Expressionless Gestures (Short Story)

He sniffed the enchanting fragrance of the bouquet of roses in his hand as he gently knocked her apartment door. In the other hand, he held a large box of mushroom topped pizza with extra cheese. Her favourite, he thought. The door slowly opened, revealing a woman with visible streaks of greying hair and a grinning face lined with slight wrinkles.

“Happy Birthday, Amma!” he sang with enthusiasm.

His mother’s face lit up and she embraced him in her arms. It isn’t everyday your son comes to visit you after moving to another country, she sighed. Abdul was a young man in his mid-twenties and had moved to Afghanistan to serve his country on another’s border. His mother, Zahra, was the only family he had.

“You’ve grown a beard, and boy! You look older” she poked him in the chest.

“Oh come on! We both know who’s the one ageing here” he joked, while pulling her cheeks.

After dinner, both of them sat on the dining table as Abdul explained how he had been coping with the changes in his life and his mother listened with fascination. They chatted for about an hour when Zahra got up and went to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. While Abdul was observing the changes that took place in the house after he left four years ago, he heard his mother scream.

Upon hearing the panicked shriek, he quickly rushed to the kitchen and found Zahra lying lifeless on the floor in a pool of blood. The kitchen’s window was wide open and a glass lay shattered on the floor, just like his dreams. The floor beneath his feet shook with tremors as he ran to lift his dead mother in his arms. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he cried, shouted, protested, complained and cursed; only to hear silence in response. The night sky seemed to mourn his loss as it shed drops of sadness on the city. Misery surrounded the duo and he laid his head in the crook of his mother’s neck and whispered ‘I love you’, while regretting his delay in the acknowledgment.

‘Cut!’ shouted the director while rising from his seat with a satisfied smile on his face. Zahra got up from her position and complained about the stench of the red gooey liquid lathered on her back. After packing up, Abdul joined Zahra in their favourite ice-cream parlour to relive the memory from four years back.

By Oroosa Anwar

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