Clinging Genies

SHORT STORY BY KING KHARS / FREELANCE WRITER

“Given the time crunch of midterm season heading into finals, it is imperative that we understand that we are all students and our mental health is important. So, if anyone is feeling alone–or wants to feel alone–we should respect their boundaries, but also try to be there for each other.”

King KharS

He lay there in bed, alone and weary from last night. His heart was shattered once again. There was nothing left in his life to achieve. But she lay there with him and slid her hand across his chest. Last night, she had promised him he was not lonely, because he had her.

“There there, baby. I know. It hurts, doesn’t it?”

He whimpered, “Even my body cannot feel your touch.”

Ali got up and wrapped himself in the sheet covers. Clouds raged in the sky outside his translucent curtains on the thirty first floor of Vain Violence Apartments. He made a cup of hot chocolate and sat in front of the fireplace, following his daily routine. There was a book on the coffee table in front of him with a purple pen placed in the coils.

He eyed the book, but had no interest in picking it up.

Company, honey.”

No voice responded. Ali was lost in the loneliness of his own thoughts. He grunted.

Last night had felt like a knife had been jabbed at his back near the pelvis, but he could only feel the stinging pain in his guts. There was a violent jerk at his chest on the left side. He couldn’t explain it. Even his doctor visits resulted in no diagnosis.

Ali had never smoked or drank in his life. Yet the pains persisted. 

“God, I pray, fill this void in my heart or stitch it in the grave. Whatever you will,” he cried.

He left the apartment for work at around 8:30. He held a briefcase in his right hand and held her hand with the other while he walked to work. She kept him company and laughed at all his jokes. This was his only comfort – her

People walked by Ali and would wave to him but whenever he jerked his head even slightly to whisper to her, there would be an awkward expression on their faces.

He reached the office by 8:50, ten minutes early. He held the belief that being punctual in one’s life was a customary act of fulfilling the purpose of Vain. The heart ached with no real purpose at about this age. Life had become so dull. It was all repetitive and redundant. There was no excitement, no real joy, nothing new once you reached your late thirties. 

Before he entered his work area, he made sure no one was there so he could share a private moment with her. They embraced each other in open arms and kissed. She would then take her leave and head to the local grocery store about five blocks away.

Ali worked as a financial advisor at a top five bank in Canada. He would meet people from various financial backgrounds, from the less fortunate to very successful. He could not help but notice how fulfilled all his clients felt in life, or at least seemed to have felt, even if they were struggling. Success had gotten the best of him. There were no children on any of his picture frames back at the apartment, and she was just an outline of his thoughts on any of the portraits. They hadn’t had the time to fix up about having one together yet. He walked towards his office and plopped himself on a cushioned seat. His desktop faced him and on it, all his papers sat in organized piles exactly where he liked them. He began work right away, following up on his emails first and then proceeding to the prioritized tasks before moving on to the less important ones.

A client came in later that day for an appointment. It would be the last task of the day. But seeing the client with his family tore his heart. They were a very nice family. The children were so cheerful and the wife was evidently very supportive of her husband. It was clear to him they were going through some sort of midlife crisis, but how they could lean on each other saddened him. Ali shed a tear, as he had never experienced that, but was able to contain himself for the duration of the meeting.

The meeting between himself and his client went just like any other. But after seeing the family, when he went back to his apartment, he lay in his bed hopeless. 

He felt his purpose was in vain. At this, his heart sobbed violently.

She was cooking dinner for the two of them, and he later decided to join her after finding some relief. The truth was, he hadn’t recovered, but had no other distraction. He picked up supplies from the cupboards and fridge, taking over all the work. They finished making dinner and sat perpendicular to each other on their small square table meant for a family of four.

He saw a smudge at the corner of her mouth, put his hand right on hers, and picked up a napkin to wipe that off of her. He fell into a trance at that very moment.

I have no one. You are just a reflection of my consciousness. The only company I have is of the stories I write, which are only a recording of your voice. I have only ever been one with my subconscious. 

She – the clinging genie knew what Ali was thinking. It was about her and how she was a substitute for his loneliness in his imagination. There was no physical form to her, she only existed, existed as a thought to which Ali had given an outline, body and shape to. He was about to let go of her. And then she vanished into thin air, and Ali felt relieved of a burden he had carried for much too long. 

It was time to get ready for bed again. He no longer read any comic, book or magazine. Ali only ever wrote. The clinging genie would enjoy this platform because that was where she could hear his thoughts and emotions. But he no longer needed that, so he would listen to whatever he wrote from now on.

Later that night, Ali had a difficult time breathing. There was a tightness in his chest and he felt as though something were squeezing his body until finally he lay there as frozen as a mannequin. He had always been depressed, and by the time he had figured out how to help himself, it was too late. There wouldn’t be a single person who would remember him for his contributions, and the tragic reality would hit him hard in the afterlife. This was the sad but true reality of Ali Khan, a man married to a genie whom he may meet on the Day of Resurrection, if she was not truly a figment of his imagination. 

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