I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
You’re often loitering at the back of my mind as it is. Bulk nestled into the grey beanbag, legs sprawled out so long it’s hard for anyone to cross the room, fingers lazily plucking chords on the guitar in your lap, foot tapping against the adjoining table leg to the acoustic rhythm. You seem to be waiting for something.
Usually, I am able to distract myself. I’ll run an extra mile, raise the volume on my headphones, read another dead poet’s verses, watch a half hour of mundane television. It’s become increasingly difficult to do any of that now. You’ve shifted from the periphery of my mind and begun to make yourself comfortable at its forefront and I question why.
You’ve set aside your guitar now (against the wall, careful) and are now sitting up. The anticipation is as palpable as the tufts of hair that fall when I brush my hair each morning. Light enough to float away into obscurity, but visible enough to stand out starkly against the white linoleum. Tangible. Dead.
I rack my brain for what to do but it seems to have taken flight in your considerable presence. I’ve been overworking it lately. It’s likely to have left me out of exhaustion, with a sole lingering sentiment of comfort, “Your big brother is here now. Talk to him.”
And I want to. It’s unbelievable how badly I want to talk to you right now. I think back on our last interaction, a few hours before you left. We’d sat across from each other, I on my laptop, you on yours. I remember the song I’d made you listen to, and it angers me now. I could have used those 3 minutes to tell you how much I love you instead. But that was quintessentially us, affection manifested in a shared taste in music and words.
I try hard to remember some of those words now. Each attempt seems as feeble as measuring a mile with my fallen hair strands.
I want to be 10 again, in the car with you to Dairy Queen, slurping sagely on a Peanut Buster Parfait as you speak about your current heartbreak. Did I think it odd then that you were already talking in reminiscence of something that was still present in your life? I think the fudge may have been a sufficient distraction. You didn’t want any, though, you were too preoccupied voicing the obscure notions plaguing your mind: love, life, and companionship. I did listen, though, I promise.
I want to be 16 again, choosing to sit in your car and no one else’s, as we head to a family lunch. I want to sink into the passenger seat, head and heart embroiled in the pitfalls of teenage romance, and stare out the window with eyes still swollen from the waterfalls of the night before. You hadn’t said much on that drive, the need for conversation had eroded when you’d turned on the stereo. Ronan Keating’s ‘I Hope You Dance.’ “Listen,” you’d said, “just listen to the words.” I listened then, too.
I want to be 20 again, trundling around the airport parking lot behind you with my too-heavy suitcase. I want to turn up the AC as soon as you switch on the engine and remark exasperatedly how the weather in Lahore is just so much better than Dubai’s. You’d bait me into a playful argument, and I’d keep smiling, holding my tongue, as you poked fun at my new found Punjabi-ness and asked whether I ate channay and lobia for dinner every day. For the record, I didn’t, but I never much had the chance to say so because then you’d move swiftly on to loudly claiming that you were sure I was failing. You’d made the exact same claim just a few months ago when I’d called home to report that I was on the Dean’s Honor List. Each drive home from the airport concluded the exact same way, with you asking if I was hungry and wanted something to eat.
But I am not 10, or 16, or 20.
I am 23, and poised at a liminal point in life, my head has abandoned me and my heart is in no mood to co-operate. Don’t just sit there, help me. Give me advice, tell me about a song, point me to the right words. All I want is a conversation with you, Bhai.