Lost teas / March 2014 (Issue 23)


by Fehmida Zakeer

Dawn. Saturday.

The muezzin's call seeps through the cool air. Prayer is better than sleep. It creeps past the small gaps of the windows and knocks against her ears. She opens her eyes and sits up. Her feet grope for slippers under the bed. Eyes half-closed she walks to the bathroom. After washing, she opens the tap again. Bismillahi rahmani raheem. In the name of God most beneficent, most merciful. She whispers and washes thrice—palms, mouth, face, forehead, forearms, ears, ankles, feet. She steps out of the bathroom. Takes the prayer mat. Her husband stirs just as she ties the white head-cover. He opens his eyes. She slips the long white gown over her head. He gets up.

She does the optional two rounds first. Raise arms, fold them over chest, recite—short chapters for this round. Bow down to the knees, stand up, say a verse, go all the way down, prostrate with forehead on the ground. Surrender completely to the divine power, creator of the world. Stand up and repeat the steps until the next prostration. Sit up, lean back on the ankles, recite and then turn face right, then left. Water splashes in the bathroom. Her husband's performing the ritual ablution. She gets up. The compulsory two rounds now. She lifts her hands and folds them, recites verses—longer ones this time. The bathroom door opens. A few seconds later, he's out of the house, towards the mosque for his morning prayers.

Prayer over, she walks to the kitchen, wipes the counters, the stove. Then reaches for the kettle. One, two, three cups of water. She fills as if on autopilot. She takes out the teabags, the sugar jar, the milk powder. Takes out a cup from the shelf, washes it. The kettle whistles. She rests a teabag in the cup, drops a spoonful of sugar. She lifts her head and looks through the curtain flapping over the window she had forgotten to close last night. Men wearing white caps are returning from the mosque, in ones, twos—fathers and sons, some walking, some on scooters, some in cars. Her husband will be back soon. As if on cue, the gate whines open. She lifts the kettle, steam rises up and hits her nostrils. The front door opens. She spoons the milk powder. When she takes the cup to him, he is reclining on the armchair, newspaper placed across his legs, eyes closed.

"Tea," she says.

He lifts his hand and reaches for the cup.

She goes back, takes out two more cups. The rumble of the train, heavy and slow, and two warning hoots, signals its departure from the station. She looks at the clock placed on the top shelf. 6 a.m. Seven minutes for the bell to chime, for her son to arrive. Routine of two years, routine expected for two more years, until graduation. She washes the cups and keeps them on the counter and places the teabags and spoons in the sugar. She lifts the kettle and fills one cup, a swirl of red rises, stark against the white of the ceramic mug. Her hand moves, the kettle hovers above the next cup, one drop of hot water, a steaming teardrop, falls. Her eyes glaze and travel automatically to the clock. Eight minutes past six. The bell does not ring. Her son is not coming home. Ever.


Editors' note: "Accident" was first published in the Spring 2012 issue of Rose and Thorn Journal, which has ceased publication.

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