Pareen’s Ghost

By now she was used to feel him sliding into view, like mist suddenly prevailing onto the landscape out of nowhere. It would be something her colleague said, or a memory flash, anything that brought on this instinct to counsel in her mind, having held silent conversations for years. She felt like a deaf-mute in company, trying to communicate with the hearing through signs and gestures, based on meanings of things she thought they meant. It would always fail.

So he started slipping into view every time she felt this way, and the conversation would continue on two levels. Her smiles and affirmative actions in reality and her mind’s questions and doubts on the paranormal. As the years progressed she could feel him, see him more and more clearly, just as she remembered him, before he died. His laconic grin, the lock of hair blowing over his forehead, his bruised knuckles from hitting against the walls every chance he could get — ‘’to toughen them’’, he had said often, his long legs crossed languidly as he eased onto one of the chairs in her workplace, or the couch in her living room. She always avoided his eyes, except when she had a direct question.

His expression would be the same — kind, warm, understanding, the piercing light eyes fixed on her, his wrinkling countenance displaying the wisdom of ancient gnarled trees. She could swear he was amused with most of her questions, but when she was in pain, his smile became a twist of his lips.

It would always start with , “Did he flinch when he pulled the trigger?”

And he would always reply, “He didn’t dare to look at me, the Hizb trains you well. He stood behind me. It was a gunshot to the head, remember?”

As that realization of the answer permeated her being, the silence would stretch for long until she heard his question in her mind. “Why do you still keep the bullet?”

She would not bother to answer, knowing he knew why and it was just her mind trying to analyse her self. That is when she would blurt out the next question in haste, always something bothering her currently that day. And the back and forth continued until her mind snapped back to reality or there was a knock on the door to break the supernatural reverie. She could summon him if she wanted, but she preferred these days that he appear of his own accord, tuned as their relationship was to acute distress and just plain melancholia. She left it to him to judge when he thought it suitable to be present.

‘’Your boy is growing into a fine, young man.’’

‘’So you watch over him, too?’’

‘’Not exactly, it is mostly your yearnings for him that make it possible for me to see.’’ Then after, a pause, ‘’You shouldn’t worry so much. After a few years, there’ll be more…’’

Her heart plunging at this had brought on the break in flow. ‘’More what?’’

And the sardonic smile would be back, but the voice gentle, real. ‘’More acceptance, sis.’’

Her anxiety would lessen and the breathing become increasingly regular. Some days she would continue just to prolong the exchange. ‘’I want to cross over. I want to leave. There is nothing for me here.’’

The warm, lilting, caressing voice would be back, with a slight chilly reprimand in it. ‘’It is not your time yet.’’

These days she didn’t argue back. Or cry. But the anger would be back. ‘’So why did you? Why did all of you? Why? Why? Such foolishness! How could a rag-tag bunch stand up against a highly trained Army? And for what? Based on what? Lies fed since the Partition? So many of you lying in the ground, forgotten, except for the rag newspapers milking your deaths and garnering sympathy worldwide to recruit more in the cycle of death! What were you thinking? What made you chose to leave all of us women and our children at the mercy of hounds? Hadn’t you read the history? It is never in our culture, never. You lived among them like me. Could you not see the lies, like I see them? Could you not see their deception? They are our family and friends, our peers, our colleagues. They are all collaborating. Was it not visible to you?’’

His smoky figure would appear more sharper or fade away depending on what she had read that day, what she had researched. If her mind was overwhelmed at what she had discovered, she would see a faint outline, the features dim in the light of day, twilight or the pool of lamplight at midnight. If what she had unearthed confused her, she could almost feel him beside her, the knowledge gained, and the connections made, the moroseness of the discovery undulating the energy outwards.

It took supreme effort, almost superhuman to resist her mind taking over. She had always been able to control it, knowing it would have been easy to let insanity prevail. To let her insecurities take over. But she fought the fears, the doubt and the anxiety, resolutely fixing a regimen and disciplining herself. rationalizing arguments, and stubbornly using reason and logic. But she let him fall through the labyrinth of her mind whenever she felt the tug of something beyond her biological faculties. She didn’t resist. Most days his was the only voice she heard, or the only presence she saw.

It was speaking now. She focused her eyes on the couch where he sat, legs stretched out, arms folded, the check shirt loose on his contours, the jeans more sharply contrasted against his aura. ‘’Let go, sis. Move on.’’

She smiled. ‘’Did you forgive him? Them? Did you forgive your own cousin for executing you in a barn, in the dead of night? After torturing you for days to get a confession? To prove you were an informer? Have you let go? Did you move on from all that?’’

His expression grew warmer, kinder, an ancient wisdom shinning from his face before he faded away. She brought herself back to the conversation she was having online.

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