By Sonya Rehman
Eight months. Eight long months since my brother’s cancer diagnosis in October. Eight months of grief, fear, strength – emotions that continued in one strange, static loop, again, and again and again.
It’s so strange to be sitting here, typing up this blog post in my pj’s, past 10pm on a weekday, while my brother watches an action flick in his room. The normalcy feels good. It’s a calm night. The knots in my neck and upper back are gone. I went a little crazy using talcum powder (Johnson’s Baby Powder – love it, even at 31) tonight. I smell like a cloud. But I’m happy – wait, scratch that out, it sounds phony. I feel young. A little less burdened. A little more carefree.
What an education; spanning winter to summer. The girl who walked the path with her family through the ordeal is someone I don’t recognize these days, now that I have time to indulge in contemplation (what a luxury). She’s new. But I like her. She’s a little more relaxed. Realistic. Not very bitter. Not very idealistic. She takes care of her feet, and grew her hair out a little too long.
When a loved one suffers, you suddenly realize how insignificant you are, little dots, ants, on this massive, endless, grid called life. When grief hits, you, the jiggly, ignorant piñata, you’re smacked on the head, in the sides, bursting into a million stars, bits of you, flung everywhere.
I felt like that initially. And then, scrambling on all fours, trying to salvage bits of yourself to piece back together, to take on a new, stronger avatar, to hold things together, to hold the fort together.
But I don’t think I could’ve done it without this sweet, maternal circle that formed around my splintered self, like warm honey. Filling in the gaps, the fissures.
Our quest for love, lust and companionship has made the modern woman forget a different kind of love. A platonic love that exists between two women. In wars, in loss, in times of crisis, womenfolk aid each other, patching together a support network to see each other through. We don’t talk or write about those kinds of love stories anymore. But how women carry each other through – it’s very, very pure.
I realize that now. We women take each other for granted too often. But I’m beginning to pause and reflect on the handful of women who held me together, propped my shoulders up when I was too weak to face each day when my brother’s treatment rolled out in a concoction of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, drugs, checkups, body scans, etc.
They featured in my life (and I know, will consistently feature in my life, and I, in theirs) as Best Supporting Actresses in a myriad of roles.
B, in Boston, the virtual therapist, who kept me light, on my toes, M, in Lahore, who barely knew me a few weeks but whisked me off for coffees, dinners, movies, A & A in New York, who constantly called and kept me busy responding to their worried Whatsapp messages, A in Lahore, my little sister, my jaan, who cried with me in her own quiet way, M in Islamabad, that magnanimous girl who stood with me through each day (I kid you not, each day), letting me offload, offload, and offload, Z in Michigan, T & N for feeling my pain (since, coincidentally, and strangely, two of their family members were too, diagnosed with cancer around the same time), S in Dubai who prodded me to start thinking about boys again, and marriage, S in Amsterdam, and of course, Ma, who, well, for everything. And there were more too.
Yes, Prince Charming does exist – he does, I promise you. But not without farts and flaws.
But till then, you, me, us – till we find the idiots, we must remember that happily-ever-after comes in bits and pieces, in the journey leading up to The One, The Wedding, The Consummation of Souls. And in the journey, you will notice a different kind of love, look for it, it’s there – women, who are guiding, leading you, consciously and unconsciously.
Last weekend I met N after a long time. She was in town and we were to meet after consistently exchanging messages of support since both of us had been in the same boat over the past few months. She was staying at Faletti’s – that gorgeous hotel in Lahore that always makes my heart skip a beat.
And as I walked down the hall, past Quaid-e-Azam’s suite, dhols played for a wedding in the distance – dhum dhum dhum, up ahead, at the end of the hall, a large mirror and a vase of fresh flowers, my gait was steady, a warm, burnt yellow glow of the lights above, dhum dhum dhum, bagpipes, hooting, I felt young. I knocked on N’s door.
Paperazzi, Pakistan Today