I thought I was over this, I was over her. I thought wrong. I couldn’t even remember what I was doing before she called me. It was past midnight. Maybe I was browsing through the channels. Maybe I was napping. It didn’t matter. “Amir,” said a voice I didn’t think I would ever hear again. “I don’t know who else to call. My dad. Doctors are saying he’s had a heart attack.”
That single phone call was enough to send me racing toward the hospital. I never thought five years could flash before my eyes within the span of ten minutes. Apparently it could. All my memories of her, the best ones as well as the worst, resurfaced even though I tried do drown them with the stereo. I thought, after six months, the wounds had healed. But here I was, bleeding through every pore on my body. My heart hurt. My head throbbed. My knuckles were painful from gripping the steering wheel too hard. I weaved through the light traffic with a single-minded purpose. Yana needed me. I needed to be there for her.
I had to circle the hospital twice to find a parking spot. When I reached the Emergency Zone, the staff there almost didn’t let me in.
“Kamarulzaman Idris. Heart attack.” I tried my best impersonation of calm on the small, dark skinned man in white uniform. He certainly took his time typing the name on his keyboard.
“Red Zone. You family?”
I could have been. “I –”
“Amir!” I turned and saw her standing by the inner entrance. She was wearing a faded blue T and dark sweats. Her long hair was uncombed. Her eyes were wild, with fear, with distraught maybe. She was biting her lips. Even looking like this, she took my breath away. I closed the gap between us in three wide steps.
“Sorry I took so long. Parking was — ”
“I didn’t think you would come. Not after what I — ”
“How’s your dad?”
“I don’t know. They still won’t let us in. Mak is in the waiting room.”
“You wanna go back to her?”
She gave the tiniest shake. “I need a breather.” I walked beside her in silence, slowing my pace to match hers. My body was moving by reflex. We stopped across the road from the Emergency Zone. I took off my left shoe and she sat on it without saying a word, like she used to. I squatted next to her. For a few minutes we stayed there without saying a word. We listened to the sounds of sirens, of cars whooshing by, of people crying in pain, of arguments. “We were having dinner,” she finally said, barely audible. “He just collapsed, screaming. I’ve never seen him in so much pain.” I looked straight ahead, even though I wanted to put my arm around her, assuring her that her dad was going to be all right. It was no longer my place to do that. “Sorry I called you.”
“Don’t be.” At least I wasn’t lying. “Where’s whatshisname? Johan? Johar?”
“Johar.” A few moments of silence. “He didn’t pick up the phone. He sleeps early.” I could only guess the amount of calls left unanswered before she had to resort to calling me. “I’m sorry, Amir.”
“For leaving you.”
“Oh.” That stopped our conversation as surely as a red light, with a policeman by the side. We sat in awkward silence. Then I saw a familiar figure standing by the entrance. “Yana. Your mom.” She bolted up and rushed across the road. I put on my flattened shoe and followed at a slower pace. They were clasping each other’s hands when I reached Yana’s side. Aunty Zarah raised her eyebrows when she saw me. But she was smiling.
“Aunty.” I bowed and kissed her hand. I felt her other hand brushing my hair back.
“Yana, the doctor said we can see Abah now.”
“Is he okay?”
“He didn’t say. I came here to get you.”
Yana touched my forearm. Lightning crackled where her skin met mine. “Amir, will you — ”
“I’ll wait here for you. Go. See your dad. He needs both of you right now.”
I watched as they disappeared behind the swinging doors. Not knowing what else to do, I sat at the back row of the waiting area. I played with my phone, changing my ringtone, then changing it back. I sat there sweating until Yana came out. From the way she walked, from the look on her face, I knew what she would say. “He’s gonna be okay,” I said before she opened her mouth. I stood up to greet her. She nodded. Her eyes were wet. Before I could react, she wrapped her arms around me, burying her face in my chest. I responded the only way I could. I hugged her back, resting my chin on her head. The peach scent of her shampoo filled my senses, triggering memories of when we were still together.
“He’ll be all right, Amir,” she said between sobs. I was the first to let go. We had our history, but I was no longer hers.
“Hey. Go back to your dad. Tell him I wish he gets well soon. And no golfing for, I dunno, a year or so.”
She wiped her tears with her sleeves, then nodded. “Amir. I’m sorry. Truly.” She looked up to meet my eyes, making me want to forget everything and take her in my arms again. “Letting you go was the worst mistake I ever made,” she added in a whisper.
“Shh. What’s done is done. We moved on. Now go back to your parents. Update me, okay?”
I gave her a wide grin and ruffled her hair. I turned and walked away. Just outside the entrance, I turned back to face her. “For what it’s worth, I’ve never stopped loving you.” The doors slid closed between us.
Fadzlishah Johanabas: an MD by profession, a writer/photographer/illustrator by passion.