He now had a piercing on his eyebrow. The slim metal ring stared at Talal’s mother, taunting her. He shaved the beard the first chance he got, it said. He had sex with girls and boys both.
It was strange for a boy like Talal to act out like that. Hadn’t his parents given him everything? His father had never objected to his interest in music. They even got him a guitar which he took with him to New York. Their boy was studying journalism in NYU. The Abids were proud even if it wasn’t the same as Talal getting into some medical university in Lahore. Of course kids should pick their own careers. Some kids pick software engineering. Gulshan Khala’s son? He went to some great university in Germany on full scholarship. He is even engaged to be married in a year or so. Is there a girl you like? Talal’s mother hoped, more than she hoped for anything else, that her son still liked girls.
Talal had gotten silent ever since he came back home to visit. His eyebrow piercing, ripped jeans and fiddling thumbs seemed to do the talking. His mother asked if he’d like to have his favorite brown daal with rice and he said yes. He only ate a few spoons of it and she saw him munching on Doritos later. That was alright. His younger brother liked those too.
Something was different about Talal. He was shy around his mother but nervous around his father. Every time she saw them having a conversation, his mother hoped to god Talal wouldn’t say something which would ruin them all. His father would ask, “What are your future plans?” Talal would shrug. He didn’t know. He still had a year of undergrad left. He was looking at some jobs. His mother knew that wasn’t what Talal’s father was asking. She wondered what Talal really wanted to say. Did he plan to get married to a girl? Did he plan to get married at all.
She had a terrible scare on the breakfast table. Talal’s father remarked, “There’s some change in you. I don’t know what it is…”
The piercing smirked at Talal’s mother. That’s it, it laughed, he’s caught. She held her breath. Talal swallowed his bite of paratha and waited for his father to complete his thought. “Did you get a haircut?” His father asked.
Talal’s mother didn’t understand if her fears made any sense. She had been hearing too many things. Of course her son was the same. A bit foreign, yes. A bit strange. But more or less the same. Still, she told him she had found someone for him. Her friend who lived next to Barkat Market? Her daughter is the perfect girl. He’ll be happy with her. Talal nodded and his mother felt better.