Inside Ibrahim’s living room, I watched as Abdul connected the video game to the television while Hussein was busy munching a large chunk of pie. I wondered if any of them had any idea what I was feeling and frankly even if they did, none of them would have cared. They were all busy with their lives as I dwell in my thoughts. The more I thought about what she said, the more confused I got. I was supposed to be the one to be disappointed in her, not the other way round.
She was the one with the fake number and probably fake name. I had done nothing wrong to the best of my knowledge, unless of course she was tired of me popping up in her face. Maybe I didn’t get that memo. Forever alone, perhaps.
I made a long audible sigh as I sunk into the soft couch I was sitting on, which caused Hussein to look away from the plate he was eating from, possibly for the first time since he started. Abdul, finally done with the set up grabbed a controller and waved it at me. He then waved it at Hussein after I shook my head. Hussein nodded.
Abdul gave me a slightly annoyed look and shook his head.
“Why haven’t you eaten anything yet?” He asked.
“He’s probably dieting.” Hussein joked as he cleaned his mouth with a serviette.
“Or he’s just shy.” Abdul chuckled “it’s not like you like my sister now is it??” He laughed and shook his head.
Hussein’s eyes opened wide like a surprised owl.
“No, he would be crazy to do that. He doesn’t even know her” he managed a fake laugh, then turned to me and mouthed “he is awesome”
Abdul and Hussein went on to play their video game leaving me trapped, wondering what to do as I waited for Ibrahim to come back. I had to act quick. I needed an excuse but I couldn’t find a valid one, so I kept digging.
About 5 long dreadful minutes later, my phone began to ring. I got excited because I realized that I could use it as an excuse to leave the chalet, then I looked at the screen and the caller ID showed Amirah’s name. I watched as the call turned to a missed call, then I changed the phone into silent mode and slid it in my back pocket. I looked at Abdul and Hussein and realized I was just using them as an excuse not to go out there. I was lying to myself. ‘Man up’ I thought.
“Excuse me” I finally said to them.
None of them seemed to have heard me with their eyes fixed to the television.
I began to walk out of the living room but my palms began to get sweaty before I could get outside. I slowly opened the door, trying to be extra careful on all of my moves but the amount of sweat I left on the door knob killed my vibe. Nevertheless, I moved forward, reluctantly. I looked around to see if I could find Maryam but the only grown up I saw was someone on the phone facing the other side. It was definitely not Maryam, because she was shorter, and wasn’t wearing the same outfit.
’It could be Amirah, perhaps.’ I chuckled at my own thought.
I walked towards the girl making the phone call so she could help me find Maryam, but she got inside before I could make it close enough. I thought I had tried so I decided to get back to the chalet. A few paces on the direction of the chalet, I changed my mind and headed back.
‘I could knock’ I thought. I kept my eyes fixed on the interlock tiles, counting every step I made. I walked a few more steps, then I sensed the presence of someone else. I looked up and there she was, passing by without an attempt to talk to me.
“What is going on?” I asked.
“You know what’s going on.” She replied with a straight face.
I stared at her with my mouth agape, but her facial expression did not reveal anything. She could win a poker game without a drop of sweat. I thought of all the possible things I could have done to upset her but there was only one answer, “you find me tedious.” I whispered.
She tilted her head to the left and raised her right eyebrow.
“I heard you say something.” She said, as if she heard what I said.
I searched for where to begin with her but couldn’t find one. I was supposed to be the one with the questions not her, but she somehow turned everything against me.
“Wow you clearly don’t understand women do you?” She said, probably because the confusion in my eyes was clear. “When we give you our numbers, we expect you to call.”
“What do you mean? I called your number…”
“No you didn’t, I would know if you did.”
“Is this a joke?”
“We both aren’t laughing, so it’s not.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening. She wouldn’t even give me a chance to explain, talk less of accusing her.
“You gave me a wrong number for crying out loud” I finally said after what seemed to be a never ending stare contest.
“No I didn’t, I gave you the right number cos it’s easy to…” She paused in the middle of her sentence.
She stared at me like she just had an epiphany, then gently shook her head like she was embarrassed.
“I am terribly sorry” she said, keeping her eyes away from me. “I just remembered the SIM registration thing I had to do before the num… I am so sorry Imran”
‘You should be’ I thought.
“You probably hate me right now don’t you?”
“No, I don’t hate you.” I smiled.
“Well, you don’t like me either. I can see it in your eyes. I have ruined any chance of becoming friends with you.” She murmured.
The words hit me really hard. She threw the ball at me, then took it back before I could take a swing. She threw me into the friend zone and it felt like quicksand. She slipped the word ‘friend’ into the conversation and it looked like she did it on purpose. I had nothing more to do.
“I’m really sorry” she kept apologizing. “That reminds me, I still have your inhaler. Let me get it.” She said, then dashed into the house.
I stood there feeling the walls closing in on me. My heartbeat became faster. Faster than ever. I had become the world’s biggest loser. The only thing left was to forget about the inhaler and run away before she finishes me off. As I turned back and started walking, Maryam called out.
“Do you resent me that much?” She said. “Well, here’s the only thing that’s tying us together. Thanks for everything, have a nice life.” She handed me the inhaler.
It felt as if she was breaking up with me and it hurt a lot as I watched her leave. It made me realize how much of a slacker I was. It was over before it began. I thought about leaving, then it hit me. I could try and turn it around before it’s really late.
“M” I called out with a barely audible voice, wondering if that was really her name.
Maryam turned back as if she was waiting for me to stop her. Her eyes looked teary but she quickly turned away before I could confirm.
“I… Uhmm… I was thinking… Well I was hoping maybe there could be any chance that you know…” I stuttered.
I thought she was trying to stop me, then she continued.
“I don’t know. Please enunciate, you are confusing me”
“Well, I was hoping that you liked me, cos I really like you Maryam.”
“Well, it was just a thought, and it was worth a try.” I felt foolish as the words escaped my mouth.
“Just a thought you say?”
“Uhmm… Err…” I began to stutter again.
“Because I do like you. I just didn’t think you felt the same way about me.”
“Alhamdulillah, because I honestly thought you would crush me. Not that I’m not used to it” I joked.
Before she could speak, her phone rang and she quickly checked it.
“I’m really sorry to break this delightful moment but my sister needs me. Can we finish this later?”
“Sure. It’s ok. But let me give you my number this time.”
She smiled and headed back in after I gave her back her phone.
“Aunt Izzie” a cheerful little girl called out and ran up to her, then held her hand and followed her inside.
Back in the chalet, I got in as Abdul was getting off the phone.
“Sorry guys, Ibrahim said he can’t make it early. Would you like to wait for him?”
“Sorry we have somewhere to be right now” I said. “But it’s ok, we’ll be back some other time. Thanks for the food. And the video game.”
I looked at Hussein who was obviously not ready to leave judging by his facial expression.
“Sorry but we do have to leave.” I said.
“You are driving.” Hussein said as we got to the car.
“You have no idea what just happened.” I snatched the key and got into the car.
I got uncomfortable when I sat down, then I realized that I was sitting on my phone. I then pulled it out and threw it on Hussein’s lap.
“Great day today Hussein, great day.”
“Because you have 7 missed calls and a text message?”
“Nope. Wait, what?”
“Salam, I’ve been trying to reach you and it looks like you are busy. I hope you are ok. I wanted to tell you that I’m in love with you. Call me.” That’s what she said.
“Stop playing.” I said. “It’s not funny.”
“It’s not funny, it’s Amirah.” Hussein said.
I stared at him hoping he was joking, but he wasn’t.
“What are you going to do now?”
“You know what?” I asked rhetorically. “I don’t care.”
“How do you feel?”
“I feel great.” I said. I felt omnipotent.
“That’s my boy” Hussein said obviously relieved.