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The Old Oak

The Old Oak

8 mins 260 8 mins 260

Once upon a time, I created something, and at that very moment, I lost everything I had. What I created was a new memory that wiped out all the older memories completely from my mind.

Do you ever wonder how the simple things in our life make us what we are? Things that separate us from others. The uncertainty in life is responsible for all the changes happening around us. And that’s the worst part because I don’t like change. There are a few things that need to remain unchanged for a long time, such as the songs, my daily routine and the length of my hair. I like simplicity in my life. I feel like I’m not different from the others, instead, I am “the other”. My name is Faiz Khan and I am the best introvert in the town. The town I live in is not the one I belong to. So, among the things that I don’t like to change, my routine stands atop. I don’t want wonders to happen, because I know they won’t last longer than a day. I am a 40-year-old single man.

There’s a huge difference between being single and not marrying. First, let me go for the latter. Not marrying is basically the act of running away from responsibilities and trying to live a life you choose for yourself only. While the former is for people like me who are not scared of responsibilities, instead they are afraid of people. I can never talk to a stranger. Marriage for me is like buying a special mirror, and every time you look in that mirror you see a different face. I bought a new house a week ago, and my new routine involves figuring out my new routine. This town doesn’t really interest me much. The only thing I like here are the stars because they stay the same everywhere. Even in this town when I walk home every night I can see them in the same place and in the same arrangements.

It was a Saturday; the wind wasn’t blowing at all; the world was once again moving towards the end of a long, dull day and the most important event in my life occurred. On my way back home I saw a girl standing in the alley. About 10 years old, out of nowhere she became the first thing that caught my attention in this city. She stood under an old oak tree, deprived of leaves. The silence wasn’t the only thing that brought peace to that place. The sadness in those ten-year-old eyes was somehow telling more tales than that hundred-year-old oak tree may have witnessed in his entire life. The way she gazed at the empty branches of the tree could tell she knew something that I don’t; something that I should know; or I need to, by the time I realized that I started walking towards her. I went up to her and said: “What is that you can see in this tree, but I can’t?” She looked at me and paused for a while to decide whether I deserve to know the secret or not and then walked away slowly, while I stood there waiting for an answer. For once I even questioned my existence. I came back home. And there I was, standing in front of the mirror; looking at a person I met after a long time; a person who wasn’t “the other”. It felt like I wasn’t alone like there was someone else who was more like me. I couldn’t wait to walk down the alley again. The next day I waited under the old oak tree for two straight hours, but she wasn’t there. And as I said earlier, I am the best introvert in the town. Trying to figure out details about that girl wasn’t easy for me. Even though I wanted to know more about her, I was helpless.

The world went back to its business and so did I. A week later I saw her again, standing under the old oak tree with the same sadness in her eyes. This time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk to her, so I didn’t really walk up to her. She held her head high and kept staring at the barren tree. As I stepped inside the house I heard a voice saying “It’s her. I saw her.” I turned around and saw that she followed me to my house. “What are you doing here? I asked. She turned around and started walking away. “Who are you?” I shouted. By the time I could decide whether to go after her or not she had gone. I couldn’t sleep that night. A few days later I got sick, and all I needed was someone who would take care of my house enough to keep it as it is; just like I did. So I decided to put up an advertisement in the newspaper asking for servants who could serve a forty-year-old man for free. That seemed like an impossible job opportunity with no expectation of any kind. An unpaid job in the outer parts of the city in a house nobody would ever like to enter because of its isolation. Days passed and there were no applicants at all. Two weeks passed. It was June, a hot summer day. Somebody arrived asking for me. As I opened the door I saw a girl.

Yes, it was her. Just like the last time we met. “Hello, I’m Nabeela,” she said extending her arm to shake hands with me. “Pleased to meet you Nabeela, I’m Faiz Khan,” I replied shaking hands and offering her to come inside the house. “I read your advertisement in the newspaper two weeks ago she smiled, “I hope I could be of some help.” As we sat down she eagerly waited for me to speak up because based upon the condition of the house and the riches I owned she couldn’t figure out what help I would need and why would I want it for free if there’s such a golden fortune I owned. I could have an army of servants waiting for my orders all the time. As the tension grew I asked her “So, what do you do Nabeela?” To which she replied “I’m a student, Sir, I study. I asked her to follow as I showed her around the house. While walking through those giant doors and endless corridors Nabeela suddenly stopped and said: “What do you really want from me?” I smiled and said “A promise.” to which she replied “What promise?” I smiled and walked further. I took her to the garden. She told me the stories about her mother and how much she loved her. The way she changed after Nabeela was born. We sat outside the house on the porch talking about the neighbors and the weather. It was six when Nabeela bid farewell and started walking by. “Would you like to come back tomorrow?” I asked. She waited for a moment and then answered “Well I guess I’ve got a promise to keep.” both smiled. “But I won’t be there on Saturdays.

You know why” she added. After knowing Nabeela so well I offered her help, but she denied. She was different. She started doing well in her exams as I gave her private tuitions. We used to go stargazing in the forest as it was our mutual interest. Days passed as our friendship grew stronger and it was her birthday the next week. Nabeela often visited me and we would talk about how we developed an interest in our respective hobbies. But one day she stopped showing up at my place. I was worried about her and I waited for her. Even after a long wait of two weeks, I didn’t give up. I was heartbroken. I decided to leave the town and go away from everything that would remind me of Nabeela. After spending months alone in the unknown city it was finally the time to go back home. I decided to get married and start a new life. But before I left I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and enquire about her by directly talking to the people in the locality, for the first and the last time. I went looking for her and finally reached the old oak tree. If I was fortunate enough to meet her, then this would be the last time I’ll be seeing her. All the old memories from my past that held me back were already gone, all because of her. The new memories I created with her were the only thing I could remember. The stories she told were the ones I wanted to live in. After a while, the wait was over, and yes, there she was; eagerly waiting for me, with the same sadness in her eyes. I stood a hundred steps away from her when a woman passing by stopped and watching me looking towards the tree she said “So, even you know the story of that old oak tree? The one that burned down with the girl? It was a Saturday.”

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