Continued from part one…
The next three weeks saw Anzala’s fantasies of her escapes frequent all the more. This had fuelled her rebelliousness. She no longer felt fascinated by the cheap thrills around. Untaken roads, undiscovered strangers, unsolved puzzles; these aroused thrill.
No one could have predicted but this passage of time was what had been the roots for future ailments to come…
When Anzala’s interest for the mundane chores too evaporated, all the workload fell onto Anahlia’s shoulders.
“You’re getting married in no time, better get used to it.” Anahlia’s parents told her, and yet she complied, swallowing down complains. She convinced herself of the belief that no matter the strains of those days, Zahran would treat her like a queen. She deserved it, did she not? After all the poems and verses of love she had etched down in her diary and after all the sketches in her sketchbook for him, she did deserve it. Any cognitive man would have fallen for her after all those dedications.
What kind of a man Zahran was, she knew not.
Oblivious to the creeping dawn outside, Harun had been sprawled out on his bed. Eyes half awake and tinged with red. The pounding of his heart rung in his ears, accentuated by the photograph in his hands. It was of Anzala.
His heavy kohl-rimmed eyes couldn’t help but repeatedly travel the length of her unmoving yet pulsing beauty. She had him mesmerized since first sight. With intoxication seeping into his features, Harun admired her. Worshipped her rather – each night as the world around lay unconscious. Anzala and her pictures were the perpetrators of Harun’s sleepless nights and he used to complain not one bit. But her recent disinterest in Harun made him restless. He felt ominous.
“You still are all mine,” Harun thought and laughed shyly, deliriously. His laugh resembled a donkey’s bray he realized, and recalling Anzala call him donkey made him laugh even more.
Harun tossed and turned, explicitly being tickled by amalgamated thoughts for Anzala; of both growing panic and insatiable desires. He extended his arms, her photo still in his hands, “your devil eyes, your angel face. Mine Anzala… Mine.”
Ogling at her picture desperately then, terrific thoughts reached his mind. His eyes glazed over. He stared into nothingness, and blinkingly then, got his focus returned.
“If you won’t be mine, you would be no one’s, Anzala.” Harun whispered in a deranged manner.
He dropped her photograph on the floor then. Like a hovering leaf in the wind it swayed as it fell, finally resting over the sea of other photographs of Anzala. Hundreds of them.
The rising sun burning in his face made Harun draw the drapes and lay to sleep.
That afternoon, the sun blazed. Amidst the thin crowd of people stood Harun, wearing his skull backpack, nervously waiting outside the girl’s college for Anzala. Her sight, that would quench his spiritual thirst. Bodily one was barely any concern at that moment.
Half an hour swept and yet there was no sign of Anzala. Harun deduced that she probably took a day off, and wiping the sweat off his brows, he sighed and walked back to his car.
Taking the long way back, like Anzala always did was distressing for him, but regardless of that he did. Trying once again to understand her perspective of this world, he attempted looking at things through her eyes. The trees only seemed like trees, not freaks that shakingly laugh like old men as they stealthily monitor human activity. Decaying buildings were no ruins of future, but a mess to look at. Wild alley cats were dirty beings instead of savvy supernatural savages, and the wailing beggars were a disdainful sight rather than heavenly.
Just then, he stopped abruptly in his tracks, his backpack lightly slamming against his back. Earlier look of scorn wiped off his face when he found an ancient-looking beggar leaning against an alley wall, accompanied by the mesmeric form of… Anzala.
He stood there shocked, watching her from a distance. She sat in her uniform, both unwary and uncaring of all the eyes that were on her. She was feeding the ragged, heavily-bearded man from her lunchbox, and making him drink from her water bottle. As he swigged the drink, the decrepit man’s eyes, like pools of whiskey, rippled; and tears flowed in the shape of gratitude for Anzala. But Anzala, oh she just smilingly stared at the man – at his wrinkles as if they were paths on a treasure map.
This made Harun cringe. He reached up and called out to Anzala, making the old man squirm. Anzala looked up at him without a waver on her smiling lips. Just the softness of her eyes turned piercing, forcing Harun to avert his gaze. “Get up, and come over here,” said he.
As she prepared to rise, the beggar gripped her hand tightly, staring hysterically at Harun and then looking back at Anzala, furiously nodding sideways. “It’s okay, baba. He’s with me, I’ll be fine.”
Her reassurances were of no use as the mute beggar whimpered for her to not go with him, and Anzala had to be forced up by Harun’s grip on her hand. Away from everyone’s eyes, they went deeper into the alley. Anzala freed herself of his grip and exclaimed with a contained fury under her cutting voice, “do not touch me again, donkey.”
Harun’s eyes hovered over her angry face and yet he found her ravishing. He found himself spellbound first, and then soften. No photograph of hers in this state did he possess.
“I waited outside your college… You weren’t there.” With his shyness returning, he spoke softly.
“I bunked college to stroll the streets.” She shrugged swiftly.
“Bunked college?” Harun cried out in surprise. At her intimidating gaze then, he shook his face. “What has happened to you, my dear Anzala? You used to… be interested in me,” whispered he.
Her mocking glare pierced through his eyes and he blinked sharply. Realization sunk within him. “But… I love you so much, Anzala.”
Anzala sighed heavily, throwing her hands in the air.
“Look Harun, you do not love me. You love this pretty face of mine. This face, that is not even me! My dumb ignorant friend, how do I tell you? I am not these contours, these edges. I am not this skin and smudges. I… I look at myself in the mirror and can’t stand to watch the same features that used to amaze me back then. This face, this body, doesn’t feel like it’s me, Harun. These unmerited burdens came to me; I didn’t traverse any mountain to earn them. No, this is an illusion, for I am something deep. These few weeks, I feel as if I have changed and developed. I grew up. In this tiny stay, I feel like I can last a forever. Something unseen, something soulful has always been calling me, and I have a chance to grasp it. These whispers of the breeze, rustling of the trees, floating of the clouds, they are calling me, and I… I am lured towards their arcane voices. I know you don’t get this, but maybe, maybe you someday will… That I have a pulsating soul within that needs its food, friend.
“You search for God at the end of a prayer mat and that is absolutely right. I am not faithless, I believe in all that, trust me. But you, all of you seem so oblivious of the fact that He is elsewhere too! I have… I saw a reflection of God in the face of that beggar, Harun. It’s crazy, but I see it in nature too. These mysteries, even I don’t get fully, but they overwhelm me. I want this side of world to swallow me – I want to lose myself. Trade my face for anyone’s, I don’t care. You’ll have to fall for another pretty face, Harun – you can’t have me. As long as the flare within me burns, as long as my dreams do not shatter, I don’t think anyone can.”
Harun stood in awe, staring agape at her as if a jinn had possessed her. Anzala seemed to be too much engrossed in her own speech to notice him. She was transcended into fantasies with the daggers of her eyes, blunt for once; unfocused.
“I… Did think that you might not accept me, but I didn’t imagine you would become this… ungrateful sinner. You are so beautiful on the outside, by God, but something vile and ugly has gotten inside you.”
Anzala smiled sadly, expectantly, at Harun’s flabbergasted comments, but she did not mind. She just pursed her plain yet striking lips. For the first time had she voiced her fantasies like this and she felt ecstatic. Her words were no longer going along with her spirit – they were becoming her spirit.
Harun clenched his jaw, and he, for the first time stared at whole of her Venus fair face unyieldingly; unrelentingly. For a near minute, his sight on her face lingered in absorption, as if he was memorizing her features.
… And he was, for since that day, along with the lustre in those burnt honey eyes, the flare of her soul too had been snuffed out, like a melted candle that would never light again.
“I have a parting gift for you,” Harun whispered softly.
… Procured the acid bottle from his bag then swiftly…
Before Anzala could even blink to reality…
He emptied it on her face, achingly.
While the acid ate away her skin, Anzala felt fiery pain. And yet it was not as much as that of the evanescence of her dreams.
To be continued…