Parallel tangents.

The first time it happened, Leena felt weird and distant. She knew this was not supposed to happen and that girls are not supposed to have crushes on the same gender. She let it go thinking that it’s normal and maybe she only likes the other girl as a friend. Liked her a lot. Leena spent whole nights staying awake and wondering how it would feel to touch the body of this girl she couldn’t get out of her mind. She saw them running in the morning, eating candyfloss lying down on the park, talking whole nights. But she didn’t have the courage. Leena always lacked courage. Courage to look straight into someone’s eyes, courage to hold someone, courage to cry when needed. She wanted to confront this girl she was slowly and steadily falling for, but never got around to.
And then it happened again.
This time, it was a tornado. Nyah came into her life as the girl Leena bumped into at the meat aisle in the supermarket. Leena saw the frail and small frame on Nyah’s soul and looked straight inside. She saw the small girl piling on steak after steak into her basket. The basket started growing too heavy for her but Nyah didn’t give up on the meat.
“Do you need some help with lifting your basket?” Leena approached her with a thumping heart.
“No..I’m…uhh yes please.”
As Leena picked up Nyah’s basket, her fingers grazed Nyah’s. Leena touched cotton candy. That’s what she felt. She smiled to herself and let Nyah walk in front. While Nyah started her billing, Leena noticed her hands, hair, eyes, nose, everything. She knew Nyah didn’t even realize what Leena was going through at the moment. She picked up her bill, said thank you and walked away, never looking back at the dejected face Leena had. And life went on.
Fast forward 4 years.
Leena was married to the girl she wanted to spend her life with, after two years of struggle. But Leena was never satisfied. Right from the start she was part of a one way marriage. Having pursued her own wife, after almost being betrothed to a man, life came a full circle for Leena. She gave up her life to be with her wife and never wanted different. Love was a tricky affair. Courage was trickier.
Leena bumped into Nyah when she tripped and fell on Nyah’s path. The small framed, pretty muse never realized how she was a love at first sight for Leena. For many nights Leena craved for Nyah’s cotton candy touch. She craved for Nyah’s voice. Leena had gone insane for some time. And Nyah disappeared as a distant memory. Now, she was leaning over Leena wondering if she was okay. Leena smiled at her. Somehow built up enough courage to ask for Nyah’s number.
Life started off.
Nyah was married off by staunch Muslim parents when she turned 21. When, 4 years ago, they met at the meat aisle, Nyah was still married. Having to live along with 4 other wives of her own husband. Sex in rotation, love in time tables. She enjoyed the macabre comfort of being around women who were so close to her and yet so distant. Living like a small community in their own house, taking care of children, cooking meals for one man, trying to keep him satisfied, was all part of her world. Nyah didn’t know any different. As far as she tried to make sense of her beliefs, she fell further into disbelief. But not knowing any better of this world, she kept to her routine of man-pleasing.
“Are you okay? Do you want me to take you to the hospital?” Nyah asked Leena.
“I’m fine.”
Oh, Leena wasn’t fine. She went further away from a state of ‘fine’. She stared at Nyah and creeped her out. Nyah gave her a hand and picked Leena up, in the most haphazard way possible.
“You remind me of someone I knew from before. Is it possible we may have met sometime?” Leena tried hard to jog Nyah’s memory back to 4 years back when they met in the supermarket but she had no recollection. Nyah shook her head. Gazing into the distance, Leena was limping and talking, trying hard to strike a conversation with Nyah. She remained silent. She would look up, smile and then go back to looking at her feet again.
“I want your name and number.” Leena finally asked Nyah. She felt she was too blunt with her statement and noticed Nyah’s widening eyes but she stuck by it.
“Why do you want it?” Nyah asked Leena.
“Because I feel l would love to talk to you”
Nyah didn’t reply and continued walking with the limping Leena. 10 mins walk towards the bus station. Nyah put her hand inside the bag and came up with a post-it. With a pen that she borrowed from a man waiting for a bus, she wrote down her number for Leena.
“Nyah.” She said.
Leena beamed the widest smile in the history of mankind. “Thank you.”
The same night, as soon as she reached home, she dialed Nyah.
“Hello, Nyah. I’m Leena. We met in the park today, if you remember”.
“Hi Leena! Yes, I remember. How are you feeling now?” Nyah talked softly over the phone.
They finally started talking and Leena was ecstatic talking to her, like she met Mickey Mouse on her first trip to Disneyland. Through full 4 days, they talked every night. Nyah’s voice barely rising over a whisper and Leena, excitedly chattering away like 10 yr olds.
One night, Leena heard a wail from the other end of the conversation.
“Leena. I will call you back later. Some work has come up.” Nyah didn’t wait to say or hear a goodbye and quickly hung up.
Leena didn’t think much of it and went off to sleep beside her wife. She was uncomfortable because of the phone call with Nyah. She kept fidgeting with her thoughts and finally fell asleep. When she woke up, she received a message from Nyah with the address of a place. Leena got dressed and texted her back saying, ‘Will meet at 4pm.’ Promptly, she got an okay in return. Leena got off from work earlier than usual and took the train to the café Nyah had asked her to come to.
She sat in one of the corner most tables, with a scarf over her head and wearing a long, midnight blue gown. She looked resplendent in a very controlled sort of a way. She looked up at Leena, smiled and offered her a chair.
“Hello, Leena.”
“Hi. What happened? I’ve never sensed so much urgency from anyone.”
Nyah burst out crying in front of Leena. Her mascara ran out, her pink lipstick was eaten up in places, her hands quivered. She told Leena everything. Right from her childhood, the early marriage, the kids who didn’t satisfy her, the unavailable husband and the other wives. She couldn’t talk about the rapes and abuse but Leena understood silently what Nyah actually wanted to talk about. They sat in solitude at the empty café till twilight. Leena looked at Nyah and smiled. She also noticed faint bruising around her neck, the lines that encompassed her delicate neck.
“What would you do, Leena? I wanted to talk to you today. I don’t know you, I bumped into you one fine day and here we are, opening up our insides about our deepest fears. I want to tell you everything. Everything that I have ever seen or heard or felt will be known to you. You will know me as a human, flawed and shitty. And then we will disappear out of each other’s lives and never look back. You will be happy in your life and maybe I will be, in mine. What am I? One of the millions who will be forgotten and I’m currently being forgotten as each second passes.”
“Let’s take a walk, Nyah.” Leena extended her hand. Nyah took her hand.
They walked, all around the lake walkway. They walked in silence, lightly bumping into each other, exchanging whispered sorries and walking back on the same path again. Leena thought about her wife and felt uneasy. She gave her a quick call, told her she was held up at work and mentioned that she would be getting Nyah, a friend, over for dinner. Nyah started talking, and Leena was mesmerized at how easily she could form her sentences amongst the storms inside her frail body. Nyah talked about her childhood, her lack of friends, her sheltered life but her top class education in times of strife in Afghanistan. Being resident Afghanis displaced from their own lands, her whole family came to live in the United States hoping to live the American Dream. This turned out to be less of a dream and more of an everyday nightmare when her parents married her off to a man from another refugee family. She talked about a lot of things, while Leena listened in silence.
“Do you want to dance, Nyah? Have you waltzed under the clear sky?” Leena interrupted Nyah.
Nyah shook her head as a response to Leena’s question.
Again, Leena extended her hand, Nyah held on. They smiled at each other. Waltzing to a tune that Leena hummed, they looked like a couple happy in love. Nyah laughed. After many months, she had laughed. Leena was happy after a long time too.
“Nyah, you have to do what is right for you. I can only listen and I can advise you, but I can’t make you do anything that you don’t want to.”
“Yes, I know Leena.”
They hugged. Leena suggested they head back to her place for dinner. Nyah didn’t know who Leena had back at her home.
They walked back to Leena’s place. Leena’s wife opened the door and beamed at both of them. She offered Nyah a change of clothes to which Nyah refused. She was offered a glass of red wine which was refused too. She was offered roasted pork ribs, refused again. Finally she tucked into the chicken casserole that Leena’s wife had made. The three of them laughed at table, ate all the food. Finally, Nyah said she had to head back home to her family. It was late.
“Let us drop you downstairs, Nyah.”
“Okay.”
They reached the last stair and hugged Nyah goodbye.
“..It was so amazing to finally meet you, Nyah. Let’s see each other soon. XX” Leena sent Nyah a text.
“Yes, we should. It was nice to meet you and your wife.”
Leena smiled herself to oblivion.
She woke up in the morning and messaged Nyah about the kind of bananas she had for breakfast which made her uneasy. Another text about how her shoes stopped fitting her well. The third text about how the birds outside were too noisy. She didn’t receive a text back. Leena didn’t think much of it and she let it seep into nothingness.
One day gone, two days gone, three day down.
Leena was caught up thinking about Nyah’s big, brown eyes. The gentle twinkling of them and her long lashes.
‘Woman found dead in basement of her house, strangulated.’ A week after their happy dinner, this was what was found in the morning newspaper.
Leena was devastated. She read that her family watched her dying, while the husband strangulated Nyah.
Nyah did disappear after telling Leena everything and Leena knew the meaning of the word “fleeting”.

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