Thursday, November 27, 2003

Grief is a person at their most honest. I sit on the floor, huddled against the white of the shiny half-enameled wall- paint that’s easy to clean sticky grandchild fingerprints and muddy hands off. Cold seeps through the thin carpet and I can only look at the white-swathed corpse in short, furtive glances, as if I were intruding on his privacy by staring at the shock of white beard, the high forehead darkened in the centre by namaaz, the stillness of his face itself. It’s a little frightening. There is a pungent smell in the air, roses and something else I cannot identify, mixing itself with the sunny blue sky outside to create a familiar sense of unreality. And the faces that surround me are somehow beautiful in their stark sorrow. There is no pretense left in the wideness of their unnaturally bright eyes, the uncertain curve of their mouths, the way their fingers lie twined and helpless in their laps; there is no self-consciousness in the way they wipe away tears with their fingers, blow their noses with pink toilet roll or huddle in a protective cluster around him. For a while, it doesn't matter anymore. I pull my shawl closer about my ears to better hide the gold hoops I’m wearing for Eid and I am reminded of the last time I held someone’s hand in the same desperate clutch- so tight, as if she could draw life and strength out of my palm and into hers. Aunty sits in front of me and to a backdrop of muffled sobs and reddened eyes she stares at her father, and I wonder what she is saying to him behind the misery of her sphinx eyes as she gently, with a tender hand, adjusts the sheet around his face and kisses his cheek.

Mina at 6:34 PM