By Asfand Waqar
You stand on the ledge and look down on the street below. People busy in their lives walk fast from one end to the other, but from this height everything looks slower and a bit more interesting. You remind yourself that this is just a mirage and that from up close, nothing’s changed. No reason to think otherwise, as your over a quarter of a century existence in this city has taught you.
You feel this is exactly the type of moment where if this were a movie, your life ought to flashback before your eyes, projected on the silver curtain of your consciousness. But this is not a movie, and there are no flashbacks. You consider whether you will have to imagine it all yourself, bring up the images, all the faded visuals and the correct audio, especially those appropriate sound bites that define the moments that determined the path of your life, leading you all the way up to this ledge. You remind yourself that you don’t want to blame anyone else but yourself, so perhaps you will skip the audio entirely. They were all just trying to help you anyway, and you were good, so you listened to them all. You remember how you thought, way back in the second grade, that all would be just fine if you listened to what your elders had to say.
So you listened to them; you listened to it all. You took the advice, absorbed it like a sponge. For those moments when you got diverging advice, or suggestions, you even perfected a personal science of reasoning, devised a method to pick one suggestion above the other, without feeling too guilty for not following the other advice. You think you are just the outcome of others’ advice and suggestions, as though you are merely a result of their experiments. Just that you have to live with these results, and not them.
This is when you smell the pungent odor of gasoline as you consciously inhale the polluted city air. You know you didn’t do much to change anything in anyone else’s life, but now is the time to do something about yours. You look down at the street below you one last time, as you step back from the ledge. You throw away the last can of gasoline, as you look around one last time to make sure that you had spread it all over the rooftop and down into the air vents too. As you calmly move towards the fire exit, you know life won’t be the same anymore. You hurl that half-finished cigarette as far as you can. Life gets interesting.
Asfand Waqar teaches engineering at COMSATS University in Islamabad, Pakistan.