It was hot. We were sitting under a large umbrella in the courtyard of an Iranian restaurant on a Thursday afternoon drinking Iranian tea. She was a little nervous. She rarely is nervous. So seeing her a little jumpy made me nervous. We had been talking about her ex-boyfriend. He dumped her last week and she was having a hard time moving on. I didn’t know what exactly to do. Should I say that she deserved better? How could I say that, I didn’t know whether she deserved better. Or whether it was the other way around. I don’t even know what ‘better’ means.
So instead I just sat there, looking into her racing eyes, sipping my Iranian tea and listening to her complain about all the things wrong in her life. She said that she felt abandoned and discarded. She said that she was unloved. She threw around these words as if it was the end of the world. I looked into her grief stricken eyes trying to find the person I had met two years ago.
It was cold. It had been raining since morning and the share cab I had booked was late. I quickly got into the cab and made myself comfortable. I put my bag on my lap and said hello to the fellow passenger. And that’s when I saw her for the first time. Her eyes sparkled of excitement when she looked at you and she had this infectious smile. And her entire face would light up when she said hello.
Her eyebrows would go all the way up and then come back down as she would nod when you spoke, as if dancing to the conversations she had. She gave a sympathetic laugh at my attire. My cap was soaked and I was cold. She asked the driver to turn up the heater for me. She looked out the window and said the most amazingly incorrect thing one could say, “damn, this rain is gonna turn this city into Atlantis”. She let out another short laugh as I sat perplexed.
It was at that moment I knew she was no ordinary girl. She was the kind of a girl who didn’t need music to dance. She wouldn’t watch movies, people were entertaining enough. She carried a copy of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ in her purse along with an old Walkman with a bunch of Simon and Garfunkel songs in it. She was an anomaly in culture. And she was anything but ordinary.
“That’s not how Atlantis sank”, I said. She gave a warm smile, as if pleased, “I know that Atlantis sank as a result of earthquakes and fires the gods sent to punish the morally lost Atlantians”. “And legend has it, yet they survived. Isolated but thriving” I added. She then asked me whether I believed in the existence of Atlantis. Interesting question. I wish I had asked her first. I told her that I didn’t believe in an island being drowned as a punishment by the gods but I may believe in Nartec.
She looked puzzled and asked what’s Nartec. “Nartec, in a novel, was an island that mysteriously sank over the years. The sea levels rose every year and the people had built walls around the island to keep themselves from drowning. And every year as the sea level would rise higher, the people would make the wall higher. All the resources of the island were directed in building the walls higher. The people slaved their lives building the walls higher. And then one fine day they all gave up and let the water rush in and drag the island to the bottom of the ocean.”
Her eyebrows arched as her eyes opened wide, “then what?” she enquired. “The people survived. They suffered a lot initially. They thought they were gonna die but they didn’t. Instead they mutated, their bodies adapted to the new world and they lived.” She went in her trance of thought, as if letting the story bury in her soul and then finally said “that’s the thing about humans, they can survive anything. Be it a punishment from the gods or their own bad luck, they just refuse to die”. “But the people of Nartec had given up and left everything on fate” I added. She smiled and looked at me, I smiled back. It was a very comfortable short silence. And that’s how we just ‘vibed’ and became friends.
It was hot. The Iranian tea tasted a little too sweet. She hadn’t even touched her cup. She stopped talking for a while and looked at the other people in the courtyard. They were all lost in their own stories. And she was lost in hers. I got up and went towards her, she gave her ‘what are you doing?’ look. I just bent down and hugged her. As I held her tight, I whispered a word through her bright golden dyed hair covering her right ear. She hugged me tight and whispered ‘Nartec’ back.
So do you believe in Atlantis? Or would you rather believe in Nartec? Either way, believe in your determination and ability to survive, above all. The world around us may drown us with troubles we think we wouldn’t be able to handle, but we are stronger than we think ourselves to be and sometimes require our friends to remind us of that. Friendships are the light in our little moments of darkness, the gentle sunshine melting away our winter woes. A little faith in ourselves and little trust in our friends will pull us out of all the setbacks life throws at us. And we shall continue to live despite it all, a little evolved, a little wiser, a little scarred, but we shall live.
About Ahmed Khan
A 22-year old chap figuring out life, it’s spirit and everything in between by putting on the writer’s hat to get a glimpse of people’s emotions. An avid reader, a driven thinker and above all, a basic human wanting to make a difference by penning down thoughts to create and achieve happiness. Currently pursuing a bachelorette degree in Medicine and when not reading Medicine books, indulges in classics such as The Catcher in the Rye and Ivanhoe. Fascinated by different philosophies and follows the talks of Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris. On lazy days, this shy, quiet, introverted soul hides behind his laptop enjoying a binge-fest.