May 12, 2009
Tomorrow, after my presentation, if all goes well I should be able to go down to the book store and buy the blue gown. And when I realized that, I was so very-happy-happy. Until I remember what-I-wonder-how-I-managed-to-forget and the pain that comes with the memory is so devastating that I'm curled up in my bed, in a little ball, wondering if I have the strength left to breathe. I close my eyes and I remember another walk, at another time, in another place. In 2005, in Lahore, when I graduated from LUMS and Musharraf came to my convocation. And I remember how they made you wait, and wait, and wait sitting in the audience waiting for all the formalities to get over so you could make it to the extra ceremony where us common people (those who didn't get the gold medal in whatever-it-was-they-got-the-gold-medals-in) went on stage to get the empty envelope that didn't have our degree. And you took pictures. Of me, and all my friends who walked on stage. And you were so proud of me. So very-very proud. I remember you wore a suit, and a tie, and you looked so handsome. And I remember how you grumbled about putting it on because you hate suits, and you hate ties. And I kept joking about how you'd have to end up wearing a tie for my wedding, because I refused to get married if you didn't wear a suit to my shaadi. You said, you would. Because you would do anything to make me happy. But we didn't make it to my wedding. I remember the day I got my fulbright letter. I stalked the postman all morning and when he showed up and said he'd delivered a parcel back home I drove back to get it. But because I didn't have the courage to open it I picked it up and drove right back to your office and gave you the sealed packet and asked you to open it for me. Because if you opened it, it would have to be good news. You called my mom down and then both of you opened it. And we celebrated. I remember the first time I went home and I got you the camera I couldn't really afford to get, a Nikon SLR. The one you unwrapped with the same kind of care and abject fascination on your face that a child unwraps a particularly precious toy. I remember the look on your face when you saw it for the first time. And I thought, screw the money, I'd have bought you something a hundred times more expensive just to see you look like that for five minutes. I mentally promised myself that the day I could afford it I'd buy you a really, really expensive car. But we never made it that far. Next week, if I walk down the low library steps wearing Columbia's sky blue gown, I wonder how it'll feel knowing that you're not there. You're not sitting in the audience waiting patiently through the crappy speeches, giant-sized camera in hand waiting for the thirty seconds when your daughter walks across a stage to accept her degree. You're not there to hug me when I get down and tell me how proud you are of me. You're not there to buy me a shiny, expensive present and watch me delight in the extravagance combined with delight in my own achievements. You're not there. You're not there. You're not there. And you never will be again.