Faith in troubled times, and peace through the storm.
Published at Emirates Literature Fest
16th March 2016
Late afternoon sunlight is seeping through the windows. Deuter’s “Schein und Wiederschein” is playing in the background. A large rosewood mantelpiece stuffed with books stands tall in the corner of the room. There is a huge painting of the tree of life, which symbolises our roots deep beneath the surface of life, where we feel grounded, secure and productive. The room also comprises of an art journaling station, where patients express their feeling through art. The soothing music and calming lighting have always been a perfect fusion for a therapeutic setting, yet something felt very unsettling today!
Dressed in a beige blouse, brown skirt and high heels; Melinda appears jittery, yet pretty in her finely highlighted soft day make-up and neatly ponied long hair. She is seated in her counsellor’s chair, her legs one on top of the other, her hands folded on top of them, but a nail piercing into the skin of her palm. She is extremely clairvoyant when it comes to her near and dear ones and something inside her is voicing her deepest fears. But right now she has to disregard her intuition, as she is in the middle of a session with a client and all she needs to exude is patience and poise.
Straightening herself and plucking a tissue out for a sobbing Joanna, Melinda says, “You know, I was reading ‘Arabian Nights’ to my children the other night and I read an excerpt in it that fits your situation so perfect.” Joanna appears to be in her late twenties, a beautiful blond, dressed in a floral long summer dress. She is wiping her tears and trying to regain her composure, as Melinda fumbles some papers on her desk and finds the book beneath the heap to read out a short passage. “Here it goes… Settling into a new country is like getting used to a new pair of shoes. At first, they pinch a little, but you like the way you look, so you carry on. The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all. The more scuffed they get, the more you love them and the more you can’t imagine life without them.” She places her hand on Joanna‘s. “You too, need to give this place a little time. I promise you, it will grow on you.”
At that very moment, the startling sound of the office phone puts them in a momentary jiffy. Embarrassed, Melinda apologizes for the interruption and rushes to attend the call.
“Yes, Sam. This better be important.”
“Who…? Tell me what has happened?”
“Are Matt and the kids ok?”
“Please tell me, Sam …” (voice trails off)
“Ok! I am leaving right away!”
She cuts the line and dials another number. The person on the other line answers.
“Linda, get me an Uber”.
She turns around to look at Joanna.
“I’m sorry for cancelling, but I have to go, it’s urgent”
Fretful and with almost numb fingers, she makes it through the cab journey to the Jumeirah beachfront. She makes a few calls to Matthew but he doesn’t answer. Nervous, her fingers constantly run over the screen of her phone displaying the picture of her beautiful family and her right foot tapping fast. The car reaches a halt, and she throws the door open to run towards the beach play area. Blindly striding through the mob of people, she makes her way to the cordoned off play area. Sam is Matthew’s work buddy and best pal for life. Both are in their mid-thirties and nattily dressed in formals. Sam locates Melinda before one of the cops approaches her and leads her to the appalling site, where her little boy is laid out on a stretcher and the paramedics are trying hard to revive him. Looking at Sam, Melinda can gauge the emotional stress Matt would be under. She has always been the stronger amongst the two of them, but today even she felt shaken by the sight of Josh! Josh’s face vanishes and then re-merges in between the hovering medics in their blue uniforms.
Matthew slides his hand into Melinda’s and places his arm around her shoulders, as together they see their firstborn struggle for life. Melinda gazes at her husband in disbelief and immediately turns away to look at an almost steady Josh. In hopeful anticipation, the parents hold on each other tightens. However, the paramedics stop their manoeuvres at once and bow their heads in despair. The combat is over.
Terrified, Matthew leaves the grip of Melinda’s hand and rushes towards Josh. He places his little hand into his and opens a tiny slice of his eyelids – his lifeless eyes! Trembling uncontrollably, he looks around for aid! He grabs Mel’s hand and drags her to Josh’s body. “Ask them to do something!” Sam holds him tight as he screams “This can’t be happening Sam, it’s Josh…it’s our Josh!” He strokes Josh’s forehead and prays aloud “Please Lord, not him. Not my boy, take me!” He utters another cry, and implores loudly “Do something, he is not breathing!” He folds his hands together beseeching the paramedics, “I beg you people, please bring him back! Please help us!” He crumbles to the ground in a heap, as lunacy and delirium, the two natural extensions of this tragedy hit him hard.
Melinda stands grounded unable to move an inch of her body as if a heavyweight has seized her feet. She stands still in shock, almost inept to fathom the sight in front of her. All she can think of is her beautiful boy… her smart, kind Josh with honeyed laughter and an invincible charm that very few children his age had! She’d always tell Matthew “What a kind brother and caring sibling Rachel has. We must have done something right to be blessed with such angels.” Suddenly some incongruous music starts playing in one of the nearby Restaurants and Melinda’s mind travels to her office, where she is telling a parent – “Losing a child is considered the ultimate tragedy. It’s the ultimate violation of the rules of your life…” The sound of the music and the sound of her own words create a haze, a frenzy in her head. She is completely out of her rheostat mode. The uncanny feeling encapsulates her to such an extent that she collapses to the floor in a whiplash!
.... to be continued.