A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing amongst a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Mayera Tufail”.
Her chest was on fire. She opened her mouth to breath, but no air escaped her lungs. She was sweating profusely, too many thoughts rushed through her mind. The trapped tears settled inside. She hid in a corner, where no one she knew could see her. Plugged the headphones into her ears, and pushed the volume to maximum, to drown the voices inside her head. Her heart continued to beat fast, as the sound of Beethoven roared in her ears. A student passed by, she pretended to look at her phone, casually flipping through the Facebook newsfeed. Desperate to hide her, afraid that someone will know, and too weak to move, she had a compromised hiding spot in the university courtyard, they called the quad. Quad because it had four sides, medical students would always reminiscence the math and physics they left behind, some dreams broken and left aside, calling it a quad somehow kept the physicist in them alive.
She tried calming herself down by holding her hand with the other, she had done that since childhood, it was a reminder how lonely she had been always. The “always” felt like an infinitely long word, which could definitely be substituted for forever, but she had hope. Hope that maybe one human was not like the other. Are all humans inherently bad? Another person passed by, too lost in his clinical schedule, to notice her agony and hurt. How could the human race be so oblivious of suffering? Or was that a coping mechanism? Her vision blurred, as tears gathered in her eyes, overwhelmed by the monsters of her past. Her watch kept ticking as she wiped her tears off. The music hit a low note. Today was a bad day for going to classes. A medical leave was not an option, there seemed to be no organic problem, no cause for her shortness of breath, her chest x-ray was clear they said.
The clock struck nine, time for clinic, she thought. Still clutching her hand to stop it from shaking, she managed to pull herself up against gravity. Wind blew her scarf away, the trees danced to it. Her mind stood still, she wished the time did too. Checking her face in the mirror, if the tears had somehow managed to escape the well of her eyes, wiping along the sunscreen she applied on her face. As she walked towards her destination, she turned to look at her hiding spot once more, every thought generated had to be left at that place. She took out the pill from her pocket and shoved it down her throat. It did an excellent job of lowering heartbeat, but she always had a temptation of having more than one. Not today, another day to survive. There were patients waiting, waiting for someone to listen to their stories. Picking up a file, she went to the designated room. A middle aged man on a wheel chair was accompanied by his sister and wife. It was a follow up. She picked up the reports, it had metastasized to the lungs, and primary source was the kidney. She confirmed his age; he was as old as her father, forty-six. Her breathing got calmer, the heart beat with synchrony. She must live another day. The world needed her or it did not? She could never decide.