“Five o’ clock? I’ll be there.”
My lips curve into a smile as I finger the edges of a small black and white square of paper. It’s a photograph – a lithe figure, a white sheet carelessly thrown over half of her naked body, her unruly waves splayed all around her face, like a starburst. Me, one year ago.
The inscription on the back is branded onto my brain: “You little temptress. Love you forever- Zafar.”
An hour later, we face each other over tea. Everything seems slow, as if we’re underwater. He’s speaking. I look up.
“I regret marrying her, yes. But I wouldn’t leave her. No. We have a son.”
His calm makes me want to scream. I get up.
“I’d better get going. Oh, and this is for your wife.”
I reach into my bag. Part of me, a large part, had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.
I hand him a parcel- flowery blue paper, wrapped around a red shawl, a small black and white square of paper buried in the folds.
We walked in the dew-soaked grass in the shadow of trees and out of reach of the streetlights. It was hours past midnight, and the dark had not yet spent itself.
“I’m not in the mood for wet feet right now. Couldn’t we walk on the road?” My feet slipped about in my sandals. I imagined my toes leaving little muddy crescents in my shoes when they would dry.
“I like it here,” she said. That settled it. We walked on in silence for a while.
“What was that on your shelf? It was wrapped in newspaper. Looked like mud.” My voice sounded detached and almost childlike as it broke the comfortable quiet.
There was a moment’s pause as she inhaled deeply from her cigarette.
“Oh, that? It’s this thing. You smoke it.” she said
A passing car illuminated the wisps of smoke hanging about her face like a swirling, silver mist. It was a beautiful sight- ethereal, haunting, dreamlike.
The car passed. In the dark once again, she was a dim silhouette and a tiny, hovering smudge of orange light. I felt strangely alone.