Illustration by Andres Garzon
The sunlight came through the spaces between the leaves above our heads while fresh air filled our lungs. Dandelions were scattered across the field attracting insects of all kinds. The park was empty, allowing only the singing of birds and the fluttering of paper every time a slight breeze passed.
“Do you truly think there is such a thing as a selfless good-deed?” Anna asked as we lay on a hill under the shadow of a tall tree with crooked branches.
“If you feel good about it, then how can it be selfless?”
I don’t remember hearing her response. Instead, I felt her eyes on me as I returned to my book, I had to finish the reading before heading back to Marianopolis for our last class of the day. From the corner of my eye, I watched as she opened and closed her mouth, wanting to give an acceptable counter-argument.
The sun had reached its highest point causing the cables to sizzle, but the heat never bothers Anna. Every time the sun gets away from the clouds, she sits down and soaks it up. She says the hot weather is different from Mexico: here it’s humid while there it’s dry, the perfect kind of heat for someone who doesn’t like to sweat.
She was still tanned from her trip to Italy a month ago and her wavy hair, knotted from the September breeze, had grown since August. Her mascara was smudged on the side and her lipstick was a bright pink tint. She played a Spanish song from her phone and placed her black bag behind her neck. Her toned legs crossed over each other while she flattened the creases of her floral-print dress. She looked at the book placed over her chest, showing off the double chin only seen from certain angles. Scanning the page in front of her, she searched for the sentence she read last.
We lay there for a while: reading, listening to Spanish music and pulling pieces of grass by their roots out of the dried soil.
“Does that mean we can never truly be selfless,” she suddenly asked alongside chirping birds and the sound of children on their lunch break.
“Technically, but why is that a bad thing?” I asked.
“Just doesn’t sit right.”
She sat up, dropped her book down beside her and reached for her green salad with chickpeas and chopped red onions. She poured a bit of olive oil before grabbing her metallic fork, taking as much as she could in one bite.
I go back to my reading. She made a humming noise, the sound she usually makes when she is about to say something.
“What about someone who lets people or life pull them in every which way?”
“Like they don’t care about what they do?” I ask.
“Isn’t that somehow selfless?”
“Well, do they let people or life control them because they know that they’re not capable of making their own decisions?”
“No, like they legitimately don’t care.”
“I’m sure it benefits them in some way.”
“No… like a psychopath.”
“I don’t know how a psychopath thinks, Anna.”
She closed her eyes, exposing the bit of black eyeliner she wears when she has enough time to put in on in the morning. She never shapes her eyeliner starting from the inner corner of her eyes; instead, she simply adds wings at the edge, making her brown eyes look bigger.
She took a deep breath while lying back down onto the grass. She tells me how she never appreciated views and the places she had visited as a child. As for me, I hadn’t seen much out of Montréal and envy the ones who have that opportunity.
“Being brought up South Asian, as a woman, in this Western society has been difficult. A life split into two identities, only creating obstacles.”
“But we can overcome our obstacles,” she says with her mouth full of salad.
“To overcome them, I would have to sacrifice a lot.”
I think about my dad working day and night and my mom putting her goals aside for us, “My family had to sacrifice a lot to provide for me and my brother.” Anna lay back down next to me on the grass, “That was their choice, not yours.”
I turned my head around, feeling the grass graze my left cheek. She does not look at me, instead her eyes focused on the clear blue sky, no cloud in sight.
I got up, moving towards the shade as the sun kept beaming on my face. Anna doesn’t move. With her eyes closed, she talks about how we can control our environment in order to feel free. “Don’t let life pass you by because you’re afraid.”
“It would be nice, not to care.”
“Like a psychopath,” she laughs.
We talk about all the things we would do if we were free. The places we would see, the projects we would start, the novels we would write. We laugh about all the mistakes we would make, the people we would meet, the adventures we could have: all the things we would achieve if fear were just a word. And for a second I think about how happy I would be.
“How do you feel?” Anna asks with her hands stretched out in front of her reaching for the sky.
“Yes, good empty,” I laugh as I mirror her, arms outstretched towards the sky, “Like the knots in my mind have untangled and are now too tired to think even about the next few minutes.”
We laid there embracing the summer heat and each other’s company.
“Let’s skip class,” she said, “Let’s be free, just for today.”
UMA IQBAL is a student at Concordia University currently studying a double major in Creative Writing and Religious Studies. She has a great passion for writing prose fiction as well as non-fiction stories. Uma wishes to pursue a path in literature and provide a different perspective in the writing industry.
Copyright © 2018 by Uma Iqbal. All rights reserved.