There was nothing I could do to end my suffering, this was the beginning. I sat there twisting the Kleenex in my hand as I willed myself with no success to stop crying, but I couldn’t stop. How could he die? I listened to a mixture of English and Arabic words filled with empty promises of going home, paradise and forgiveness. My eyes stole out of focus glances at the mourning faces of everyone who attended Aulad’s funeral. It was a decent service, with just a hint of sunlight cascading down over the top of Aulad’s cherry wood casket, cool but not too cold for a November day. But my heart broke for Aulad’s mother who sat up front and to the right, weeping quietly to herself over the death of her only son. She traded her usual stylish American clothing for a long black abaya with a matching hijab and sunglasses. I wish I could so badly be of some comfort to her but I knew better than to properly introduce myself at a time like this. I licked the salty tear that had fallen onto my bottom lip and dapped at the new tears that started to wail up again. Kara squeezed my hand tight in sympathy as she too had lost a friend.
I shifted my foot from the discomfort of shoes I had not worn since my high school graduation. It was weird being in this house, with all these people at a time like this. I had so many memories of Aulad and me, cuddling on the very couch that a few of his family members were crying on. “Alicia, I’m so sorry. I–I still can’t believe Aulad is gone”, Kara’s pale blue eyes were filled with pain, surrounded by swollen tanned flesh that stood out against the redness of her eyes and the strawberry blond of her hair. “I-I, there’s just no words I c-can’t–”, I cried. I felt Kara’s thin arms wrap around me with just a hint of warmth. I accepted her embrace but it felt empty. I wanted to slump to the floor and die from the heartbreak, anything to make this feeling disappear like a bad dream.
Just then, I felt another hand on my back causing us to release our embrace. I turned to look at Mrs. Shadid, Aulad’s mother. She was a strikingly beautiful woman with jet black hair usually worn out that fell past her shoulders, always looking perfect for her naturally tan skin. Although Mrs. Shadid and I met a couple of times in passing, and while she was always kind, Mrs. Shadid never went out her way to talk to me or get to know me. Today, her 50-year-old face was filled with grief but a hint of a smile crept up into the tiny corners of her mouth.
“Alicia, may I speak to you in privet?” She asked.
My heart fluttered with nervousness at the sound of her saying my name and actually talking to me.
“Yes”, I said softly. “I’ll be back”, I muttered to Kara.
I followed Mrs. Shadid up the stairs into the hallway of her two-story brick home. I tried not to look at her with pity as she was now alone with a husband and a child gone.
“Alicia. . . I’m sure Aulad would have wanted me to do this for you, I– I kept his room like it was, except for the bedding of c–course”, she said softly with sadness in every word she spoke. “Stay for as long as you want and take whatever you want, I’m sure he would have wanted you to have . . . excuse me.”
I watched as Mrs. Shadid turned and rushed off into her bedroom and quietly closed the door behind her. A part of me wanted to be there for her but Mrs. Shadid was a no-nonsense kind of woman and I knew better of that too. I reached out to turn the metal doorknob that opened to Aulad’s bedroom, it was cold to the touch and sent tiny shivers through me.
I walked into Aulad’s bedroom with an unwelcoming sense of familiarity. It was odd being in his room by myself knowing that he was never ever going to step foot in this room again. I looked at the college of pictures that covered the large mirror that sat on top of his large chestnut dresser. There were plenty of pictures of me and a couple of other friends and people we both knew, including a bunch of pictures of him. Aulad was creative and talented and had a love for taking pictures as well as being in them.
Wherever there was a camera, Aulad loved being in front of it. I picked up a picture that was taken the day Aulad and his acoustic band Tortured Rosebud, performed their first gig at Gully’s. I studied the smiling faces with the assumptions of bright futures and long happy ever afters. We were all naive for taking precious moments like these for granted. I quickly wiped away a lone tear that had fallen on Aulad’s handsome smiling face. He was a very cute awkward Arabic kid that I fell hard for in junior high school and he turned into one of the most attractive men I had ever met. His handsome dark features would have definitely been a fit for Hollywood. From his full head of thick black massive curls, thick black eyebrows, light brown eyes, strong narrow nose, thick lips and masculine jawline that complimented his neatly trimmed facial hair. But none of that mattered now, he was dead. I picked up one of Aulad’s t-shirts off the floor and inhaled its scent and breathed in deeply. His scent alone was too much for me to endure. I laid back on his bed, in the very spot where he was found and tried to wrap myself up in him once more. I would have given up my life for his. He didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve to die.
Once I arrived in my dorm room at the Cleveland State University, I sat down and emptied everything out of Aulad’s book bag and scattered all of his belongings on my purple and powdered blue butterfly comforter. I organized a couple of photos of the both of us and placed them beside my bed on the nightstand. I was so appreciative of his mother’s kind jester to let me take whatever I wanted. His mixtapes and CDs, old concert tickets, a couple of his t-shirts clean and worn, and a few nicknacks that I displayed around my tiny room in remembrance of him. I left his unique black, blue and green acoustics guitar for his mother to keep. Just as the tears were starting to wail up again there was a soft tap on the door.
“Alicia, it’s just me. Ms. Harrington wanted me to give you Dr. Patrakiz’s card just in case you want to talk. Do you need anything?”
“No thanks Kara, I’m just going to lie down for a bit.”
“Okay. If you need anything, let me know or text me, I’ll be here.”
“Thanks”, I croaked.
The fact that everyone was going to be nice to me and look at me with pity in their eyes was even more devastating. I got up to find something else to wear that was a little brighter in color instead of reminding me that I had just come from my boyfriend’s funeral. After changing into one of Aulad’s favorite blue t-shirt and a pair of blue and red flannel shorts I brushed my tightly coiled hair into a ponytail and climbed into bed hoping to find Aulad in my dreams.
When I woke up, I noticed my room was completely dark and my face was wet. Damn, I was even crying in my sleep. Then I remembered. He was there. In my dreams, singing to me one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard. I cursed myself for not remembering the lyrics but I remembered the tune and the sound of his voice. It was as if, he was trying to comfort me, almost like a lullaby. But why couldn’t I see his face in my dream? It was as if I had fallen asleep to one of his CDs, but I knew every single song he sang, and I had never heard this song before. I laid motionless in the dark trying to imagine the feel of him holding me tightly in his arms telling me that he’s alright. I began to hum the tune quietly to myself over and over again until I drifted back to sleep.
“If you don’t want it, you don’t have to eat it”, Kara offered as she watched me pick my eggs which I’m sure had gotten cold by now.
“Sorry, I’m just not very hungry at the moment”, I muttered frowning at my plate of scrambled eggs, chewy toast and grapefruit slices.
I pushed my plate away from me and slumped down in my chair and allowed warm tears to sting my already burning eyes from lack of sleep and depression.
“Anything I can do?” Kara said pushing her own unfinished eggs to the side.
I shook my head no, unable to speak for I was afraid a scream might escape my lips and cause me to lose total control over myself. I suddenly felt a change in the air, as if someone had turned on the AC in the middle of November. Kara noticed that I had wrapped my arms around my small frame and got up to retrieve a throw from the saggy old couch nearby.
“Thanks”, I whispered.
Kara lingered over me a bit longer before returning to her seat across from me. Silence. Should I tell her? I was never one to keep secrets from my good friend Kara so I decided to tell her.
I cleared my throat before I spoke, “Kara? I dreamt about him last night. It was not like a regular dream, though it was more like . . . I don’t know. I don’t even feel like I slept.”
I sat there silently trying to remember what my dream was about but the only thing I could think of was the melody to the lullaby.
“I don’t remember anything about my dream except for his voice. He sang to me.”
Kara smiled, I assumed at the thought of Aulad’s sultry raspy voice that could be as smooth as silk. I smiled too at the thought of this, but even a sliver of happiness couldn’t keep my tears away.
I sighed, “I’m going back to bed, I don’t feel up to doing much right now, maybe later some air will do me some good.” I smiled to give Kara a little bit of reassurance but I knew my unsuccessful attempt of a believable smile never reached my puffy eyes, so I tried again, “I’ll call Dr. Patrakiz in a couple of hours.”
There. I watched as a glimmer of hope appeared in Kara’s tired pale eyes.
Behind my closed door, I balled into a crumpled mess on the floor. Who knew it would hurt this bad, losing my best friend, my lover, my reason and my excuse for everything. The definition of me. I’ve known Aulad my whole teenage life and I knew everything there was to know about him and all I had left was empty trinkets that could never bring him back. I slowly mustered the energy to rise to my feet and slumped towards my bathroom. At least if I dream, I could see him. I reached for a small plastic bottle of sleep aids that I kept for nights when I couldn’t sleep. Two should do it, but why not three. If I die, at least I’ll be with Aulad. I filled a nearby cup halfway with lukewarm tap water knowing that I wasn’t going to die from ingesting the three blue pills, but the thought was kind of comforting. I caught a glimpse of a sad me in the mirror. My short coiled hair had slightly escaped it’s elastic, my eyes were swollen and red and my cinnamon skin was stained with new and old dried up tears. I didn’t care enough to do anything about my appearance, instead, I headed straight for my unmade twin bed. As soon as I climbed into bed I pulled the covers up over my head.
“Aulad, why did you leave me? You were loved so much. I love you. If you can hear me give me a sign”, I pleaded.
I listened in silence while I waited for even the tiniest sound. I waited and waited and waited but I heard nothing. I felt my throat close and my eyes water up again. This time there was no holding back. I clutched my chest feeling as if my own heart would explode which only made me cry harder seeing how Aulad died from an undetected heart condition. By miracle or self-medication, I felt myself easing into a deep sleep keeping Aulad’s healthy image in my mind as I began to drift off.
I did hear him. I sat straight up in bed fumbling with the light switch on my table lamp beside me.
“Aulad! Aulad!” I cried out.
I swear I just heard him singing that same lullaby I heard before. He was right there, right in my ear! But how could that be? I stood there in bewilderment ignoring the coolness of the wooden floor against my bare feet.
“Aulad, I heard you. I heard you singing to me. I know you’re there.”
Silence. I felt my shoulder hunch over in disappointment. I felt ridiculous, I knew that there was no way Aulad could be here, but I thought I remembered someone saying something about your loved ones can contact you in your sleep. I breathed heavily with disappointment. I’m sure if Aulad was here, he would have let me know of his presence.
“I love you Aulad.”
I looked over at the pictures that I took from Aulad’s room. They were still in the same spot I left them in, along with the other things scattered about the room.
“He’s not coming back, is he?”
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Copyright© 2016 Brittany A.L.