“It’s an emergency,” Gohar said. Hina, Amani and Gohar were on a group call that Gohar had suddenly arranged out of nowhere.
“What happened?” Hina asked.
“My parents started looking for someone for me already,” Gohar said. “I overheard them discussing some potential profiles yesterday.”
“Isn’t it too soon?” Amani asked. “You barely had your engagement broken. They seem to be in a hurry to get you engaged again.”
“I know, I know,” Gohar said. “It’s no use trying to change their minds. They want to get it done as soon as possible.”
“Maybe they think that getting a new person in your life will help you get over J—I mean, they think it will help you,” Hina said.
“How will it help her?” Amani asked. “She’s clearly still stuck on Jamil. How can she entertain the idea of anyone else right now?”
“You’re kind, Amani,” said Gohar, “but it looks like I will have to entertain the idea of someone else. It’s not like I’m going to get Jamil back...” She sighed. Then she sighed again, a huge sigh that turned into a sob.
“Gohar,” Amani and Hina said at once. Gohar continued to cry. The girls let Gohar cry for a while, then Hina spoke up. “Gohar, you need to let it all out,” she said. “You can’t keep crying over Jamil.”
“Yeah, let it out,” Amani said. “Yell ‘Jamil is over’.”
“What?” Gohar sounded confused.
“You heard me,” Amani said. “We’ll turn down the volume of the call so you don’t fry our ears. Go ahead. Shout. ‘Jamil is over’. You need to get it out of your system.”
“I can’t say that,” Gohar said.
“Why?” Hina asked.
“If I say that, then...” Gohar’s voice shook. “That will make it real. It will be final, and I can’t take it back.”
“That’s exactly why I’m asking you to do it,” Amani said. “You need to start yelling right now.”
“I can’t do that to him,” Gohar said in a small voice.
“He’s gone! He’s history!” Amani’s voice rose. “You need to leave history where it belongs, in the past!”
“It’ll be like losing him all over again,” Gohar said through several sobs. “At least this way I still have the idea of him.”
“Listen to her, just listen to her,” Amani said heatedly. “You’re still talking about ‘the idea of him’. There’s nothing left, Gohar! No person, and no idea! You need to let go!”
“You can’t stop me from remembering him,” Gohar said, suddenly firm.
“You can remember him all you want,” Amani said, “as part of the past. In the present, you need to let him out of your reality.”
“He was my reality for years!” Gohar was getting worked up. “I can’t suddenly kick him out of my reality now!”
“Good, good!” Amani sounded optimistic. “That’s the spirit! Let’s get some yelling out of you.” Gohar remained silent. “I want you to kick Jamil out,” she added.
“I—WON’T!” came the reply. Hina held the phone a bit further away from her ear.
“What are you going to do?” Amani asked.
“I won’t kick him out!” Gohar said.
“What won’t you do?” Amani said.
“Kick him out!” Gohar said.
“Gohar!” Amani said.
“Amani!” Gohar said.
“Jamil!” Hina said.
“It’s no use, I won’t kick him out,” Gohar said.
“Jamil!” Amani caught on to what Hina was doing.
“Stop saying his name!” Gohar breathed heavily into the phone. “You have no right to say his name like that! He’s mine! You two need to remember that.”
“He’s not yours!” Hina started up the next chant.
“He’s not yours!” Amani joined in.
“I hate you both,” Gohar said. She disconnected from the call. Amani and Hina remained silent on the line. In another minute, Gohar sent a request to rejoin the call. Once admitted, she said in a more even tone, “I said it.”
“You said it to yourself?” Hina asked.
“You need to say it out loud to us,” Amani said.
“I said it when it first happened,” Gohar said. “I said to myself, ‘It’s over and Jamil is gone’.”
Silence fell again. Finally, Amani spoke up. “You just said it again.”
“I did not! I was quoting myself!” Gohar said.
“What were you quoting?” Amani asked.
“I was quoting myself when I said that Jamil is gone,” Gohar said quickly.
“Good, good,” Amani said. “Say it again one more time.”
Silence. They could hear Gohar crying. Then Gohar said, “Jamil is gone.”
“Good!” Amani said.
“It’s the worst,” Gohar said, “because Jamil is gone!”
“That’s it,” Amani said.
“You don’t get it,” Gohar said. “He’s GONE! He’s gone, and he’s never coming back!” She took a deep shuddering breath. “I haven’t said this since it first happened. Now I said it, and it’s final.”
“That’s good,” Amani said. “That’s how it should be.”
“Amani kept going at Gohar to say that Jamil was gone.” Hina had, of course, immediately gone to Ray to tell him what happened.
Ray, who had been using his laptop at his desk, kept staring into the laptop screen. Then he said, “Her parents have definitely started looking again, huh.”
Hina looked at him, bent over the laptop with one hand still on the mouse. “Are you going to tell me that you were going to recommend her to some of your friends?” she asked. “There’s still time. We don’t know if her parents have decided on any of the potential marriage candidates they’re looking at currently. We could still get one of your friends in.”
Ray leaned back in his chair, still staring at the laptop screen. “Yeah,” he said. He shook himself and sat up straight. “You’re right, the time is now.”
“Aren’t you eager to play matchmaker?” Hina said.
Ray turned around to face Hina, looking her in the eyes. He smiled. “On the contrary, you’re the one who’s playing matchmaker,” he said.
“What do you mean, Ray?” Hina asked.
“I said what I said.” Ray pushed the chair back from the desk. “I need to talk to Ammi. I’ll talk to you later.”
“You’re sure in a rush,” Hina said as Ray got up and walked to the door.
Ray turned around, one hand on the doorknob. “I have never taken so much time to think about something in my life,” he said, opening the door and stepping into the hall.
To be continued...