“The Calling of the Constellations” by Imaan Siddiq

The Calling of the Constellations – A Short Story

What a folly it seemed to be. The hypocritical consolation that used to envelope me every time that I seemed to utter a sigh. Perhaps, a woe of still grieving a loss, some loss. Haven’t we all lost something? But maybe everyone does not have to be this abnormal, as irrational as the fears that drown me in, engulf me and then sprout in the essence of the weeds in my wilting garden as it seems to be now. 

“No, you’re just fine. Nothing has happened to you.” 

But maybe it has. Maybe, I am not okay and that’s why I have been ranting and whining and weeping; alone though. Precisely because understanding is scarce and how could I pray for the attainment of such luxuries. I’d be demanding a death sentence otherwise. Murder could have occurred, seen or seamlessly concealed, it could all have corrupted me, you, the lot of us. “You’ll be insane to think that you can continue this way forever.” Who said I wanted to continue? Maybe I was just waiting for the continuity to end, peacefully yet harmoniously for no one likes to leave without synchronization. Patterns always align, for they have to.

“She’s dead.” 

“Who?”

That was all that was supposed to be exchanged. A statement, an independent clause and an idiotic question. “She really loved you. In her last days, you were the only name on her tongue. She felt immensely demented the entire day but still would tell stories about you as if it was crystal clear. All of it was to her in some way at least.” It felt like a pang, too shallow for anyone else to crawl upon but unfathomable enough from me to shatter beneath the thin ice, crunching underneath the terror. A silent, immeasurable terror. The petrification balled in my eyes as I saw her, a skeleton of flesh and bones, curvatures of voids irrevocable that lay beneath a sheet. A unitary white sheet. That is all that we are reduced to, perhaps that is all that we constitute of in the first place. 

“You should first wear the shoe on the right foot just like you first wear the right sleeve of your clothes. That’s a good deed – you should take off the left shoe first just like the left sleeve of your clothes, come on it shouldn’t be that bothersome.”

“How long are you going to shower for, it isn’t virtuous to waste water. Come on out already.”

“He was a good man – you’re grandfather I mean. I’ve never seen anyone like him in this family. Nothing would make him grieve but it felt as if he was always grieving, silently behind others’ contentment. I still wish I would have heard him calling me the day he died. Oh well, what’s gone is now gone.”

Yeah, it’s gone. Your memories of me, and mine about grandfather. Remember when you told me about him, the first time I cried in front of you. It felt as if I had finally found someone; someone who would have understood me without having to ask me and without me having to give an explanation. Every day after that one felt as if he was holding my hand in everything that I would impart, as if he was holding my pen for an expression, one that he concealed in his own ravines. Ravines that I could just glare upon, that I could just wonder about. I missed him, even though I could never lay my eyes upon him. It felt like even the dead could have connections as if it had been years since we’ve known each other in some zeitgeist void. I think I am now left alone in it. 

“I am really sorry for your loss. It’s so sad to hear about her, I still can’t fathom how quickly she has left us. I mean, she was just your grandmother. I am really worried about your aunts, how hard it must be for them.” 

It’s always surprising how much a word uttered could alter the significance of the entire tenet, crown it in empathy or shower it with criticism. How could grieving for anyone not be challenging? How could you weigh something that could never exist on the same balance with a similar essence? How do you even measure sentiment? I smiled. Corpses can hear too. 

“Talk to her. You still have time and she can still hear our voices. Tell her what you could never tell her. Don’t let it go so quickly yet.” My mother walked out of the hiatus.

“I am sorry…”

Would people question my sanity if I conversed with cadavers? Am I allowed to be retarded for one day or is every sentiment another sin? ‘Overwhelming’. When you are given the stranglehold to state everything treasured in the vales of our bosoms, to not be judged by a carcass and yet tell them the truth that they yearned to hear. How in that moment, all of it is reduced to silence. Perhaps no words seemed worthy enough to be uttered, to be held in the still atmosphere. After all, what could the dead hold and how could the animate fathom, the soul waiting to depart. Everything of sorts seems to become inconsequential, like the cosmic dust that surrounds all of us as we stutter and wither away.

“You want me to lead the group but I don’t think I have the right qualities. I don’t think I’ll be attending classes either for a while. It’s…a process I believe.” Should I explain, but to what consequence would the acceptance of others reduce my despondency. Insane, irrational, retarded or disordered, I had to be humanly acceptable. Like shards holding on to a dilapidated window, an irascible hush with self-deprecating humour. “Yeah, I slept late last night and here we are now! I don’t know if that’s fortunate or unfortunate” as I giggled away at my existential crisis. How hard could it be as I contemplated life without knowing what I’ve always known. A creed of warmth now rustling like auburn leaves over your grave. 

It might be disappointing when grief drowns you in this ocean of disconnection and then deludes you to think that perhaps grieving is the sole connection that you can salvage, a testament that only the growls of your own vice could attest to. I wonder; how long do we have to walk under the same azure skies and how long do we have to drown within the depths of the barren sea. Hand in hand, how long till one of us ascends to the unheard calling of our constellations; how long till I have to let you go.

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