The dark night spreads above- a blanket that safeguards the world, marred by a few shimmering holes. Stars. Perhaps they were souls long gone, preserved in this emblem for the great. Perhaps these souls touched all our lives; their work so pious, its shimmer seared the darkness wrought by sinners. I know someone up there. Someone among the divine, dispersing her fragrance amidst the great.
She was beautiful. A flower in the mist, an inflection of the voice. Sia was there, and then she wasn’t. Her laughter was infectious, the charm bracelets sliding on her bare, golden arms, glinting, tinging her giggles with an innocuous sweet. I saw her at school through the bars of the open window, the iron rods dividing her symmetrical face, so I could first see coal locks cascading down her back, then her toned arm crooked up, a pencil nestled between her slender fingers. Finally, I saw it. Just for a split second. Perfectly arched eyebrows, dewy lips, shimmery cheekbones. Lips curl upwards…and… the wall. But I had seen her. And she was stenciled into my memory. Bold. Immutable. Forever.
Sia was the star of the basketball team. When she played on the court, the ball effortlessly slid between, around, in front of her. Like she was the sun- her radiance so luminescent that the planets glided toward her, submitting to her agile touch. But today seemed to be an eclipse. Her advances became frustrated, enervated at the loss of her dominant prowess. But her eyes met mine. I mouth “shoot- every time”. One impeccably plucked eyebrow arches in question. But I nod in certainty. And her eyes rekindle with a Sia spark. She glides down the court again, receiving the ball as she approaches the hoop. Swish. And again. Swoosh. Again. Bam. Swish. She was on fire.
As I leave the stands, soft, delicate fingers curl around mine. The grasp, although lopsided, seems perfect. I knew it was her. “Hhhii. Thanks for the tip. I’m Sia. And you?” “Armaan.” I smile wider, as her verdant eyes bore into mine. “I’ll see ya around? Bye!” “Bye.” But it didn’t seem like one.
“Stay a little longer, won’t you, babyyyy…” Melodious notes waft from the auditorium. I backtrack and glance inside. Sia is perched onstage, guitar on her lap- the chestnut wood a jagged contrast against her cream skin. Long, delicate fingers strum effortlessly as if the music came from the divine. Her eyes closed; her head oscillates to a beat embedded in her soul. Her voice, toned with a longing, resonates in my heart. And I know. I step inside.
We talk. And some more. And soon, Sia is my confidante. A citadel that anchors me, and protects me against my fears. When we go out to stargaze, I tell her that I love neon yellow and hate alphabet soup, wisps of her curls on the back of my neck, her arms around my torso, her head resting on my shoulder.
That summer, I had to leave abroad. She told me to go freely, but I saw a pleading in her eyes- one of intense passion, of longing. I told her that I would be back, that it was one summer. Just a summer. I would see her again.
And I did. When I returned, I asked for her in the car. But her name was eluded. I demanded to know where she was. Then, his hoarse voice: “She’s no more.”
I always used to think sentiments were superficial. A couple hugging, a baby crying- all displays, none real. But that moment, at that moment, the emotions not expressed or felt in years arrived in deluges. I felt visionless, estranged- like an untuned television broadcasting static.
Then fear, angst, despondency, passion- everything. They fused into a mixture so volatile, that when I glanced out the window, the streetlights defused into a neon mass, brandishing her name. Sia. A jagged intersection of illumination against the achromatic night. I plead to be dropped off. And I grieve- a dark silhouette against the dark night.
When the casket is opened, her sinewy figure is timeless. Marred by the accident, but emanating a fragrance of eloquence even without life. The ornately tiered case, gilded with travertine, is emblazoned with intricate swirls and floral prints. Those ardent moments were when I felt her presence the most when I understood her the most. Her upturned lips, in that signature smirk, challenge me to defeat her on the court.
As her lifeless form is transported for the final denouement, I allow myself to be guided, for her memories cloud my mind, there isn’t an escape, an instant of clarity from the abyss that was Sia. Rain. Baarish. Her sari clings to her skin, her hair dripping in ringlets, tendrils framing her face- inches away from mine as we sway to the beat of our hearts. Her laugh ringing amidst the steady pattering. Then, she’s sitting across from me at a secluded booth, devouring pizza, a grin on her sauce-streaked cheeks. She’s traversing the halls; her backpack slung over one shoulder, a pencil lost in her curls, manuscripts for her thesis clenched in her hand like the holy grail. Sia. Sia. She was indomitable. She was sublime.
I’m jolted to see her before me, the last time in reality. Her form instantly conflagrates into a pyre of refulgent flames. An inferno. Just like her passion. I notice her tapestried shrine is orthogonal to where I’m reminiscing and watching, fumbling for a moment of clarity.
And that’s how it was meant to be. An intersection. Her divine form gleamed my life, then twinkled away. Fleeting. Transcendent. But her imprint embossed in my heart. Eternal.