I have wondered for long time why do people love. I wish someone can tell me the answer I could trust. I know some do answer but they are the ones who have never loved anyone but themselves, and the others, yes the ones who have really loved do not say anything. After 9 years today once again I was at the lake, the ‘union lake’ as she would call it. It is just 2 km from my house. You must be wondering why don’t I go there more often than 9 years if it is so close by. Well, I used to go there every year but then she came into my life. The same lake brought her into my life.
It was a beautiful evening in ’97 and I being in love with my solitude , had gone to spend peaceful yet thoughtful time at the lake. It was more like a pond with nature in its purest form all around. Fellow beings had not tried to civilize it as yet. Just when I was pondering over the vastness of our small milky way , I heard brakes of a bicycle. My head turned around and I saw a beautiful blond girl on red bicycle with a small basket with some flowers. Yes, exactly like we see in movies. She waved and I responded as she was coming closer.
” Hi”
” Hey”
” this is beautiful!”
” yes it is”
“such a raw beauty!”
I did not say anything and just looked at her. My eyes complimenting her with the same sentence.
” Hi I am Alisa”
” Good to meet you, I am Najam”
” Nice cute name. What does it mean?”
” I think in Arabic it means star”
” so you are looking for star?”
” no, you are looking at star”
I laughed.
” Aha!, do you live close by” she asked
“yes , my house is on Eldorado, you?” I stood up.
“I am visiting my grandma. I live in Zürich”
” Nice, what do you do in Zürich?”
” I am doing graduation in interior designing. This is my last semester. What do you do Najam? Najam, did I pronounce it right?”
” yes you are just perfect. I am a Financial Planner”
” hmmm..Financial planner, so you plan to make other people rich”
” No I take half of people’s money to tell them how to hold the rest”
” you are quite honest”

” I was kidding”
” how come you are here in this small town?”
” I own a small house here. I like this small town”
” Look how beautiful is the sunset here!. I wish I had the camera”
” Camera can never capture the beauty of nature. It is our eye that sees and stores it in our memory”

she looked into my eyes and smiled.
Next 10 minutes we kept on looking at the sunset, without saying anything.
Then I started to walk to the path to the town. She accompanied me.
” Are you from India?” she asked
” No, I am from Pakistan”
” Really!? one of my friends has just returned from Pakistan. She is a mountaineer and went to north of Pakistan”
” O yea? Pakistan is heaven for mountaineers. How was her experience?”
” She loved it. She loved the mountains and mountain people there. She plans to return next year. I saw her pictures. They were beautiful!, the kind of beauty that you see in pictures and don’t believe till you see with your own eyes”
” I think that area has majestic beauty. I have been to few parts and one can just wish to be lost in them, though not literally as they are dangerous too. I think wherever there is a beauty , there is a danger. “

” do you think so?”
” yes, look at the simple example of rose and thorns”
” o cmon man!..anyways this is my grandma’s house. Thanks for the company Najam, I enjoyed it”
” I too have enjoyed it after a long time”
I smiled.
” Are you free tomorrow, lets go for dinner if you don’t have other plans?”
” Sure, here is my number. Call me in the morning and let me know”
” Thanks, I will.”
” Bye Alisa”
” Bye Najam, See you tomorrow”

Next day she called up at noon to confirm if I was free for dinner. I told her that I would come. I picked her up at 6:30 and we went to a steakhouse. We talked about many things while waiting for our meal to be served. History, arts, philosophy, science, economics , we touched many subjects. She was curious about life in Pakistan, about Islam. Coming from Jewish-Christian background she had some idea of my religion specially Halal food as her grandma was strict to Kosher.

” Now I understand why did you order Salmon steak instead of beef”
“ You ordered it too”
I smiled.

We had light discussions during the meal. After the dinner I dropped her to her grandma’s.
” Thanks for the dinner. I really had good time”
” My pleasure Alisa. It was nice. Give me a call tomorrow, I know a very good place for Espresso, we will go there”
” Sure. As long as I am here, we should try new places daily”
” I wish I could but I have to go back to Toronto next Monday”
” ohk, we still have few days”
” yes, lets meet tomorrow for coffee”
“see you tomorrow then, good night Najam”
” Good night…bye”

I came back and kept on thinking about Alisa. I knew that she is attracted to me but am I falling for her?. How could I, knowing that we have so many basic differences , our religion, our culture, traditions, ..but on top of everything knowing that according to doctors I don’t have much time left. I had not told anyone, not even my family or friends. Only my best friend knew it. I did not know what to do. I feel like living and spending time with Alisa. First time in my life I felt like that for a woman and here I was fighting for my life itself.

A song of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was being played on CD player

” zindagee sey yahi gila hai mujhay ( I have only a single complain to life)
tu buhat dair sey mila hai mujhay ( I have found you very late) “

Should I tell her? What if she goes away? She is a practical western girl, she may show sympathy but she wants to build a life?
I did not know when did I fall asleep on the couch with all these thoughts.

Next day we went for coffee. Again discussion spanned variety of topics coming back to the most important topic, the life.

” you seem to be distracted by something. something is in your mind” she suddenly asked me directly
“nothing, just don’t feel good”
” do you have family here?”
” No, my family lives in Pakistan”
” it must be difficult for you to live without your family?”
” don’t know, never thought about it”
” you must be in your early 30s and you are still single!, no girl friend, no wife?”
” don’t you think it is very personal?”
” yes I know, thats why I am asking”
her laughter cracked me too.
” and how do you know I don’t have one…may be I do”
” you want me to believe that she allowed you to have dinner with me? “
she had mischief in her eyes.
” why not?”
” o dear, you have never been in a relationship, else you wouldn’t have asked me”
her smile was as wide as her face.
” how about you?”
” don’t you think it is personal?”
she showed me the mirror
” OK, then don’t tell me”
” OK OK , I will tell you. I had one few years ago but we broke up in 3 months”
” why?”

“you know I am a typical woman. I wanted commitment, I wanted to settle down, build my own home but Dave was not ready for any responsibilities, any relations that would tie him down to one place or person. He was not a bad guy but…I heard he lives in Germany now”
” Have you ever thought why?”
“I have seen many men are afraid of commitment, of getting married”
” I know , and this is nature of man. Man loves the unknown while woman loves the known. Man likes to discover and woman feels happy with the discovered.”
” are you too afraid of commitment?”

The moment had come to choose a path. One was of honest, truth and probable pain to both of us and the other of a lie, care and pain mainly to me. I was man torn among the two. I had to choose between few days of feeling love and being loved or probable regrets and satisfaction of sacrifice.

” To be honest I am not but I was waiting for the girl I can fall in love with from very first sight”
She lifted her eyes and looked at me like she would absorb me in herself and then she smiled. I too smiled in her response, smile that was genuine in meaning.

Next five days went by quickly. We came close to each other, closer than she thought and closer than I wanted at that point. But I had forgotten everything. I just wanted to enjoy every moment with Alisa. I believed I too had the right to enjoy life, no matter how short it is going to be cut. I kept on deceiving myself and Alisa. I wanted to live in the present without thinking about her future. those nine days had brought me the happiness that I always longed for and I did not want to let it go. It seemed out of my control, just like I did not have control over duration of my life.
The last day had come. It was Sunday. She wanted to go to church in the morning. I too accompanied her. I looked at her when she was praying. She looked like an angel.

Then we went for brunch at the restaurant. My mind was full of every kind of thoughts. She kept on talking like always but this time I was just watching her, looking into her eyes , thinking that it might be our last meeting ever. Then I dropped her at her home. We exchanged byes. I went ahead and kissed her forehead. That completely surprised her. She looked at me.

“Thank you Najam!” she had tears in her eyes.
” Thank you Alisa, and be happy” I held her hands for few moments while looking in her eyes and then left.

I went back to Toronto next morning. My friend , my best buddy John saw me and came for a short chat. He asked me to join him at dinner. In the evening I told him everything in detail. He listened to it attentively and did not say anything.
” I need your opinion at least” I urged him
” Listen man, I will be honest with you. If you go ahead with her knowing your condition, this relationship will not be based on honesty. If you tell her the truth she may not leave but that might be out of sympathy not love. It is hard to say anything but I might have stopped the contact with her at once. But again, this is something only you can decide, no one else will decide it for you.”

I thought and thought it through and then came to same conclusion. I decided not to keep any contacts. I changed my phone number, did not respond to her emails. She was quite consistent for months but I would not read any and then later I blocked her.

I wished I had a longer life. I wanted to see how life would be with Alisa. I wanted to live, my desire to live for Alisa and myself was more than anything. I fought for my life. I wanted a forced extension. I made up my mind that I won’t succumb to the disease without resistance. I surprised my doctors, my reports and even myself. I defied all rules of existing medicine except placebo. How did it happen I don’t know but it took me eight years to beat all those predictions.

Finally, last year I came back to this town with a hope that Alisa might be on vacation again or at least I could get her contact info from her grandma. I wanted to restart. I wanted to fill and heal the open wounds with my love. As I went to her house, the gate was locked. The house did not seem to be inhabited. A neighbor told me the lady died 3 years ago. Now her daughter rents it out every year. She and her husband come once a year to spend some time here. They might move here in couple of years and they might rent it out again for the moment. That was enough information for me, not the one I expected to hear though.

For eight years I worked hard to get few days more so that I could go back to Alisa and now I had time but she was gone. I always felt she was my love and she loved me but I knew she must have moved on. She would have forgotten me. I don’t know if it was my mistake but I know it was good intention.

This fall I came back again. As I was passing by their home in the afternoon I saw couple of kids playing. “So now they have rented it out again” I thought.
I went to the lake and sat there. I heard someone biking nearby. It was a young kid running his bike after birds.
” Hi, have you seen a kid with a red bike here?” I saw a man walking towards me.
“Yes he just passed by a minutes ago.”
” He is crazy. He might have gone after the butterflies. O yea, there he is coming back”
” Anyways, thanks man. I am Dave” he extended his hand “ We have come for visit here from Germany ”
” Nice meeting you Dave” as I stood up ” I….”
” and I am Najam” the kid cut me short and extended his hand
” you are what!!?”
” Najam…O yea, this is Arabic name , it means star. My wife named him. She knows Arabic ” Dave clarified.
I looked at Dave then looked at the kid. I could not say anything. I did not know what to say.
” I am….you can call me Mr. Hussein. Good meeting you guys. I better go now” I could hardly utter these words and started walking back.
” Hope to see you around.”
” I….I am going back tonight. Bye”.

Now I am sitting at the bus station waiting for the Grey hound and thinking….thinking about my life, my love , Alisa… and wandering if it was possible for me to comeback to life without the thought of Alisa being there waiting for me. A saying of Lao Tzu echoes in my mind “ Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”. I can not figure out I was more strong or more courageous. I wonder if someone has the answer…for sure I don’t.

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