One day this happened, what I had never expected. A letter came addressed to me. The addressee was unknown. It was a very familiar smell that I got when I opened the letter. It was the musk of the soil. A soil that was very familiar to me. A musk that I grew up around. I could smell some rain in it too. It felt like someone just came over to visit me from my childhood. I never expected a letter from my childhood. I was surprised to my core and I had no idea how to respond or react my inner emotions. Putting the letter on the table, for a long time I kept looking at it while smoking a cigarette. My wonderments were racing all over the place. I didn’t know how to or what to expect from that letter.
Who could be writing me a letter? Who could it be that doesn’t want to give me a call instead? My dad never wrote a letter to me, let alone a letter he never talked to me when I was there with him. The last conversation that I remember was that he told me that I should leave the house. A wall of pride shattered into pieces that day. That was the first abandonment I felt in my life. When mom died, I didn’t feel so hurt as much as I felt hurt and broken that day. I put the letter aside and went out for a walk as my anxiety was kicking in and I didn’t want that anxiety to get any worse by reading that letter. I walked the streets for a couple of hours and was dreading to go back home. I was haunted by the idea of entering home and that letter on the table would be staring at me. I wish I had someone with me at that time who could read the letter for me and let me know in few words that ‘its alright’.
Could it be one of my sisters? May be, but they had contacted me through Facebook before, I am sure if they wanted to tell me something important, they could have used it again. Was I never close to anyone of them that they couldn’t pick up a phone and make a call to me? But then they probably didn’t have my American number, as I made sure I wouldn’t give it to anyone so they could not reach me whatsoever. But how in the world would they get the address. What could possibly they have to say after all these years. Are they sorry? I highly doubt that. Especially if it is the elder one, she never say sorry. Younger one couldn’t have dared write me a letter without the elder’s permission and if she did they must have vet through it and whatever is there in the letter is not her words, its their’s.
Could it be him? Probably! He is very likely to write letters. His un-confrontational attitude could have made it possible that he wrote me a letter instead of making a phone call. He has written my quite a few letters and notes in the past so I believe he is trying to get my attention again since I haven’t given it to him in a very long time now. Most of his letters/notes had been rhetorical, primarily because of his fears. I don’t know why wouldn’t he want to listen to what I have to say. What I understood was that he was too scared of what I had to say because mostly my words were like mirrors and he used to see something which he didn’t like. I know this for a fact because he has told me that in one of his letters. His exact words were; “I usually don’t agree with what you say and then I get upset because I know what you are saying is true, and then I get repulsed by myself”. I seriously wish this letter was not from him. After all this time he should have grown slightly mature especially after all the rehab and recovery. But you know what; the most important steps of recovery from the twelve of them are eight and nine. Without amends, no one can ever recover. One can run away from people, but one can never run away from his/her own conscience. So is this letter a way to make way into his amends? I don’t know…
Who is left? My mom? A letter coming from somewhere up there might be really weird if that happens, and I really do not believe we have reached to that level of technology where any mail from heaven could come to us. So that was not really a possibility that crossed my mind to be very honest, although it would have been really nice. I haven’t heard from her since November 2004.
But the smell of paper coming from the letter wasn’t suggesting that this letter was sent from within America. To be very honest, as the time was passing I was getting more and more sure that this letter didn’t even come from Pakistan. But this musk was so familiar.
So I decided to go back home and find out for myself. So when I got home, the letter was still laying there. I sat down, and started opening it. My heartbeat was racing as I was opening it. As soon as I opened the letter and read a first few words, my anxiety and surprise went all down the drain. The letter was from me.
Hi Self, I am sure you must be really surprised to see this letter. You must be thinking why would you write yourself a letter. But let me tell you, sometimes the answers that we are looking for already exist in our mind. All that we have to do is just look into ourselves. I noticed that you were not doing that for quite sometime so I thought I will have to write you a letter so you can read this anytime you are getting off the track.
I am not going to give you any advices or a lecture over how to live a life. I am only going to tell you a story. It is not a very long story, nor it is very old. Its your own story just a couple of years ago.
It was a sunny afternoon of January. Karachi doesn’t get too cold in the winters. You were sitting on the back seat of a car and going for a client meeting when two guys on a motorbike stopped your car. Instead of coming to the driver or passenger seat of the car where your colleagues were sitting the person with the gun came directly to your window. He wanted to take you out of the car. You didn’t know if he wanted to kill you or kidnap you. It was all happening in fraction of few seconds that it was impossible for you or your colleagues to comprehend what exactly what happening. You were lucky that the traffic cleared up and your colleague got you and other guy out of that situation and rushed you guys to a nearby cop car. By the time you got to the cop car, your mind had already figured out exactly what was happening. In your head and heart you knew those people were not there to get any mobiles/laptops from the car, they were there for you. They either wanted to kill you at the spot, or they wanted to kidnap you, get all the money that you transferred in your account, and then kill you. The money that you got a few weeks ago from selling the property that was given to you by your mom when she was alive.
When you guys were safe, your colleagues started asking you if what just happened. They were still not being able to understand why was this incident that just happened so different from a very usual street crime that happens tens of times a day on the streets of Karachi. Why didn’t they just walk up to the driver, put a gun to his head, and ask for all the mobiles, laptops and wallets in the car? You were too shocked and overwhelmed with the situation, but you still managed to come up with an excuse that “may be because all the laptops were laying next to you on the back seat, that is why, they were focusing on you, and if there was any other agenda that they had, you had no clue about it”. They talked about going to police and filing a report about this incident and you talked them out of it because you knew if this situation went to police, they would investigate, and the people who wanted you dead/kidnaped were influential enough to use police against you and get what they wanted. ‘People’ in this case was your family! You knew they were capable of doing something like this.
That night laying in bed you made yourself a promise, you are getting out of this country. Next thing on your mind was applying for US visa so that you can get out of that country and will never have to look over your shoulder ever again. I cannot stress enough on this how your higher powers intervened in getting a US visa, which is considered one of the most difficult visas to get in that country, but you got in the first attempt. You cannot forget how you spent the next month and a half packing up your whole life in two suitcases and flying out of the country and came to America.
You cannot forget this date, March 19, 2014. It was 3AM when you were sitting outside the Jinnah International Airport with two very close friends of yours who were there to drop you. They were sad and telling you NOT to go in every other statement that they were making. You know very well how much you wanted to NOT go, but what they didn’t know and you know was your life that you had spent. By the time you got through the immigration and was waiting in the CIP lounge, it was almost 6:00AM. It was getting bright outside, it was the dawn of your new life. You remember when the pilot said the words “we are ready to take off” your heart skipped a beat. It was in that moment you told yourself that you were about to take off from the ground of the land where you grew up and spent your entire life, and that you are never touching that ground again.
You being an aviation geek, always take the window seat. As the airplane rose and was approaching the clifton beach, you looked down and tried finding your house as you knew that all the international flights that are leaving Pakistani airspace always fly over your house because you used to live only 5 minute walk away from the beach. You found it, and several tears ran down your eyes. I don’t think you can ever be able to explain this to anyone how you felt in that moment. You cried for a long time, almost until you were about to land at Dubai International Airport.
After a few hours layover in Dubai, almost 20 hours later as your aircraft was making its final approach towards the runway of JFK International Airport. You were sitting on the window seat looking at the ocean which was getting closer and closer. All of the sudden you saw the land. Do you remember the feelings that you had when you looked at the land of free, the soil of United States of America, for the first time? Do you remember that feeling of feeling safe? Being a Pakistani national entering United States for the first time, you had so much anxiety/fear for going through the tedious immigration process. Those three hours of immigration process were rough, but the feeling of being safe and not looking over your shoulder was quite worth it. After being inside the airports and aircrafts for almost 23 hours, you were dying to have a cigarette. That first breath you took in the cold March evening of New York is something that you should never forget. That was not the breath of your freedom, that was the breath resultant of your strength.
Who does that Self? Only a person who is strong enough like you were can do this. A country where you knew no one, a country which might never accept you, you left all your life behind, burned all the bridges/boats and came to the land of free to be free. To live a life the way you wanted it to be. Tell this story to anyone and they will tell you that only a strong person like yourself can do this. Remember when you told this story to your shrink, she told you that “I have never told this to anyone, but you actually are an inspiration”.
But then what happened to that strong person? For something as ridiculous as a disgusting addiction and your mental obsession you were going to kill yourself? That was not the Self, who fought the whole world, gave up so much to be honest to yourself, flew all the way from other side of the globe and came to America to live a life you always wanted to live. I want you to promise me Self, that you are going to wake up every morning, stand in front of your bathroom mirror and tell yourself this story time and again and tell yourself how strong a person you are. This strength is a gift that you have that no super hero that you have known possess. This is the story that you need to tell all those people whom you think are going to give their lives away just because they are under the grip of their addictions/obsessions and are being unable to see that strong person in the mirror.
I cannot say no more, I cannot stress enough on the fact that you need to know how strong you are, and no matter how many times you tell yourself that, it is never going to be enough. I am going to sign out at this note: You have made choices, great choices in your life. Just because some of them were not too great, doesn’t mean you have right to kill that super human that is in you. You have said this many times yourself; “we always have choices, but we should only make the ones, that we can live with”.
Have a great life Self.
I put the letter away, looked at the horizon outside the window, and told myself;
I love you Self.