Hassam Gul is a writer. His work has appeared in several publications.
AFTER THE LAPSE OF A DECADE
The days lingered on in its weariness, but I remained clung to it; though resentfully. The element of resentment began to appear when I discovered that no portable property existed when the will disclose herself after the demise of papa, while he was in service, in Palestine: a struggle which was long and weary like my existence after adolescent. I found the circumstances queer and helpless. Not because, I, who was without any connections or relations, but because I was kept in Cyprus for long under the tutorage, such that, I become feeble like an aristocrat heir. However they like their connections and dependency on men with arms and pen inherit also expectations, I inherited nothing into the bargain than a letter from my private tutor which explained the conditions that father had to bear in his life and which to my not good, resulted in this misfortune — that I had to accept it as a gamble of fate, and I should flow with the feather on which I found myself floating.
With some pound and ticket from the military commissioner of Cyprus, I began my journey with the tides of the Mediterranean toward London.
But the dark bottom of the blue Mediterranean didn’t invoke fear in my little throbbing heart which on the same day, previous year, foresaw the coming of the birthday presents — the day I had turned seventeen. Now that I had turned into a man, there was no one standing beside me but only my shadow which would pass from one wave to another, as my eyes remained wedlock into the heart of the Mediterranean.
It was there I found a heart to tell everything I had in my own heart. And I said everything — or my tears spoke them to the heart of Mediterranean, and I remembered, it was without any remorse because she promised me not to betray me. And her promise was like her vastness, great.
Georgianna, my aunt awaited me, or so I was told. Her existence was unknown to me, though I used to visit our summer estate when it had not ruined by the debts uncle indebted, but the memories concerning those events buried, because I had other memories to care for — about a certain young lady, of whom I had made an acquaintance. I would often think about whether she would remember me. And it was at the deck of the furry, that I gave everything to the heart of many soft splashes, but retained one item — her name, Amelia.
A name that reminded me of the spirt smell, wounds and choking and coughing throats, the whitewashed walls of the hospital, and the redbrick building outside of it, where I was admitted. Where she was a certain miss — a colonial daughter, who breathed not the air of infirmary, but an aristocratic gash; such that it was oppressive and heartbreaking. A name whose delicate body with her red flocks of hair would give an impression of Freesia and Hyacinth as if she was breed in the garden of Hyacinth and Freesia flowers.
The conditions at my aunt's house were choking. It would magnify on one’s temples and forehead, like a magnifying lens, magnifying a picture. This windowless and underground apartment was hoarded with cousins in numbers.
It would queer the pitch for my being a mammal breathing under the glee of sunlight, and tranquility — a matter that I found missing, living among many cousins. It is true they resemble a larva, moving in and out and around the half-broken wooden furniture, but what was worse was that I couldn’t escape without hurting her feelings, or what I thought was the case — made to believe.
I discover they had precocious attendance on cunningness that I found myself lacking at, among other ineptness — a list which my aunt would find glad to discuss with her moppets and tadpoles, except on a particular day.
“Arthur,” Georgiana would shout. “Dear me! you deceitful rascal. Come here and bring a mug of ale that Master Stephen just gave us for dinner. Charlie is waiting — your good, caring cousin.” Yet I was caring, but I was often neglected among the horde. I would give my shelter pound on weekends to her, and yet, I was neglected. These sermons would only incur in the air when the hour was of my rent. A shelter that I began to neglect after spending a year there, at the end of which I found myself at debt to Georgiana, though the accounts in my head were cleared.
As the year passed, and I began to found a home on street in London, I began to spend my nights there, and I felt much at bliss among somnolent cygnets at the park, hidden from watchman’s eye.
Though the first two years made the streets of London, a living torment, where I would sell the newspaper. At the end of the day, it would not sell much. Carrying this heart under the abrupt change she was witnessing, I would sit at noon to shed some tears — and as abandoned by the fate, I would find myself abandoned by the beings around me with their necks shining with pearls and Indian diamonds, and men with the watches of gold, hanging from the chains.
It was not that my eyes didn’t shine, and my hand didn’t scratch, but I was weak at heart and fearful of whiplashing the name of the family, which was now non-existent, unlike the agony of my life.
I started selling the articles at Victoria Garden, a place I earned with fierce struggle.
When I arrived newly, I faced the butcher boy, or him, Simon Hector. He was older than me, and his limbs were up to his shoulders. He, with others, thrust me once and said, “Where’s the pass, boy!” I thought it was surely not a question.
I earn the pass from him. And a place at the Garden after I faithfully supplied with him from the cut of weekly sales.
I was at peace for a while, but it ran out after I saw someone — a face that was contrary to the treacherous and miserable living I was breathing.
It was March, and the wind was filled with cold blisters; but warmth would emanate from the blossoms of sun, surging what was unbalanced. One night, the rain came in a tantrum as if the hordes from the steppes were on their way in the blackness of the night. I ran away from the streaming water, onshore of which there stretched a long bed of grass, neatly cut and filled with Canterbury violet, pink and white bells — stretched to the armpits of the bed of grass that was cut by the sidewalk and shadows of the trees at the time of sunsets. It was there I would sleep — finding myself helpless to the hidden ecstasy that I didn’t know, my eyes were attracted to. I ran and slept through thick stems of the tree, finding cover in the distress and darkness amidst the raging clouds, that were thundering my eardrum.
In the morning, I felt the odor of freshness of the mud in my nostrils, and I waked up. I sit on the bench nearby, that was yet damp, but the scent of damp wood could be seen flowing in the air with many vapors, as the sunlight became brighter.
I open my palms on my damp trousers and felt embarrassed about finding the mud inside my nails.
Amidst the gleaming light, as she spread her wings, as her feather passed and rolled around every stem and leaf, a lady with red curls falling to her shoulders was walking toward me in a white garment, along with a gentleman with hat fixed to his head. Her arm wrapped in finest white muslin was in his, leaning on him delicately.
At first, they didn’t attract my attention. My gaze was fixed on the ground, but her voice was persistent in the air, filled with aged leaves, intermittently broken by a burst of man laughter.
As If I know. And tried to avoid, or had decided that sinking deep in my thoughts was a profitable deed — girdling thoughts about destiny, something my grandmother used to say when I would complain to her about the fall of fortune. “Don’t you make yourself queer” she would assert, going back in the chair, and at the end of her phrase, her body would be sitting straight: "by saying that you don’t have faith in destiny!”
The gentleman must have been standing beside me. Because my ears in gradually slumberous appetite open to his voice with timidness. “Boy!” the gentlemen said and perhaps repetitively. He had a countenance of a physician, but young in every aspect. When my eyes were penetrating in his face, he looked away toward the lady who was away some foot playing with a dog. “Do you hear me, Amelie — do you think this man can be possibly deft?” he cried; and then said with a slow murmur amidst the gnashing breeze, on my face: “some wretch like others street potters possibly," when he didn't receive a reply, referring to me.
“Yes sir?” said I in a pleaded voice as if I was least offended. He twisted his mustache on his face — a face that was as white as a white arrogant swan. He glanced toward her, almost twisting his neck, which anyone would have done.
"Ah, the boy speaks — he's not deft most likely!"
“I have the least idea Edward what you're talking about,” she said after a pause, as her laughter persisted, and even gain triumph when the dog she was playing with, jumped to her lap. It was her, Amelia, who was a daughter of a colonel stationed in Cyprus. It was after a decade ago when I heard her voice. But not that it was something new. At the backdrop of everything, her memory was still but living.
Her voice was like a flying butterfly, flying in a cheese pot. It sucked me into a hole of oblivion. I travelled back in time to find myself once again, ignored, and rejected. But my physical self remained, as the sharpness worn around my eyes and stings began to encircle; my heart rolls in an abnormal rhythm, and against the backdrop of my wet clothes, I submerged into the bench, only to sit straight upon her full appearance.
“Oh Edward, this puppy would love to meet our friends at Edinburgh…” the lady was saying on her way, as her delicate arm slid again in his shoulder, delicately when she neared and stood in front of the screen with gradual inclination.
I become sullen as she turned into a statue with eyes looking straight like immovable gems and face stone within an expression of indifference. I was ignored before and rejected with abhorrence, and once again, I have to endure it.
The man knocks my boot with the stick in his black-gloved hands.
But I couldn’t relieve my stare as if the pupils of my eyes had gnarled in her black eyes, which was carrying a countenance of an unchanging face made of a silicon skin — cold and unchanging, with proudness shedding from her temples, and meanwhile, I felt as if her fingertips had become the shards of ice, unbreakable.
He cursed when I handed the newspaper.
I looked at my broken and soaking shoes, and it reminded me of her white eyelet shoes that were departing.