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Before the Sun Goes Down

By Amjad Ali Malik

“It sucks, man”, he muttered and took a deep breath. His hands were folded on the back of his head as he reclined in the chair.

“And then count the age gap. Here I am barely twenty; just trying to acclimatise to the Varsity culture. And she? Well, I guess, not short of her mid-thirties”, he frowned.

Between the two of them they shared the rented flat.

He was from a remote small town and had arrived in the metropolis one year ago. After joining the University, he found that the hostel was already occupied to its total lodging capacity. So, his parents reluctantly chose to let him stay in a private accommodation, and this had landed him in the flat.

She was already a renter there. Initially, they had kept their newfound acquaintance restricted to a tacit exchange of casual glances. Then ensued the short verbal greetings, which eventually led to intimacy. She told him that she was from another big city and had been transferred to this city by her employers.

Earlier, he had been going to a small restaurant in the neighbourhood for his meals. Then she told him that she would make meals for both of them, and they could split the expenses. He readily agreed. 

Every evening she would walk over, carrying two cups of tea to his partially furnished room. Sitting across the oblong table, sipping the tepid tea, they often made small talk.  During one such session, she said she had got a Masters in Political Science. However, she hardly ever commented on national or international politics. Once or twice, he tried to plumb her political leanings, but she disappointed him. She exhibited the same stolidity in religious matters. 

“Why are you so cold on the topics which intrigue almost everyone these days?” he asked her once again.

“Is it necessary to toe the line of others?” she retorted with a discomfiting smirk.

“Um-no, not at all.  I only asked it out of curiosity,” he sounded flustered.

In physical terms, she was sensuous. But her personal aura did not encourage much passion in the opposite gender.  He had to admit that she had something about her, which stirred awe rather than evoked salacious thoughts.

As their relationship became more frank, he began to cherish some private longings for her. When she was away, he would often try to conjure her tall, lithe figure to indulge in a mock act of dalliance, but could never get much further with it. Thus frustrated time and again, he ultimately came to weigh the possibility of marrying her, but in her presence, could not breathe a single syllable on the topic.

“What is she? Why is she so courageous and confident, while I am neither?” he used to wonder.

One day, he felt touched on the raw. “Do you have any girl friend?” she looked him straight in the face.

“M, me. No, no, not at all”, he jerked out.

“Hmm” she took a deep breath, and smiled coquettishly.

“Would you like to have one?”

“Well, am not sure what to say”, he replied meekly.

 She burst into a guffaw.  “Looks that you have yet to be weaned, boy!”

Her sudden vivacity flummoxed him, as he sat there gazing at her.

“Is she trying to flirt or is it a serious attempt to seduce?” he asked himself.

Meanwhile, she got up, collected the crockery and came near him. She stood beside his chair. Her intent gaze and the intoxicating fragrance of her perfume rattled his assumed composure.

“Let’s spend this time together and have fun. Who knows how the sun goes down tomorrow?” she whispered and made for her room.

The next day, as he entered the flat at the usual hour, he felt quite weird. She had not yet come back from her work. His patience began to run thin when after making several attempts to catch a glimpse of her, on the chance that she might have tiptoed onto the premises to give him a surprise.

He waited and waited until dusk set in. Still there was no sign of her.

“Where could have she gone? Over these past several months, she has never got late even for a short while. Has she met with some accident?” lost in such thoughts, he got up to go and dine at the restaurant. While dining, he cast a quick glance all around the hall, and then forgot that he had been hungry. The breaking news that flashed on the television screen rendered him insensible to his surroundings. The police had arrested a woman on the charge of first-degree murder of an aged prayer leader. The camera was constantly zooming in on her face. He gulped incredulously still glued to the screen. No further details of the case came in.

He hurried to the flat, collected all his effects and made for the

wagon-stand.

“Who knows how the sun goes down tomorrow?” her passionate words echoed in his ears, as he bade a tearful adieu to the city for good.

.

Amjad Ali Malik is a Pakistan–based writer. By profession, he is an Assistant Professor of English. The story “Before The Sun Goes Down” is his debut work.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

9 replies on “Before the Sun Goes Down”

I would just say
“Short stories do not say this happened and this happened and this happened. They are a microcosm and a magnification rather than a linear progression.”
Simple yet give a little suspense at the point where she wasn’t home by the usual time.

Liked by 1 person

I am really feeling very proud to have you as our teacher.You have really made us proud through your work.This story has made me very much interested and I really think that you must publish this kind of writing. You are really part of a fertile community..Good luck for your upcoming projects .

Liked by 1 person

“Before the Sun Goes Down” is a short story, drawing its inspiration from the recent incident involving the female suicide bomber Shari Baloch and Qurat ul Ain Hyder’s short story Yeh Ghazi, Yeh Teray Pur Israar Bunday written in the context of Arab Fidaa’een of the 60s. This blend of harsh contemporary facts and romanticised past fiction is the major appeal of this story by Amjad Malik.
The events are chiefly narrated by the unidentified voice, to be interrupted by the musings of young man or snatches of dialogues between him and the mysterious woman. There’s much for the reader to absorb through the turn of phrase and vocabulary chosen to reflect the minds of the two characters. The man is conscious of multiple barriers between himself and her: fifteen years age gap, class difference and social exposure.
She is far more confident and knowledgeable than he is and knows it too. All the moves in the story are initiated by her. The writer has deftly brought out the slightly amused but certainly superior attitude of the woman towards the naive young man. Calling him ” boy”, gently taunting him about the need to be weaned and challenging him about his love life are her indirect lessons, directing him to adulthood.
The story doesn’t permit any spatio- temporal markers to identify the setting. The characters remain nameless. The lady’s motive for her shocking act too is deliberately kept in the dark. The reader is left guessing the endless possibilities that might justify the end of the story.

Liked by 1 person

Feeling humbled and motivated by this more than richly glowing review. It’s going to keep me busy producing something still better.
My heartiest prayers and sincere wishes to you and the esteemed Professor Sahib.

Liked by 1 person

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