Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning, internationally published and critically acclaimed author. She has written Novels, Novella, Short Stories, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Fiction, Academic, Prose Poetry, Memoirs, Essays and Journalistic Write-Ups. Her works have been podcast, anthologised and translated in German, Greek and Bengali. She was born and raised in Bangladesh. At the moment, she lives in Australia. Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning, internationally published and critically acclaimed author. She has written Novels, Novella, Short Stories, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Fiction, Academic, Prose Poetry, Memoirs, Essays and Journalistic Write-Ups. Her works have been podcast, anthologised and translated in German, Greek and Bengali. She was born and raised in Bangladesh. At the moment, she lives in Australia.
Shamshi Rahman didn’t have enough money to put meals on the table. He had recently lost his job. The only way to raise quick funds was through friends online. He sat looking through his Facebook page every day to find potential givers. Some of his friends were too young to afford any charity. Older friends looked cashed up. He focused on them. He found one.
An elderly woman, but she looked young. He thought he would stalk her. Shamshi began pandering to her love instincts. He sent her little love notes. He complimented on her looks, and then her curvy figure. It was all very mechanical, trying to grab her attention. How to make someone fall in love, kind of “How to” manual books, which he thought were useful. General love and love making tips.
Her name was Claudia Hanson. She was much older; at least thirty years between them. He told her that he loved her. He had always been in love with her. But his courage failed him to ask her. She told him that it wasn’t going to work because of the age difference. He said he didn’t care about age. Every time he saw her, he felt his loins stir. He couldn’t live without her. He couldn’t breathe without her. He desired to live within her.
She told him she loved no one. She had a cold, cold heart. She was like a broken record on a decrepit player. She was like an aged palace or a mossy old temple half devoured by some unknown thousand-year-old tree. That she was Homer’s Red Wine Sea. She breathed old, stale air of the past and the present and perhaps a bit into the future too.
But Shamshi was indomitable. He wrote back, If I compare thee to a summer’s beach, then I’d reflect on its rippled peach. The golden sand which time could never reach. It’s pretty, pristine ripples preserved like the clenched newborn fist, saw billions of years come and go, but never touched the sands to bleach. However, sand castles may break. Mandalas wiped off. Children played, past, present and the future. Clearly time had moved on. But the beach remained without a blemish. The sea by its side, carrier of bloody bodies, pirate histories, papyrus battles. Homer passed on. His Wine-dark Sea remained just the same. A new day was issued. A fresh face of youth. New creases appeared on the skin once it was smooth. Unchangeable and unwrinkled, but, time over time. Sand soaked up human dramas played over it. I sit here on the sand today. I sat here many moons ago. I shall continue to sit until I break my bones. Time will never touch me. Time touched the great Ozymandias. Futile. But the sands proved more powerful than all. Time stood still at its edge without a stir. For this was love; the sand of unbroken looping nerves.
He video conferenced with her. He told her that he wanted to make love to her online. His endless desires would never melt. She told him no physical relationship. He told her it wasn’t physical. It was all spiritual. It was esoteric. She was an embodiment. His prism of love. That was incredulous. She told Shamshi that she wanted to end it. Thirty years too late. But she felt a mad rush of love too. One that she couldn’t understand. She couldn’t get him out of her head. She even told him that. But Shamshi kept reminding her that love had to be nurtured in the heart, not in the head.
She felt love for no one. She was an empty shell. It had been empathy. She had compassion. But never love. She tried to convince Shamshi that love for her was a losing battle. She would never win it. Shamshi asked her to feel it. He told her to feel love inside the heart. Meet him online. She held herself back. She tried to forget this had ever happened. It was impossible. She read his words. Etched the lines in her heart. They were unforgettable. She wanted to be with him. But he had also asked for money. He had asked her to send some funds through. Perhaps he needed it, but this impurity had already touched the sand. It’s fang of suspicion went deep. He was using her. She felt used.
But Shamshi told her otherwise. He told her, there was no impurity as far as love went. Money was incidental. It was never going to tarnish it. She almost believed him. She did, because he was inside of her too. His words, his poetry held her spellbound. This was love. This was not love. He was there. He was not. He spoke in poetry. He spoke in riddles. After all, what was the heart of the matter? Where was all this going to end? They were tied. Knotted together despite the impurity. Money. He used her. He used her not. He drained her. He drained her not. He gave her immense pleasure, but Bankrupted her —- emotionally, financially, mentally.
She was losing it. She was not. She was sinking. She was not. Enchanting. It was not.
She was at war.
There was a pandemic. Physical meeting was impossible. But this pandemic had not diminished his desire. As he continued to sweet talk romance into her ears, she became more and more aware of his presence in her heart. She began to feel less empty. Then again that was just her. She had no idea how this played up on Shamshie’s end. When she asked him how he felt about her, he replied what she wanted to hear. That he was her friend, her lover, her life. That she meant everything to him. She fell for it. She wanted to believe him. He convinced her. She started to send him even bigger amounts in cash, thinking what if he died from starvation. She had to give him the benefit of the doubt. How else was she going to live without him?
One day, she went up to his Facebook wall. She scrolled up and down for more information. She came across a post. It said something about marriage. She read it carefully. It was about a marriage proposal that Shamshie was discussing. He planned to propose marriage to someone. Her heart missed a beat. She continued to read it. All the congratulatory comments made her sick in the gut. She got off. She couldn’t sleep that night. There were no calls from Shamshie either. The next morning, she woke up with a heart ache. She had been such a fool. She logged on to Facebook and found a picture of a wedding ring in her messenger. Surely an invite from Shamshie, how dared he? She looked into the note which came with an image. It astounded her, “Claudia, marry me.”