While the x-ray machine’s processor whirred, and he waited for the films to develop, revealing the extent of Saamiya’s injuries, Aadel thought of his mother. Something about Saamiya, something in her eyes, brought his mother to his mind.
Whenever he thought of his mother, he thought of her eyes first. They had spoken to him as much as the gentle cadence of her voice, giving meaning to her words that always brought more than just clarity to the sentences she would string together to instruct, console, and reward him. Her eyes gave meaning to her words. When he looked into them, the murky brown abyss growing out from each pupil, lightening to the brilliant glow of hazel surrounding the perimeter of each iris, he could not misconstrue her message to him.
How many times he had gazed into her eyes, as she told stories of her grandmother and grandfather, crossing the continent in search of a life free of tyranny, free of constraint, a life with attainable dreams, a rich tapestry of hope interwoven into a society where individual ambitions were not only possible, they were realized daily. How her eyes danced at thoughts of their adventures, their dreams, their accomplishments.
He could see clearly those trials and triumphs, but only through his mother’s eyes. History books could never convey what his mother words had of that revolution. He was glad she could not see what war had done to those ideals that had lit her from the inside out, creating a glow that exuded daily from her essence. Those stories were her history, her inheritance. The present, with fighting militias, daily conflict, violent rebellion, contorted it all into a nightmare.
And while he gave thanks she was spared the gray reality of the present that threatened to swallow him into its caliginous despair, he missed her more each day as his world grew increasingly chaotic. He longed for her guidance, her inner compass always sure of its true North, her directions simple, with her conscience guiding each turn on her journey, and therefore guiding his own. But she had died ten years prior, when he was just 16, her path cut short by cancer, and now he strained to hear her voice through the havoc of a decade.
He often called upon her spirit, asking, What now, madre? Where shall I go?
He could hear her clearly in rare moments, when he silenced his mind and opened his soul to the direction of the universe. But the disarray of the world in which he lived and worked, where he toiled over great labors and celebrated small victories–in this world, the voice of the universe, and thus of his mother, often came to his mind accompanied by great waves of static, the connection to his her worn by years of discord and disappointment.
“Doctor,” the x-ray tech said, interrupting his troubled thoughts of the past and the present, and foremost, his mother’s place in each. “The heat has warped the film. I’m going to have to shoot the rib images again.”
“That’s fine, Juju,” he said, thankful for time to collect himself before returning to his patient. He needed to think. He needed to figure how to help her, for he felt certain that sending her back with her husband equalled death. But about how to help her, he had not formed a plan.
His thoughts returned to his mother. She had always talked to him, even when he had been a small child, in a way that made him feel important, validated. She would lead him to conclusions he was not always sure were his own, but always knew were right. And even when his decisions would disappoint her, she moved beyond it, from the surface of her personal frustration to the deeper lesson that would allow him to grow, rather than shrink, from his mistake.
He tried now to silence his mind from the day’s events: the detour to the clinic caused by the car bomb outside the post office, the barrage of casualties the very same act of terrible defiance brought to his service, the lives he could help save, shattered though they may be, the bodies shredded beyond repair and often beyond recognition. He tried to block out the distraction brought by the uncertainty of his journey home, the certainty that the lights would be out, again. He needed to ignore the distrait these images brought to his mind, to clear the slate and focus on her. Saamiya.
He closed his eyes, the whir of the machine re-shooting her x-rays a background to the self-hypnosis he attempted in order to settle his thoughts, clear mind for his mother’s voice to reach him.
He settled on a memory from secondary school. He had been unsure of the course load to take. One would lead him to the law and the other to medicine. At fourteen, he did not know his mother’s body already housed the cancer that would take her from him, otherwise his choice would have been clear. At the time though, he believed law to be the grander profession, promising a life of prestige leading ultimately politics, a comfortable existence.
“But Madre,” he had told her, unsure if he was trying to convince her or himself of his decision to pursue life ultimately in politics, “Think of what I can do for you with a governor’s salary! Any house you want, a dozen servants, a new dress every week!”
His own eyes had sparkled with dreams of removing her from the musty walls of their small flat, stories above the dirty streets of the city’s littered merchant sector. He imagined her, free of her drab gown, and gray daily shawl, the rare colorful cloth saved only for festivals. Once he was a wealthy man of influence, he would adorn her with silk of myriad colors, bright and vibrant.
“Think of all I can do for you mother,” he had said.
The solemnity of her eyes told him he had miscommunicated, and worse, misjudged. She had placed her small hands squarely on his already-broadening shoulders, and looked up into his eyes, a mirror image of her own.
“Ameeree, use your gifts to reap opportunities to repay the universe, and not the universe to reap the opportunities of your gifts.”
He had looked at her quizzically, unsure of what she was trying to tell him. Then he looked away from her eyes, afraid to disappoint her.
So she had tried a broader approach. “Yes Aadel, my ameeree, but remember, that only in fulfilling your destiny and giving the best of yourself back to the universe, can you truly do all for me.”
He had still felt confused. His face must have quickly imparted his confusion
So she had sat him down, taken his face in her hands, and gently forced him to look into her eyes. “Aadel,” she tried a third time, “In serving others, you house and clothe my soul in radiance and honor.” The brown of her eyes deepened, the halo of hazel seemed to burn, searing into his very soul her meaning.
He had finally understood, and he began his core science courses. A year later, when she was diagnosed with the cancer that would rob him of her, he had wondered then if she knew what fate awaited her, and that only in his goal to become a doctor, would he find true healing at her loss. She had a way of knowing what he needed far before he could even register his current circumstances.
He closed his eyes, pictured her with her hands gently on his face, her eyes searching his, his searching back, and he whispered aloud to her, How do I help her, Madre? How do I help this woman with your eyes?
And more clearly, Do something, as if she sat before him.
- My Burgeoning, Unnamed Novel in Scattered Form: Chapter One (seriouslywritingwoman.wordpress.com)
- My Burgeoning Untitled Novel: Chapter Two (seriouslywritingwoman.wordpress.com)