From the collection Love and its Seasons, Publisher: Mulfran Press (September 1, 2017)
Laila’s husband said to her:
The madman has made a mockery of us. When he sang songs about you on the streets of the town, and he was told that he was insulting your name, he said, how can I insult my own name? So they gagged him and left him in the desert. He began to write your name in the sand with his forefinger. So they bound his hands. He wrote the letters of your name in the sand with his toe, and they tied his feet together.
And now the boys in their alleys, the musicians who pass in the evening with their flutes and their drums, the women fetching water from the pond, sing his songs or chant your name in public places. At night someone paints your name on the walls of people’s homes. How can we stop this contagion? The madman has made a mockery of our lives. And if only he could see you now! Dry as a withered rose and dark like a desert woman though you bathe in rose-scented water, thin as a sparrow’s skeleton though you are force-fed fresh dates and milk… you were always plain, and now you are an ugly shadow.
Laila sat up in her sickbed and held up her hands. There was a mirrored ring on her right thumb. Looking at her reflection, she smiled and spoke for the first time in days:
If only you could see me through Majnun’s eyes, you would see me as he sees me. I lost myself in those eyes the moment I saw myself there.
Someone asked the madman:
How do you love the night?
To tell the truth, I don’t love her.
Astonished, his friend said:
You spend your days and nights weeping and lamenting , you write verses about her beauty in the sand, you paint her name on walls and neither eat nor sleep, you are lost in sorrow: isn’t that love?
The madman responded:
All that is over now. Laila has become Majnun, and Majnun has become Laila: the madman and the night are submerged in each other, they are one and no longer two.
Aamer Hussein was born in Karachi in 1955 and moved to London in 1970. He has been writing short stories since the mid-80’s and has been anthologized across multiple languages. He has written six short story collections, a novella Another Gulmohar Tree and a novel The Cloud Messenger. A master of lyrical writing, his love for and knowledge of languages and cultures informs his story telling. His most recent book Love and its Seasons has been published by Mulfran Press, UK.
Read Aamer Hussein’s interview with Kitaab here.