An Unspoken Apology

FictionIssue Five

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BY SENAJ ALIJEVSKI

 

After countless times of sending my resume to places that were hiring, I finally found one that suited my availability. There were nights I found myself turning to religious texts to understand my situation. The one that I felt the deepest connection with was Surah from the Qur’an. I read Surah Tarik from the Qur’an. This verse became central to the next couple of months. It foreshadowed the events to come. It was something different to what’s expected. This Surah spoke about the star of piercing brightness. The one that will reveal all your secrets.

And what can make you know what the night comer is?

It is the piercing star –

There is no soul but that it has over it a protector.

 

This Surah spoke to my insecurities; calmed my troubled mind. It reminded me we’re all visitors in this life. We all get one opportunity to change our destinies. Like observing a shooting star, it only comes once in a very long time. This was my only opportunity to make the most of what I’d been given.

This person walked into my life on an unexpected occasion. We worked together for a fundraising organisation in Fitzroy, but had never spoken. All I could remember was the hustle and bustle of the trams. The public transport arrived on time, taking people to their unknown destinations. I didn’t know where I was going. It made me feel special knowing that I was different. When I asked a fellow passenger how many stops until mine, they questioned my accent saying that I came from a different part of the world. I felt like a tourist in a place I was supposed to be familiar with. Then I saw Mehmet who, like me stood out in the crowd. Like magnets attracting, our eyes held their gaze into each other’s for a moment too long. He walked towards me and I became nervous – the words I needed to form a sentence just wouldn’t come to my mind.

‘Hi, Medina is it?’

‘Hi Mehmet’, the words finally spill out.

Like something out of a movie, as the tram stopped Mehmet took my hand and led me to an unknown path. After spending some time watching him walk through the office building, I always wondered what his attention would feel like. Mehmet was from overseas, determined to get his visa. I was a citizen looking for a brighter future. We got along well together.

‘I like you, but I don’t know why.’ He said.

‘You’ve just met me.’ I folded my arms.

He became upset when I’d ignored him. We looked into each other’s eyes and saw that hope made us want to stay together. To his understanding I didn’t care about him. He spoke about one of his past loves from overseas.

‘I was in the office one day and she called me after five years’.

‘Do I remind you of her?’

‘No, you don’t’.

After what felt life a lifetime sitting on a park bench talking, learning about each other, Mehmet walked us back to our original destination. After the day at the office, trying not to think of the morning we shared was almost impossible. Walking out of the building, there he was. Standing there in his casual outfit, our eyes met. Mehmet’s bright smile made me approach him. He decided he was taking me out for dinner.

This person had an interesting past. His use of hand gestures as he told me stories showed how passionate he was. His nostalgia gave me the impression that he was the type of person who’d live in the past. It was like what I’d read came to fruition. This person reminded me of the Surah I’d read in the Qur’an. He had all the qualities I looked for in a partner, someone to love. Hours passed as we talked, laughed, and shared life stories. As we were walking in the city streets, lit up from the moons reflection, Mehmet decided to take some photos of me standing behind a bridge.

‘Stay there, behind the silver light.’ Mehmet held a camera.

‘Get in the photo.’ I posed.

Mehmet wasn’t in the picture. He decided to keep out of this situation. I figured out why. Just in case I decided to post the photo on the fundraising organisation’s Facebook page. Why do relationships need to be so complicated?

‘You’re beautiful,’ he whispered as he held a hand to my chin.

It was then, that I saw the shiny band on Mehmet’s fourth finger on his left hand hand.

‘You’re missing your wife,’ I said and pushed my hand away from his.

Mehmet brushed aside the elephant in the room I had addressed. He went on to tell me I wasn’t like the other women he’d met while strolling around the Botanical Gardens for hours. His nervous honesty made me uncomfortable. My hand was still intertwined with his. He didn’t want to let go. Almost as though my hand seeped comforting energy for him. I went along anyway. He spoke about the days when he’d be alone watching the swans glide along the Yarra River. Only then, it didn’t look so polluted when there was a cloudless sky. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the way he’d use the surrounding to flirt with me.

There were two gardens on either side of the path. We walked away from the crowded place. There wasn’t anyone to pry on our secret relationship. Both of us found a park nearby with a large oak tree. Along the path there was a bush full of flowers. It was the Botanical Gardens after all. He led me to a secluded area where we found solace in the alone time. Just the two of us. Not summer, autumn, winter or spring could predict what happened next.

He kissed me with a thirst of a desert that hadn’t seen the rain. After we pulled away for air, I spotted two ladies. One pushed a pram and the other wore active wear. They were muttering something to each other. Feeling anxious, thinking they were looking me at me like a museum exhibit, I pointed it out to him. Mehmet was concentrating on something else; my eyes. I felt his hands shake slightly, almost fidgety. He was short of breath. I paused, my cheeks turning bright red.

He told me, ‘Touch my heart.’

I placed my hand on his chest. There was a thudding sound that sped up with a single touch. This is where love grows and stays.

There was something so deeply attractive about him. The soft-spoken words used, forced its way to my heart. The words he spoke seemed to calm something in him as well. This has got to be wrong I thought; too good to be true. I continued to wonder how such a wonderful person could come into my life.

Then I realised, my instincts where right… It was too good to be true, to have Mehmet to myself. His trembling hands turned into him becoming a shaking mess, as he couldn’t hide his confession any longer.

This day was when he told me he has a wife with two children. He went on to show me a photo of the two children with a bridge in the background. I couldn’t help myself, I looked closer at the photo in his wallet and saw the smallest of the two waving his hand as if to say hi to me.

With that, I felt my face turning crimson. I put my head down. My gaze focused on the ground. I wondered, how I could be so wrong about a person. Why did he do this to me? And why would he continue to pursue me even if it meant that was the last time I was going to see him. The thoughts ran like wildfire. I must be going crazy. My mind broke out of its spiel for a fraction of a second where I decided it was time for me to leave, and for us not to speak to each other again.

Despite the brisk chill in the air, Mehmet took off his blue beanie and his hair was flat like mine. We both couldn’t help but laugh when I made this observation. Somehow I could always manage to find the silliness in daft situations.

Mehmet convinced me he should join me as I walked to the train station; it was late after all. We walked towards Flinders street station with our 7-11 coffee. As upset as I was to learn the truth about Mehmet, I managed to summon a final goodbye, though there was nothing final about it. I would see him around the office every other day. Nevertheless, I got onto my train, teary eyed and sniffling. Everybody in the carriage turned to look at me. I blushed in a way to show my indignation at the situation. After what felt like hours, I reached the front door to my house. A couple of moments later my phone buzzed.

Have you reached home safely?

Yes, I’m home with my family.

I closed the case of my phone.

We became different in our approaches to avoiding the truth. The last thing we wanted was to lose a sense of time and place. Both of us were unrealistic about our future together; he wanted more, I couldn’t pursue someone’s husband. It took more than half a month of Ramadan to come to that decision. What made me change from my usual behaviour to a disturbed character of silence? Catching his eye as we walked past each other in the office, I would bite my tongue so as not to tell him I miss our conversations. He looked as though he were holding back the urge to tell me the same thing. Only the silence filled the void between us.

A couple of weeks had passed when the memo of Mehmet’s farewell came around the office. He didn’t give much information about why he was leaving. In learning of his departure a short stab in my chest told me I was going to miss him. Acting on it or telling him this, didn’t seem like the sensible thing to do. To catch up with him would’ve sent the message I cared for him. While I didn’t want to create complication, there was a part of me that wanted to feel his affection.

The day before his last in the office, my phone buzzes with a tingling of hope that it’s Mehmet with his goodbye message.

Do you have Facebook?

I didn’t reply. The distance between us was for the best. I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t want to make the situation worse. If his wife found out we had even whispered to each other I’d feel guilty. There were odd moments I found myself thinking things I never thought I would. What if she did find out? Will it make the rest of the difference to the rest of their family? Change can only be for the better, right?

Walking over to the lunch room, I felt a presence behind me. It was Mehmet obviously there to chase my reply.

‘You’re completely ignoring me then, Medina?’ He sounded hurt.

‘I don’t want to get caught in the middle of something more important. We can’t see each other anymore’. I needed to be stern.

‘Follow me will you, so we can just have a last moment together’.

We found the prayer room. There were a couple of prayer mats, and instead of looking for other things to fight about, we sat. We found a moment to pray together, and find answers to the unknown of what our future held. Could I get clear understanding of what he wanted? Am I the one who won his heart? Is he playing with my emotions? I knew it was foolish to think like this. He recited some lines that echoed across the room.

Amongst my own wants and needs, a picture of Mehmet’s wife came to my mind. Picturing her broken smile if or when she’d learn of our alone time. I couldn’t help but think there was a part of her that was missing. Like a vase with a chipped handle. I pictured her sad eyes. The other part of me put my want for Mehmet ahead all of this. I couldn’t imagine the pain of her not being able to be with her husband. I irrationally became anxious of what I’d say to her if I ever met her. Mehmet never revealed what she was like. There was something different about him when he spoke of the distance between them. It made his eyes wet with the tears of a past left behind. I couldn’t see him like this. The selfish and selfless parts of me collide, so I decided to get up and leave him with his thoughts. I felt like this was the respectful thing to do, to let him decide what was right. Mehmet called me later that night.

‘I can’t stop thinking about you,’ he said.

I could hear his voice quiver with emotion. Like he was longing for something.

‘I don’t know what you want me to say to that.’ I replied, knowing full well what I wish I could say.

After a few moments of silence, I hung up. I spent the rest of the evening coming to terms with the fact that we couldn’t be together. His future was elsewhere. Not part of mine.

Mehmet’s last day at the office. Word spread that he was going back overseas to his family. He must’ve made his decision, knowing the right thing to do. As good as life could’ve been together, we couldn’t give into it just like that. There were other people to think of.

We had to find a way to forgive each other for not staying in each other’s lives. As the end of day came, I didn’t know what to say to Mehmet. I knew this was the last time we’d see each other, as fate doesn’t give second chances. As he waved goodbye to everyone in the office, our eyes met. We both couldn’t find words to function. He held them back, regretfully; I could see it in his eyes.

Arriving on the platform at the train station waiting for my ride home, I saw us holding take away 7-11 coffee cups, like we did on the night we spent together. I didn’t want to forget that moment. He wanted something I couldn’t give him, I kept reminding myself.

It took a while for me to see that he wasn’t there and will never be there. He was gone to give his love to his family. Maybe, I fell in love with the wrong person to find the right one next time. Hope was something being lost in this situation. My phone buzzed.

Keep me in your prayers.

I thought we’d silently agreed to forget each other. I needed to forget. Mehmet continued to haunt me in my dreams and reality.

I didn’t reply. Restlessly I pushed open the train window to get some fresh air. This became the moment of truth for the rest of the two years I continued to think about him. Like a fool. Everything seemed to not make sense.