Trigger Warning: Sensitive content ahead.
We were at Daawat. The new restaurant in the Old Food Street, you know? It was dinner time. We ordered Sheeshtu Boti and the Laal Handi. The food tasted amazing. We ordered Gajar ka Halwa in desert. Kept it real traditional, sitting at the roof top in front of Badshahi Masjid. She wore a short a chooridaar pajama under a yellow kameez with patches of orange flowery embroidery spewed here and there. She was always wearing the same kind of shit from the same designers. Sana Safinaz and Agha Noor on the good days, and Khaadi and Sapphire on the OK ones. Today was a good day. She knew it. That’s why she curled her hair and even put on eye liner. She couldn’t do makeup for shit but she tried for my sake. We were in love.
“You look extra handsome in shalwaar kurta.” She winked at me. We were comfortable enough so she was alright with saying things like that. Hell, she even told her parents about me. She didn’t have to. Not like they were going to meet me or get to know about me. They lived in Karachi while we were in Lahore. It was our last semester in college.
I told her she looked great too. Frankly, she could have chosen a better lipstick color.
“What’s the occasion?” She asked after swallowing a bite of the hot halwa, her eyes watering a little.
I pretended to have burnt my tongue too, buying myself time. “You know,” I sipped my glass of water, “just because. It had been some time.” A shit response. She could tell.
“So you’re telling me that you brought me out for dinner on a Thursday night just…because?” She smiled playfully. God, she was already anticipating it. There was no point in delaying it then.
I asked her to follow me to the roof top…above the roof top. It was a small place, enclosed from three sides and open from the side opposite the Badshahi Mosque. The construction wasn’t complete and it was dangerous going up there but my friend’s father owned the place so I called some favors in and got that little dangerous spot set up. It was so perfect, man. They set up the lights and the balloons and put on Taylor Swift on the portable speaker I’s provided. She was a Taylor Swift fan so it made sense. Can you believe it? Taylor Swif-
Anyway. It was perfect. Nobody could see us. I asked her to close her eyes. Had my hands covering them as we went up the stairs. Usually, she would’ve freaked. “Your hands covering my eyes as we climb some dodgy stairs? No way!” She would say. But she knew what was coming so she didn’t protest once. Taylor Swift’s Our Song pretty much told her what was up before I asked her to open her eyes.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” She freaked. “You’re…we’re really doing this!” She jumped into my arms. I hugged her back. Honestly, I really needed the comfort.
I backed up a little and looked into her eyes. They were gleaming. She was going to cry. “I promised you this day would come. I had to fulfill my promise.” She giggled and a tear fell down her cheek.
I took her by the hand and walked her over to the center of the little roof. We both just stood there, trying to spot that fine line where the dark sky met the scattered lights beneath us while Taylor kept singing our song. TheShe kept her head onto my shoulder. It was beautiful. I had goosebumps on my arms and I really wished to roll my kurta sleeves down but she didn’t find that attractive so I let them be. Instead I retrieved what I needed from my pocket and took a deep breath. It was time to pop the question.
“Natalia…” I whispered. My voice was shaking, man, I was so nervous.
She leaned back, bracing herself. I cleared my throat and tried again. “Natalia…I…I love you. I can’t imagine my life without you. And…I…” She could tell it was tough for me.
“You don’t have to say it,” she said, “I know. I love you too. You’ve no idea how long I’ve waited for this day. I’m so glad I can have it with you.” Tears were in full flow now. The silent kind. Tears of happiness, you know?
Her gaze went to my hand and she looked back at me questioningly.
“Um yeah,” I nodded, “this is a little something I thought of.”
I handed her a blindfold and kept one for myself. “This will make it easier. We can just…dance until…we cannot anymore.”
She laughed abruptly and more tears fell down to her neck, forming a trail to her cleavage. Her laughter stopped as abruptly as it had started as she followed my gaze to her chest. She took her orange chiffon dupatta off from her shoulder and wiped her face clean. Her eye liner got smudged. So did her lipstick. She suddenly looked great, man. She looked so real. It was like all that time she was just made up and now was the first time I’d seen the real her. It was just…something.
She pulled her dupatta on to her head. Covered it up real good. I couldn’t see a single curl left out. It was like she was preparing for a ritual. And I guess she was. She put on the blindfold over her dupatta. The song changed to Taylor’s Ours. I put my blindfold on too.
It went dark too fast. I extended my arm and felt around air to find her hand as my eyes adjusted to the new dark. She was looking for me too. I pulled her closer, one hand on her waist, the other grasping her hand. I could make out a soft silhouette as I brought her nearer to me. We swayed, holding each other close, not daring to move more than an inch. Our bodies were shaking. We were shivering. Hell, my blindfold was wet with tears. I could hear her quiet sobs too.
I don’t know what gave me strength. Maybe it was the music or her body’s warmth, but I dared to move a step behind. She followed suit. A step forward. A little to the right. Then left. Then forward. Forward. Left. Forward. Forward. We knew what we were doing. The more we dared, the braver we felt. Then I released her waist and she rolled a few steps forward only to quickly bump back into my arms. She hugged me tight this time but we didn’t stop swaying. I almost thought it was done. We weren’t going to go through with it. I was wrong. She let go of me and took a step away from me.
“What…where…” I couldn’t form the question.
“Relax,” she was having trouble keeping her voice steady. I just want to dance freely. Let my body loose.”
I didn’t tell her that Ours wasn’t the kind of song you could let loose to even though I wanted to have a final chance to attack Taylor Swift. I also didn’t beg her to hold me again. Didn’t tell her I was terrified. We just kept dancing. I saw her silhouette sway back and forth with me, not quite able to tell what she looked like in that moment. I imagined her arms in the air, eyes closed. The way she used to dance at the rave parties, looking out of place in her shalwar kameez but totally at home and in sync with the music and her agile moves. I imagined what I looked like. Always standing awkwardly beside her. Always watching her. Always not saying the things I wanted to say.
And I was in the middle of imagining all that when her silhouette disappeared. I heard her scream, the screeching sound getting farther away from me with every mini second. I ripped my blindfold off and ran to the edge. From fifteen stories above where she had fallen, I couldn’t even spot her. It was too dark. It was too much.
I could hear people coming upstairs. Or gathering down there. I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I had to make a quick choice. Either I followed her and jumped like we’d planned or I betrayed her and dealt with the mess she had left behind. The choice was luckily made for me. I fainted. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in a hospital room not being able to speak or move a single body part. Took me a few days to recover and here I am, telling you the story of how my girlfriend undulated to her death.
It wasn’t fair. She had to…she died…listening to Taylor Swift. Not goddamn fair.