CHAPTER 4

Posted: May 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Without you I feel an emptiness in my soul. I find myself searching the crowds for your face – I know it’s an impossibility, but I cannot help myself. – Nicholas Sparks

When we had left the show house yesterday, Yusuf decided to stop at the park. The show house was in Lenasia, which is about an hour’s drive from home so having the children let off some energy before the long drive, made good sense.“I am so proud of you both”, Yusuf told them ,” You were so well behaved today when we went to visit the house, how about we stop at this park before going home?” he asked the kids.  I thought that was a great idea. The kids could run about and release some energy, and I could have some time to talk to Yusuf alone. The park was quiet, understandably so, since it was the middle of the week. Just a few groups of children were gathered around the swings and slides. A group of women sat together at the far end of the park, but there were mostly older children chaperoning their younger siblings around the park equipment.

The car was barely parked when children ran out into the park very excitedly. Jameela immediately began to tackle the climbing wall bars that was clearly meant for older children. Yusuf followed her as I was pulled by Bilal towards the swings. I succumbed to his tugging and decided to join Yusuf later. After 5 minutes of pushing Bilal on the swing I felt my thoughts drift to the aching in my heart. I allowed myself to think about my mother, although I promised myself I would not succumb to tears in the middle of this foreign park. Even now, one whole year later, I can’t believe she is gone. I know I haven’t seen her in a long time but she has been the voice in my head. She is constantly in my thoughts, and all the things that he has taught me guide me through every decision I make. From silly things to serious things my mother had wisdom for it all. “Always wear matching underwear, Farnaz” she would say , “what if you have an accident and the paramedics have to see your mismatched underwear”.  That woman had style right down to her underwear. No doubt she was probably wearing leopard print La Senza matching underwear when her time came. I smile comforting myself with the thought that she was always ready for her death, although I realize now, I was not. I would do anything for another week, another day, or even another hour with her.

I need to know how I would cope with a teenage daughter, or what to do when Bilal gets older and girls start noticing his good looks? or who do I speak to when Yusuf and I have an argument? Or even how do I go for a proposal for my son? Who will I sketch for? I thought of sketching again so many times this past year, but she was the only one I ever showed anything to, she was the only one who knew me really. My sketch pad was pushed to the back of the cupboard months ago. It was the last thing we spoke about and I just cant bring myself to look at it anymore. I close my eyes fighting back the tears- NOT HERE I tell myself , not here.

When I open my eyes again Bilal is still happily swinging, although he has slowed down considerably since I haven’t been paying full attention to his momentum. I quickly scan the park for Jameela. I find her at the top of climbing wall. Well done my courageous girl, I think . Your nani would be so proud. I see Yusuf below her, talking her down. Two woman from the group are now standing a few steps behind him. I watch the scene from afar, trying to observe as an outsider. They both stand some way to his right, one in blue skinny jeans and a fuscia hot pink figure-hugging top. Her brown highlighted hair is sleek and long and she tries unsuccessfully to keep it out of her face in the breeze. I giggle softly to myself taking some pleasure in her struggle. The other is in bright green tights with a black mini dress and hijab. I don’t know if you can call it hijab since I glimpse her side-swept fringe falling out of it framing her face. My Inner Chachima doesn’t approve either and wiggles an accusing finger in front of her face.  Watching the women I notice that her scarf is beautiful, probably the most expensive item of clothing she is wearing, which is a pity since the wind seems to be playing havoc with it too. Serves her right though, with that monstrosity of a camel hump on her head. I wonder to myself how some women can be taken with fashion so severely that even looking at themselves in the mirror doesn’t set off alarm bells. The camel hump fashion has me completely floored. Why some women would volumise their headscarfs with huge flowers and scrunchies stuffed under it, is beyond me. I have seen it done so ridiculously – creating an alien shaped head – that I almost look around for the Will smith to ask me to look into the little light. Some camel humps have been such huge disasters I really wouldn’t mind erasing it from my memory. The camel hump I see today, is not the worst out there, but certainly Men in Black material.

Yusuf does not seem to have noticed them, but from their body language you can clearly see that they have noticed him. They may not have seen us arrive together and I am sure that single father at the park with his young daughter is probably a rarity here. My husband’s good looks do not often go unnoticed, so I am glad I am not the jealous type. If I was I would work myself up to a frenzy every time we leave the house. From cashiers at the grocery store to our childrens’ school teachers, most women respond to his looks. I am used to the overfriendly smiles, extra long looks and glances in our direction when we are together. I am rather flattered at the appreciation of his good looks as long as it is done with class. I toy with the idea of going over there. Bilal is beginning to slow his swing down and I lower my gaze to look at him. “Can we go to the roundabout now mummy?” he finds my gaze and asks.

We make our way to the roundabout that is just behind to the left of the climbing wall, within earshot of the scene I was watching a few minutes ago. Bilal gets onto the roundabout and I give him a push fast enough to widen his big eyes even further. His straight hair blows around his head as he spins round and round. When his cheeks begin to flush from the excitement, I can clearly see Yusuf’s striking features taking shape in his face. My ears are drawn just then to the conversation between the two women near Yusuf.

“…so we were able to keep the case out of court” I hear skinny jeans say.

“I don’t know how you do it” hijab responded “I prefer sitting in a comfortable office all day, and bossing people around.”

Skinny jeans laughs and says “I have husband for that!”

Hijab quickly responds emphatically, “im glad I only see my ex every other week when he picks up Mariam”.

“How IS Reza?” skinny asked cheekishly.

“His wife is pregnant” she says with disgust. “Mariam told me last week when I went to fetch her. If Mariam hadn’t told me I probably wouldn’t have known till she gave birth. Ruwaida looked nine months pregnant from the day Reza married her last year”. She lets out a menacing laugh.

“That’s nasty” she tells her friend, but her tone is more condoning than reprimanding. “You know my cousin Zubair, the one who lives in Houghton and drives a Ferrari? He just took another wife. Count yourself lucky Reza didn’t marry her while you two were still married. You would have had a sister wife!” she laughs hysterically. Hijab eyed her friend with contempt at her last remark.

Seeing Hijabs reaction to her comment she tries to soften the blow “I don’t know how you cope alone now, and you have Mariam to look after”, she says.

“I don’t need a man around, in fact without one life is more interesting”, she looks in Yusuf’s direction, then winks back at her friend.“…Besides “ she continues “I drop Mariam at my mothers house in the morning before work, then pick her up after. Now that I moved to the headoffice , its closer, so I finish work by 3pm , then we come here or go to the mall after, so we can spend time together”.

I look in their direction. I don’t see any children with them. Jameela is almost at the bottom of the climbing wall and begins to climb the dinosaur bars next to it. There are no other children on it. There are some young children at the swings, and I wonder if one of them is Mariam. “Is this her idea of spending time with her child?” I wonder.

A phone begins to ring. Both women look for the cell phones and check if it’s theirs. It isn’t, its actually Yusuf’s phone.

I watch as skinny jeans gestures provocatively with her eyebrows to Yusuf, and I fear a change in conversation.

“…so if you ever want to marry again….” Her voice trails off as she tilts her head in Yusuf’s direction.

“I’m looking”, she giggles and makes her staring more obvious. “like I said , life is definitely more fun now”, she says this without taking her eyes off my husband, who, doesn’t seem to notice the commotion he is causing. “Hmm, no wedding ring” she says with a broad smile and a calculating look on her face..

I’m sure it must be difficult. Working all day, putting people down, then coming home to the task of pretending to spend time with your own child, your own flesh and blood. If that was not tiring enough then the poor woman still had to try to think up ways to trap another unsuspecting man. I start to feel the anger now heating me up from the inside. Not that she has her sights on my husband, but that these are the women who think they are so strong and powerful and look down on the ones who don’t chew people up and spit them out for a living. I have many times come across working woman who wince at stay-at-home mothers and even go so far to voice sympathy to it. I know and have learnt from my best teacher, my mother, that respect is earned by actions and not reputation. It is what you do that matters and not what people think you do.

My eyes are dragged back to the scene at the monkey bars. Hijab winks at her friend and they both look in Yusuf’s direction. He is now at the other end of the dinosaur bars and he just puts his phone away after a short call.

Seeing that, hijab says “here goes”.

She walks around the dinosaur bars to where Yusuf is. I strain my ears and try to ignore the sound of the childrens happy laughter all around the park, but it’s no use. I am too far away to hear anything. I watch as she approaches Yusuf. She speaks to him and gives him a provocative smile, then a girlish giggle and hands over her phone shrugging her shoulders.

He takes it and looks at it, then swiping at the screen and concentrating for a few seconds he hands it back, showing her something. She looks disappointed, but listens to what he says. Just then Jameela comes down slide that is the back of the dinosaur, and land just in front of them. Her excitement interrupts Yusuf and Hijab. “Daddy!” she screams a bit too loudly, adopting her brothers tone. “Lets go find mummy and Bilal” she announces looking straight at Hijab. Oh that daughter of mine, I smile to myself. She is perceptive beyond her age. Hijab looks taken aback slightly and glances around. She looks back at Yusuf to say something, then she changes her mind and leaves.

Jameela’s sharp eyes find Bilal and me still at the roundabout. She runs to us and mounts the roundabout next to Bilal. Yusuf follows quickly trying to keep up with his energetic daughter. As he walks, four eager eyes are glued onto him. He is unaware of course and makes his way towards me.

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