I stood at the altar three nights before my wedding, wondering how I would ever say “I do.” For the world, I was dumb. And, after all these years of never hearing me speak, I felt that I probably was. However yet, I found a way.
I glistened in the morning sun as I walked down the aisle. I decided to get married at dawn. It was the only way I knew that all of this wasn’t a dream and that getting ready in the night seemed like the perfect way to fight my monsters and feel that everything will be okay. The rays of the sunlight broke and Aunt Helen stood there, in her black pastor dress, waiting for me to cross the aisle. The walk felt like my whole life wasn’t as horrible as I had thought it would be. I could see Zen’s dark black hair sway with the wind, his smile appealed to my senses and I knew at once that maybe that seven year old girl who found her mother’s picture and used it as an ashtray could heal. Zen’s parents weren’t here. We had decided that we would go to his home once we had settled in, and we would marry again on our first anniversary in Kashmir, his traditional way. In a way, I had decided this because; I always felt that this marriage wouldn’t last. Him and me? Meant to be? It didn’t seem like I could be a housewife. I had slept for my whole life on the beach, or in Joe’s shack, or on the floor of her room while she had sex with strangers, yearning for some peace. Sleeping in a warm bed and waking up to someone who could comfort my nightmares, seemed like a dream. And, I didn’t have dreams, I only had nightmares. My marriage vow that day was, “I hope this is not and this won’t turn into a nightmare.”
My wedding morning waking up those roses made me feel like there was some hope and faith left on this Earth. He knew that I wasn’t ready to feel color. So, he sent black roses. Wearing a white dress, adorned with a corsage of black roses, I gave myself away that day. I had already given up, and had given myself away a long time ago. But, I guess there’s just something phenomenally powerful about love that always ends up saving you. Regardless of how much you lose hope; home will always return to you, if you have the strength to weave it with comfort and empathy. So today, I looked him in his eye, and when Aunt Helen asked, “And do you, Esmerelda Joecelyn Angelica Perme, take Zen to be your husband, in sickness and in health, until death do you apart?” I paused and looked at Joe, she had tears in her eyes. I pulled Zen down, to sit me with me like how we sat on the beach every time we needed to talk, and I carved an “I do” on the sand. “You may kiss the bride” seemed like sentences of another time, as Zen and I lost ourselves in a passionate embrace with his black rose blending in with my black rose, and I knew right then that, it’s the fragrance that mattered. Though, it was just an ambushed rose, I knew that it had meaning, and was not just some plucked weed from the Earth.
We got married in the temple that same day and also at the mosque. As Zen and I walked home that night, he lifted me before entering the door, he said, “I had a house, and now I have a home. I had emptiness before, now I have a love.” He paused, smirked at my cocky reaction which clearly read, “You’re too cheesy”. “Is what I should say, but instead, I’m saying that the pipe has leaked and thus, I can’t let you walk in there, because there is a possibility of electric currents passing through the water. So, well, I’ll just leave you on somewhere and fix the mishap.” He chortled, explaining his impudence. I just clasped him neck tighter, wishing that he didn’t have to leave me just yet.
We entered the e living room cluttered with items floating on water. He carried me to the bedroom and put the light on. The mirror was adorned with warm lights and sweet smelling candles lay around. The bed was wrapped with a warm red color duvet and a book lay on it. “I’ll be back soon.” He let me stay, while he went outside trying to clear the mess. Before he walked out, I called out to him by hitting the bed softly. He turned, and I pulled out a “Pride and Prejudice” from the nearby book shelf. I gestured him to read the first line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in search of a good fortune must be in the want of a wife.” I smiled, he looked at me questioningly. I pointed to my tummy and rubbed it slowly, “You’re pregnant?” he laughed. I smiled nastily and then scribbled in big bold capital letters on the notepad lying on the nightstand, “Worse. I’m hungry.” He stared back amazed, and said, “Remind me to never keep a girl hungry.” I scribbled down again, “Correction. Remember to never keep your wife hungry. I am your only girl now. I hate bad grammar and wrong nouns.” He chuckled at my wit, picked me up again and placed me on the wooden dining table. He removed a whole cake of chocolate truffle from the fridge and commanded, “Eat.”
So there I was, in my white bride dress, after having gone through my own wedding for three times that day, sitting on his dining table, eating a chocolate cake. I licked the spoon and watched him and his movements. It made me go back to our first day. Aunt Helen had stalked me down, and found me sipping Jack Daniels at a club, surrounded by men smoking cigarettes. She asked me to walk home with her, but I obviously refused- after I pretended to not understand what she was saying. She threatened to pull me and take me home, when a man I was sexually involved with asked her to back off. I still remember his words, “Lady. I am not letting her leave yet. I am not satisfied yet.” She broke into a hysterical fit, demanding him to stop treating me like his property and asking me to at once tell this man to back off. But, when she saw my helpless face, she understood that I was, well, dumb. Another shock, thus led her to sit down at the table and yell an order of rum and coke on the rocks. The man stared at her dumbfounded as she stripped out of her simple blouse and into a crop top, letting it subtly layer on her pants. She then ordered the man to get her, her drink since nobody was listening. He laughed and humiliated her, telling her that she must be joking. Zen then walked in, and was ushered by Aunt Helen from afar that she needed a drink when he joined her. She did get her drink, though it was not what she expected. She drank grudgingly, and I tried to encrypt this scene in my mind forever. Aunt Helen, with her legs on the table, sighing and drinking. Zen, smoking a cigarette and letting the smoke make small rings in the air, the-man-whose-name-is-not-important cursing, and me, intently checking Zen out. Zen was my perfect idea of a summer fling. Instead, He ended up being my all season love.
However, this story is not about me and Zen. Its a story about Aunt Helen receiving threatening notes, and how pieces of paper shaped our lives. Aunt Helen started receiving threatening notes, soon. She was involved with helping Joe leave her prostitution profession and take up to only running her shack. Joe thought that it wasn’t possible.However, with the right guidance, now, she only worked at the shack. Zen and I were happy for her. However, one man was not. He was a frequent Joe customer. He was not happy with how she wasn’t going to be there for him in those wee hours of the night. He was depressed- depressed enough to send threatening notes to Aunt Helen that he would abduct one of the kids from the local surroundings and ask for an alimony. He had already pronounced his alimony. He wanted Joe. We all laughed about it at a late summer barbecue party.
That night, Zen and I sat close, waiting for all the guests to leave. He nuzzled my neck and breathed my scent. I licked the last remains of barbecue sauce from my lips, I stared at the calm ocean. I looked at Zen, as he played with the curls of my hair and kissed me on my forehead. I always loved forehead kisses. They symbolized how you meant the world to the opposite person, and that according to me, was beautiful. We watched the ambers of the crinkling fire, as they changed shape with the passing by of the slow, summery wind. I had found my heaven then. It was called Zen. Who knew that our lives were going to change for the worst the coming day. But, those threatening notes seemed to fade away as we gulped down tequila shots and forgot about it over the taste of lemon. However, someone else didn’t as he watched our movements and was waiting to curse our lives with his dark, menacing steps.
The gun shots got louder and louder. I hurried my pace and ran towards the isolated shack. My bare feet hurt against unfamiliar terrain as I tried to hurry down the coarse steps at the entrance of the beach. My feet occasionally touched cigarette butts and I winced at the holes they were trying to burn through my sole. Right then, I heard a screeching voice and yelped at the pain and exhaustion of that innocent sound. I stepped into the shack just when I saw him hit her with the butt of his rifle. Drops of blood dripped from her forehead. Stains of blood had already dirtied the sand as I saw a few drops trickle on Zen’s unconscious body. I panicked and stared at the unknown man who stood there, wrapping his bandana tighter around his head as he pulled his hair aside. I stooped to the floor and let out a pained cry. Eyes shut, my heart pouring out. I felt as if my whole life was flashing before me. The man had done the deed. He had abducted a local girl called Areniala. Zen had followed them here, but when he didn’t return home that night, I knew that he was in danger. The psycho called that night. He told me the place and time. I saw the motionless body of Zen as I remembered the days when I embraced violence like flowers, and smiled sweetly at abuse, I remembered those dim, greasy bathrooms when I hurled my mouth into the dump just so that a few moments of physical pain could crease out the long, foreboding feeling of how everything that surrounded me was ominous and I was a child of agony. I shut my eyes tighter and yelled out a huge cry. I clutched Zen’s blood smeared T-shirt and choked on my tears. I knew that venom was deadly, but who knew that after slipping and dashing through venom my whole life, right when I was about the find some peace and some solitude, a man with bad breath, lice-abode hair and fiery eyes would leave my serenity in turbulence and smother every thought of happiness I ever had. A small whisper came from Areniala, “Check if his heart beats.” The man hit her again and slapped her for opening her mouth, but I felt sense kicking into me as I gasped and leaned on his chest.
A beat, yes, that was definitely a beat. I looked towards her happily, my tears flowing like an unstoppable damn. Watery eyed, I did could not digest what happened next. The man’s gun hit me so brutally that I lay paranoid and dead on the floor. Very faintly, I remember him uttering some nonsense and attempt to kick me. I stared, and tried to regain my consciousness and my balance, but then I think the trauma of this incident led me to hallucinate and think that I was 13 years young again. I remember falling into company of bad teenagers all over. But, a very cloudy memory came to my mind. It was the day we went to the river. I flashed my eyes open, and blinked rapidly as the memories poured in of how some rowdy boys tried to steal my jacket away from me, hoping to sell it for a decent prize so that they could buy some dash. I remember trying my best to not cry, as I ran behind them and when they flung my jacket in the river as an idea of a bitter prank, I dived in and swam across and tried to seek the jacket. The pungent memory made me realize of how that day, my feet were layered with cracks and cuts, because of the sharp riverbed. I didn’t even realize I was crying by the time I swam back. For the first time that day, I felt the taste of salty tears and when I felt my ache melting and revealing itself for the first time; I tried to camouflage my tears with the river water. The boys just laughed and went their way. A small fishermen noted this incident and asked me to follow him. He then introduced me to his friend who was a karate instructor. Although they persuaded to train me, I refused after just three classes. Discipline was my worst enemy. I feared that if I disciplined myself I would lose my rebelliousness and then my aggression would be replaced with forgiveness and peace. And, I could never make peace with myself. I was a wild child. An abandoned orphan. And, in my world this ‘peace’ did not exist. Today, when I lay helpless wincing on the same sand which had been my only home for years, I remembered the last words of my karate teacher. “Esmerelda, the strength will find you when you least expect it. And, when it will find you, you will stand so strong that no wave could shake you.” He continued, sensing my vulnerability at his words, “You are the ocean bed, child. Not the confused storm, not the chaotic thunder.” I ran out without ever thanking him or uttering another word. That day, I cried twice, once due to my crippling need of feeling saving the only way through which I could feel motherly affection and the other when for the first time in 13 years somebody called me “child.”
Hours seemed to have passed since my hallucinations, I felt I was hyperventilating and had descended into fits because when I came to my senses, I could hear Areniala scream, “You have to let me help her. Can’t you see that she’s sick?” The man seemed to stop and turn around and utter, “I do not want to have blood on my hands. SIT UP STRAIGHT YOU LADY!” His screech haunted the very cells of my blood, and I yelled with every ounce of anguish I felt at that time.
“ENOUGH!” I sat up on my knees, my hair falling all over me. The whole beach seemed to go quite at my breakthrough, because my voice had not only scared the man, but also seemed to allow some movement in Zen. He let open his one eye, and half-smirked, “So that’s your secret.” I could feel his sorrow mixed with the joy of knowing that his wife wasn’t deaf and definitely wasn’t dumb. And, I wasn’t going to accept defeat. The man paced up and down angrily and started to untie Areniala.”You- You woman! You spoiled everything. All I asked for was a bonded laborer, nothing else. I didn’t even sleep with her. And, you- you have created this mess. I thought you were dumb, I thought you were deaf, bu-but you witch! You have ruined everything. I need to get out of here. You girl, get up, FAST!” He yelled again and before he could hit her again, I jumped up and ran towards him and looked into his scared and fearful eyes.
“You have seen my helplessness. You have seen my misery. You have put me through sorrow and pain and now, now you will hear me HOWL. HEAR ME HOWL YOU FILTHY ANIMAL. YOU THINK HUMANS WHO DO NOT LIVE LIFE YOUR WAY ARE YOUR LABORERS? You want to cage and capture someone’s freedom? You want to have a fiesta and feast over someone’s vulnerability? I will show you vulnerability now. Till now, you have only seen my weakness, but now observe my strength and hear me HOWL.” He looked struck by my sudden disposition to fight and battle against his demonic drudgery. I tried to think rationally, as my firm hand clasped over his neck and I tried to defend Areniala as she untied herself. I told her that she needed to call the ambulance and take Zen to the hospital. She yelled that she wouldn’t leave me alone. I ignored her and quickened my thoughts of how would I ever get her out of here, with this man struggling to break free. I couldn’t hold him any longer. He was gasping for air, but was fighting back brutally. I felt a few parts of my body turn numb, but I needed to hold strong. Just then, I saw the cliff which bordered the beach. I let go of the man, stole wallet and ran as fast as I could. He yelled and followed me. I ran faster, hoping that Zen would reach the hospital safely. I climbed the cliff and then, it hit me. I was facing a dead end now. His cruel face and malicious eyes stared back at me nastily. I tried to take hasty steps, as I moved backwards. He moved forward, and kept moving closer. I had reached the end now. I looked down, to see some rocks and the wide ocean. I gulped and stared at my death bravely.
There are very few moments in one’s life when they are facing the figurative trigger. A lot of moment’s in your life, will define your existence. This- was my defining moment. I closed my eyes and for the first time bowed my head and clasped my hands in prayer. But, I didn’t pray to that God up there. I thanked him though, for everything he had blessed me with, but instead, as I tried to block away that man’s threatening to open my eyes and see my death, I bowed down my head and prayed to that soul who lived in me. For years and time unknown, I had neglected and overlooked the idea that I had a soul. I had mocked Zen for his over benevolent ways of looking at life, and had satirically made caricatures out of Aunt Helen’s ways of making me pray. But, today for the first time, I prayed for the soul in me, for endowing me with the strength and energy to at least save someone who I loved. A life is very precious. For the longest time, I was a dead body, moving around the infinite oceans of disbelief and insipidity that I could be alive someday. And, today, when I opened my eyes, saw him facing the trigger at me; I could feel my soul for the first time, waiting to break free from my chest. Today was when I felt most alive. I laughed at my irony. I waited for him to pull the trigger; I stared at him wide eyed with a smile. “I love you, Zen.” I uttered that aloud and stayed silent then, wanting those to be my last words. I waited for him to pull the trigger again, but his hands hesitated and he looked back questioningly. “Why are you smiling woman?” he demanded. “Is it the police.” I laughed at his childish fear and nodded no. He set his gun to ‘kill mode’ again and this time, I sensed a certain uncertainty in him. I could see his sweat, and tears and his own desperation to get done with this. From the corner of my eye, I could see that the ambulance had arrived. He turned back at my reaction and then faced me with renewed anxiety. But right then, in that moment, something invisible that changed about that air, because this time, along with his own despair I saw something else. “N-No way. That’s respect!” I exclaimed out loud. He looked behind again and turned towards all sides. He felt I was maybe a lunatic because his desperation grew and I could see that he would burst from the stress now. I felt his eyes on the trigger as he slowly uttered, “I was just a mere farmer.” I thought I was seeing a reflection of myself. I was just as miserable as him. I was waiting here, having pity on myself waiting for someone to kill me. I wasn’t ready to die just yet, and right then, and infinite courage broke through me and I spread my hands and fell backward towards the sea.
“Good bye world. I still love you..”