, the smell of the mango tree in bloom, the walls of my school where she took us, the meticulous pattern of roads taken across the city, manors hundreds of years old still walled and penned in against attack. Memories that are so old that I thought I no longer had them.
Mercy. If there was any to be had, I found it in my family. In the embrace of my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my parents, my brother. And my grandfather, stoic and patient as rocks. Over and over, he said, Sabr. Sabr. Sabr. And I couldn't bear his patience, and I couldn't bear his courage, and I couldn't bear his sickness. And I couldn't bear this. And I couldn't take it. And it was too much. And it was just this one word - Sabr. Patience. Or Courage. Or Be Stoic. Or something I was not. Could not. Be.
It rained all day and it rained all the way back and after being awake for two days, my shoes caked in graveyard mud, I walked through the door, shed my clothes, stood in scalding waters for a minute and then laid down next to my wife and I closed my eyes and slept, until noon the next day.
Becoming an orphan takes a lot of losses and this was the first. When I woke up, there was no rain in the sky, just some clouds, racing by, as if nothing had changed, liars that they are.