Maybe it was a feeling of triumph that I felt on my way to the bus stand. A sensation of joy took me over and made me forget about the world around. It was a feeling that prevented me from recalling what had happened, or what I had done in the past. Yet, that memory slowly filled my senses, the way air fills a leaking caldron. They started to appear before my eye, but I managed to distract myself by the stars that twinkled above.
An ancient wind passed by. The mighty wind had dry leaves fly like wounded birds; they tilted, inclined and trembled. Under the faint light of thousand suns, I watched them dance.
* * *
At the bus stand, there was a lamp post and it lightened up a bench. The bench was old and grey like the man who sat on it, wrapped in a thick coat and a hat. He felt my presence but didn't look at me until I decided to take a seat by his side. He probably felt a little scared because I had a metallic odor about me. As I sat down, the old man moved to the corner of the bench. Maybe he was planning to flee but the bus stopped right in front of us at that moment. He got up first and sat near the driver. Maybe he felt insecure.
A few moments later, the bus started. It was an old bus. It was rusty and the seats were dirty and torn. The colors were faded and a dark shade of brown was revealed, somewhat like the color of cockroach's skin, if you ask me.
I couldn't bear this revolting sight; the ugliness of it all burned my vision. So, I stared outside and watched the little specks of light sparkling in the distance, and I thought how we all lived in our own tiny monarchies of imprudent desires. We are just sad creatures, lost in our insatiable aspirations. But I have escaped that hell. At least I think I did.
Suddenly, the bus stopped. It stopped in the middle of isolation. From there, only darkness could be seen and silence could be heard.
The driver declared that the engine has burnt down and needed to be repaired. So, we got off the bus and landed on the ground where darkness reigned and its abundance compelled me to evoke my past. But I was saved by a sudden spark of fire right beside me. It was the old man, trying to light his cigarette but unable to do so due to his old shaky hands and damp weather. I took the matches from him and lit his cigarette. He was not surprised by my action and it did bring us a little closer. At least, he wasn't afraid of me anymore. And when he became more familiar with the moments, he asked, “Where are you heading to, son?”
“I'm heading to the valley by the river,” I answered. I suddenly realized I was happy about fleeing my town. But the old man couldn't care less. He may have just asked it for the sake of being social.
The driver announced that the bus was ready to be in motion. I got on the bus, sat on my seat and the old man sat behind me. The lit cigarette was still in his hand. He may have apprehended my habit of smoking, and it's true that smokers are always friends.
I suddenly felt the urge to smoke, so I tried to light one, too. But I couldn't light the match, the wind kept blowing the fire out. The old man behind me offered to light my cigarette with his. I held mine between my lips and touched the tip to the lit tip of his. And I sucked the void in and got my fire. It was as if we were communicating telepathically.
I sucked on my cigarette and blew the smoke and I watched the smoke rings as they left my mouth and vanished through the window. The wind froze my face but I liked it.
The old man may have felt awkward by my unsocial behavior, so he asked, “Where do you live?”
I felt an urge to answer him, “In the town beside the mountains. And you must be from the city!”
The old man grinned and said, “Yes, my boy.”
Then he realized it was the end of that conversation and didn't bring any interesting topic.
“I heard a person was killed this evening in your town.” He said conversationally.
“Yes, he was a war hero.”
“I heard he was very brave and had reputation for his strength. How could he be killed? Maybe he was murdered by some group.”
“No, he was killed by one person.”
“How can you tell?”
“I saw him die.”
“You saw him murdered?” The old man was surprised.
“He was my father. He was killed in his bedroom.” I answered.
The old man was silent for a moment, and then suddenly became furious, “You just saw your father die, how you can be so calm? Don't you have any feeling of remorse?”
I blew a cloud of smoke and said, “My father was a brave soldier. People respected him for that. But I respected him because he was kind and gentle. Once a week he used to hold my hand and take me to the bookstore. He would buy me any book I wanted. On our way back, he would buy me a lollipop or an ice cream. I would lick it all the way home, holding my father's hand. Any person he walked past would respect him with words and love. My father enjoyed that. Wouldn't you?”
The old man listened to my question and answered, “Yes, of course anyone would enjoy that. But who killed this person?”
“I loved him. I loved him and respected him more than anyone else. Whenever I went out alone, to play or just to wander, people would refer to me as his son. Whenever I came first in class or won a competition, I would be looked at proudly and recognized as the son of my father. All the time it was my father who held my identity.” I took a long drag and threw my cigarette out of the window and blew the smokes in the rushing wind, “I loved my father, and I still do.”
The old man became impatient, “But who could have killed him?”
He stared at me very hard, as if trying to read my mind. I looked at him in the exact same manner and said in a muffled voice, “I couldn't recognize myself.”
The bus stopped, my destination had arrived. I stood up and got past the old man. He was sitting there, staring blankly and not moving one bit.
I got off the bus and, as I landed on the ground, the bus roared again and continued its journey towards the unknown.
Dawn was approaching. There was a wispy cover of mist around me. Through the mist I watched the last remaining stars disappearing into the light of the waking sky. The sun was rising.
As the sun rose, it spread a soft, warm light and it melt the fog around me and when it touched the tress, it created shadows behind them. They were long and narrow, like my father's smile.
As the sky moved toward dawn, gloomy clouds invaded and hid the sun. All it took was a few moments for the sun to be lost from sight.
I sensed the alteration in nature and it caused me to revive the memory of my father's death. It was only yesterday when the sky was bright and the night sky was filled with thousands of stars and not a speck of cloud.
But now, there were clouds. It was raining. A faint requiem of rain could be heard in the distance. I looked up and felt a drop of rain falling where my tears were. They mixed together on my cheek and left my skin to fall freely as a mixture of pain and relief. The rain fell for everyone, but the tears were only for my father.
Abdullah Rayhan is an occasional contributor to The Daily Star Literature Page.