It was her favorite spot on the little hill station. The sheer drop off was almost exhilarating. Made her feel, humbled, mortal. The beautiful blue flowers native to the region, flanking the edge of the cliff, the raging river some 1000 feet below, the absolute silence in the twilight of the rising dawn. It was serene beyond belief. .
“I feel human again, when I come here.” She had written to her husband in one of her letters.
“Saving so many lives every day can make one feel like god, whenever I suffer such blasphemous pomposity I come here, with my thermos full of coffee, sit at the edge with my legs dangling, as if off the very brim of the earth itself and let nature set me straight. You can feel God here. You know. It almost feels like he’s right here, sitting next to me, with his own cup, gently reminding me of my place in the world. I love it here. I miss you so much, Aamir. I wish you were here.”
God wasn’t there next to her when she jumped off the cliff.
They searched all day. The army regiment assigned to maintain order in the notoriously volatile and breathtakingly beautiful frontier hill station, left no inch of the raging river Sawat un-touched. But no dead bodies had ever been recovered from these ruthless white waters. And alas, she would be no exception. They say a body is turned to debris in a matter of hours in the vicious current and the brutal rocky terrain that the river flows over. They say that it hits a rock once every second at speeds that would crush a 6 foot thick log. They say that once you fall into the river Sawaat, you leave no remains.
All they ever found of her was the metal thermos full of coffee that she had left up on the cliff. Her parents had to seek religious guidance about what to bury. They settled for the few strands of hair she had left lying on her pillow.
After the funeral procession, Aamir cried.
He hadn’t been able to understand that his beautiful, majestic wife had killed herself. He blamed himself, everyone blamed him. He had just arrived the night before. But she had always sounded so happy in the letters. So satisfied. She was getting such great work done for the children and women here. He kept hoping it was all a bad dream and any moment now he would wake up screaming, see her lying next to him and hug her and kiss her and tell her what a horrible dream he had had. But when they started shoveling the sand into the six foot deep hole that contained nothing but a few locks of golden brown hair he finally understood.
“They blame you.” Nida whimpered.
“I know.” Aamir responded.
The tears had long since stopped falling as he sat smoking with his sister-in-law on the steps of the little cottage his wife had occupied for the last 4 months.
“I know and I do too. Just can’t believe she’s gone. Rida’s gone.” And the tears returned.
She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. She had always been so strong. Always the anchor.
“They want her stuff.” She said softly, almost apologetically.
“Everything?” he said wiping away at the tears.
“Everything… They don’t understand. They need someone to blame… they’re choosing you.”
“I don’t… I don’t blame them, Nida. I think… I feel like I killed her… I just got here the night before and and… its okay… you can take everything I don’t really… except those little moccasins of hers, she loved those. And and that one shawl that we bought from
He couldn’t speak anymore. The knot in the back of his throat had constricted so that even breathing seemed impossible. He took one long puff before continuing,
But she cut him off.
“Take your time Aamir, keep whatever you want. Keep everything; they just want to feel like they’ve avenged her somehow. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you, but it was hard enough keeping dad from coming here and tearing the place upside down. But just… I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
She wiped her eyes, gave him a hug and was gone. He was left sitting with nothing but redemption on his mind. He knew there was only one thing left to do now. The only chance he had at forgiving himself. He decided that sorting through her things would be the last thing he would ever do. When they come tomorrow to take her things, they’ll find me lying dead. Then maybe they can forgive me, maybe I can forgive myself.
When you love someone so much that life without them seems like an empty bottomless pit of despair and grief, its easy to choose to die. So he did. Without so much as a second thought, or any misgivings and went about emptying the closets and the drawers and the suitcases she had been too lazy too open looking for the few select items that he wanted to rub against his skin one last time before following her to wherever she had gone.
It took longer than he had expected. Every thing he touched seemed to have some of her left in it. Clothes held her fragrance, jewelry, her brilliance. The littlest things like half remaining lipsticks and empty tubes of mascara made him cry the most.
He would sit for hours at a stretch holding something utterly insignificant in his hand like a shoe with a broken heel and bawl like a child who’s been hurt for the first time. Then he would gather himself up and get back to sorting, putting in separate boxes what he was willing for them to have and what he wanted to keep for himself. Remembering then, his plan of killing himself in the morning he found himself overcome by fits of laughter at the stupidity of segregating her remains until he would start crying and would cry until he couldn’t breathe anymore.
It was almost twilight when he got to her vanity case. He pried it open expecting to find row upon row of make up that would never be used anymore and found instead an ornate leather bound notebook. Her journal.
The only thing she had never shared. He had no intention of opening it or reading it, he knew she liked her privacy. But after he had kissed the cover and was putting it aside it slipped from his hands and flipped open. The only words he accidentally read, took his breath away.
Written somewhat half way through the book, in her beautiful sacred-heart hand writing in the middle of a page were just three words:
“Tomorrow, I die.”
He felt bile rise to his throat, felt his breath surrender to shock. The life drained out of him and he could almost feel like what he thought a corpse would feel like.
He picked the book up and read the words again.
Heart sinking, almost afraid to know what he couldn’t help but want to know, he flipped backwards into the life his wife had kept hidden from him. What he read, what he discovered wouldn’t allow him to kill himself.
Not just yet.