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Monday, 27 September 2010

the visitation

Occasionally, often never enough, I visit the khabrestaan
.
Among the rock-beds of strangers and loved ones, all at one for death, rest the remains of my beloved mother.

On the occasion of my last visit to her grave-side, I encounter Esa.

I know Esa in passing, and approach him as -- most do -- the resident neighbourhood eccentric

The  exchange, de rigueur, complete, not always easily accomplished with Esa, it occurs to me, in the emboldened state purchased at having looked the dead in the eye, to risk enquiring, further, his purpose at this staid, old jaunt. At lunch-time on a Sunday.

Vacant. "My son's buried here".

Both involuntarily still.

"He was killed, a few years back, returning from a party celebrating his high-school final year".

Stopping short, I imagine him sparing me. "You didn't know?"

"Everyone knew. They, you, should do. There were three of them, kids still, in that accursed car, that night, starless and bible-black*. At the prime of their lives".

"... Allah knows best", he might conclude.

In a moment's reckoning, I understand that eccentric is an easy way of maybe saying, t/here's good cause for him being, if he is, unhinged.

Meaningfully -- defeated, to be sure-- I splutter, quietly.

"So... you come to visit...", searching for the right phrase, not sure to use 'him' or 'his grave' or 'your son' or your 'son's grave', ".., like every week -- every Sunday?"

"Well", he smiles, "he  won't visit me now, will he?"

No. I aver .

We part with the salaam, hands clasped briefly, then observe -- there's nothing else to be done -- slowly, deliberately, his making his way to his son's tender grave.

Esa is clean, shaven, kufya purposefully on. Shoulders hunched, in his Sunday best, the conversation with his son fragrant with the evergreens he bears for the visit.