Darkness. Confusion. An overpowering feeling of disorientation. Stairs that go down endlessly. And then a fall from the stairs….
It was my 99th day in London. I would often be woken up in the middle of the night by a recurrent nightmare. In it I would be falling from a staircase. The anxiety was as palpable in the nightmare as it was in the harsh reality that I would be hurled into on awakening. Once aware of my surroundings I would get up to fetch a glass of water.
That night was no different. After the nightmare had woken me up, I lay in bed with the glass in my hand. The glass glistened as it caught the silvery moonlight. I looked out the window at the moon. It was seated majestically in dark nothingness. I closed my eyes and thought about the recent past.. ….my waking dream…
Although just a year remained here in London in order to complete my studies, I persistently felt home sick. I wished to fly back home and land into my mother’s arms. I wanted to surround myself with her deep devotion and endless love, without which life here seemed impossible. When I was a mere child, she would wrap me in her arms. Whenever I felt hurt or cried she would love me with every ounce of her soul. I craved her embrace that would reassure me that my fall from and into nothingness was simply a nightmare. Just the thought of her gentle touch would elicit a smile in me and I would promptly forget the terror that night brought.
That night I must have dozed off because the next time I looked out the window, dawn had broken. The sun was bright and the sky clear. After the customary preparation for university, I stepped out of my apartment. Per routine I glanced back at the dusty window, hoping to glimpse mother waving goodbye. But before my mind could concoct more visions, I hopped onto the bus.
After an uneventful day at ‘the Uni’ I stepped out of class. I was pleasantly greeted by gentle rain. Although the morning had promised a sunny day, the afternoon rain prompted me to walk home. And I am glad I did.
I had walked perhaps two blocks, when I came across a person laid across the sidewalk. This neighborhood was known for street gangs so I wasn’t surprised that no one had approached the person. As I got nearer, my transient impulse was to cross over to the other side. But then I realized that this was a girl by her crotch-high black leather miniskirt and black tank top. She appeared to be quite young, probably in her late 20s. Her face, well what little I could see that was not covered by heavy makeup with an overlay of dark pink blush, appeared pale. The extraneous colors on her face likely hid any wound marks – I speculated that because she was moaning. And I assumed it was from physical pain.
On a hunch, I decided to take her home. I couldn’t bear the site of her writhing in pain, and getting soaked in the rain.
I gently assisted her to stand, and asked her to lean on me as we walked the remaining few blocks to my apartment complex. Although she remained in a somewhat disoriented state, she did not resist me as I gently undressed her to her underwear as I wanted to gauge the extent of her injuries. I found a few bruises on her arms. As I was applying analgesic balm to those wounds, I glanced at her armpit hair, which like her head hair was also dyed pink.
By the time she had regained some strength I was quite curious as to who she was.
“I am a professional”, said the girl.
“What’s your name and what kind of professional work do you do?” I inquired somewhat naively.
She only smirked – her teeth were smeared with her cherry pink lipstick. She chose to neither reveal her name nor her profession.
Suddenly realization dawned upon me as to what profession she was alluding to, and although my mind had a hundred questions I ignored enquiring any further. Instead, I made her a cup of hot mint tea. It was then that I realized that the walk in the rain had washed away most of the make up, undressing her face in the process. Without her gaudy make up she appeared immensely pretty.
Several more questions surfaced. “Why was she living such a life? Maybe she had forgotten her way back home? Perhaps if I got her back to her mother she would wrap her in her warm embrace and fix everything for her?”
In reality I never asked her those questions nor took her anywhere. My thoughts remained thoughts.
After being cleaned, medicated and fed, Lady Pink walked out of my life.
I never saw her again.
Nor the nightmare.
About the Author: Rakshinda Mujeeb, a full time Research Associate at the Aga Khan University and a part-time blogger for the Express Tribune, is enchanted by the mystery that is life. Here are a few of her previous essays: Politics & pink lipstick; What a street boy taught me; On a bus; To be a pharmacist.
Reviewed and Edited by: Asad I. Mian, MD, PhD, works at the AKU, is a pediatrician / ER physician & researcher, also interested in creative ways of exploring & expressing through writing and photography / illustration. You can read his recent stories published in the Houston Inner Looper newspaper:Jonathan; Saffron & Abigail; Gokotta; Year of the Quail; Of literary & literature festivals; Billboards of Summer. Dawn: Karachi and the Festivals; Express Tribune: From Houston to Karachi (aka Goat Meat).
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