Fiction

Anna, Me and Mallroad

by Nasir Hussain

It was an afternoon in May, Streets of Lahore were burning hot as the raging winds blew. I was getting ready, with my roommates anticipating & excited about my date as much as I was, I booked a ride on Indriver. The car arrived, I called Anne, & got to hear her voice for the first time on the phone. Her soft calm voice melted my heart as she said my name,” Nasir!!” and she informed me that she’s gonna be slightly late.

It was an amazing moment, I couldn’t control my thoughts, felt like a completely married couple, who gets late due to their partner. However, I walked by as I reached the crossroads I was pleased to see her standing there, dressed in red & black with her gorgeous ponytail, I led her to the ride. We got in the car and I started the chat feeling a bit awkward, as to how to start the conversation.

Nonetheless, the conversation rolled out smoothly. And as we stopped at the traffic signal. The billboard of the newly launched dating app, Muzz caught my sight. I talked to get her about it, to see how she reacts. She bantered the idea in fun & lastly asked if she can make my id on the app, to which I agreed laughingly. “Okay, I will make it, and if a pretty girl contacts me, I will go and meet her myself, and if an average girl contacts me, I would let you know & you can go meet her”, she jokingly said.

We two laughed as the car rolled on the road again. I kept asking her questions following the guidelines of my dating coach, Dorey Wayne. To each she would reply in a long Blah Blah…., meanwhile I would listen amusingly seeing in her eyes. We talked about Eid, Home, and other happenings in the last month.

By 6 Clock, we had reached the rear gates of Lawrence Garden also known as Jinnah Bagh. I was a bit confused, as I had never seen or known about its rear entrance. We got out, and I paid the fare. We entered the park, and the gatekeeper opened the gates with courtesy, seeing Anna in her adorable long ponytail and her vibrant smile. To my amazement, the park was bustling with Tiktokers and flocks of Single young lads. There were no couples or ladies to be seen. Reminds me of the account of this same park by Munto after partition,” I was shocked to see that on such a pleasant day, no women were to be seen in the park!” records Munto.

The weather had become pleasant, Sun nearly setting and shining its final gleams, The century-old trees overlooking the road running across the park. And as we strolled on the road, escaping the awkwardly uncomfortable gazes of the passing mobs, a little boy rushed to us. A small boy selling hand fans and some other ornaments, the likes of whom can be found in abundance in our country. I told him not to bother us, and after a while of some failed marketing, he eventually pulled out his final move. “ Allah apke joori Salamat Rakhe: May God keep you together!”

“Astaghfirullah! (God have mercy!)”, Cried out Anne laughingly. And for the two minutes to follow, we were in fits of laughter, I could see the amazement and amusement in her eyes. To his bad, the boy didn’t get anything despite making us laugh so hard.

And as the gazes lingered upon us, the only couple in the whole area, “I should hold her hand!”, My intuition whispered but I didn’t. Anne, too getting those embarrassing stares, eventually came out and said “All those are surely considering us on a date!” and again we laughed for Anne’s such remarks were usual.

To escape this awkward staring, I tried finding some privacy but to no avail, Tiktokers hordes had us outnumbered. We eventually reached the mall side and took a photo of my favorite Architecture in Lahore, Quaid-e-Azam Library, and then sat on the ground for a while, as we found some safety among some other families too relaxing there. We got ourselves some drinks and took a sigh of relief, as we left my favorite garden in Lahore.

“Slowly brother”, said the driver, as I thrust the door of Mehran. We were on Mall road. The lush lines of tall trees overlook Mall road and provide a canopy of cool shade. Passing by the historic buildings of Old architecture, in a few moments, we landed at the steps of Pak-Tea House. But again I was astonished, no waiters, no customers there. “O shit, it seems it’s closed! Nonetheless, let’s take some photos”, I told her.

“ O Nasir how good is this moment! You are blessed”, I thought to myself as Anne clicked a photo of mine, sitting in front of this age-old century cafe. Right away, the book stalls across the street cached my sight. We went there and started browsing the books. “ Hey Nasir!,! look this” she would say, “Hey Anne!, Check out this!” we two would excitedly mention each other, enjoying a slight romance as we browsed the catchy romantic titles. “The Kings and Queens of England”, a book that caught my sight, I wanted to buy that one, seeing me checking out this book, eventually she bought it for me. And I too bargained for a book she found interesting with the seller. This whole experience was a very blissful moment. Really reminded me of the time when my father and mother are doing shopping together.

And as I thought to find some restaurant nearby. “Nasir!, It’s Open”, she said in her usual shocked way. We were both surprised, as we saw people coming out of Pak-Tea House. We made our way into the café, laughing as we looked at each other’s faces in awe and amazement. Finding a table for ourselves, I thought “Ahh! Now it’s alright, A beautiful girl is with me. The café, the ambiance, the time, and the girl are perfect for my taste”.

From time to time, I looked into her eyes trying to make it into a staring game, but every time she would look away.  And again, I was in fits of laughter, as Anne in her usual fun manner did another eccentricity. She was there squatted on the chair, smiling as she saw me laugh at her eccentricities.  “Nasir, this waiter is staring at me constantly!” she told me. To which I replied nothing but laughed again. The more and more time I spent with her, the more I became certain and an admirer of her fun and eccentric nature. With her pointing out or naturally, immediately that waiter came by to take orders. “2 sandwiches and 2 cups of Tea would be fine!” I told him.

Now we two had all we needed, a quiet place, a good atmosphere, and couples around us. So we talked and talked, and Anne would glance at each sitting couple with astounding amusement and curiosity. And so we talked and talked until our order came. She talked about a confrontation of how a nice boy had been dumped by her girlfriend, in front of her in a café. And how this event had angered her so much, that she wanted to slap that girl then and there. She asked me for my opinion on it, to which I replied, ” Let’s leave it !”.

It was her usual to start talking about relationships and romance out of the blue. Without even the slightest mention, she would bring dating, couples, and relationships into the conversation. From time to time, I would lean back on the table, and right away she would come forward and start out some other discussion, “ Nasir do you know what happened……”. That half hour with Anne was one of the best times of my life.

“Now you are confirmed that I am insane,” asked Anne blushingly as I smilingly stared at her. I could say nothing but laugh heartedly at her childish eccentricities. She then proceeded to ask me another question. Now in a much more serious tone,” Nasir, Do you have any best friend (Female)?

My mind was laughing as it was the exact question, my dating coach Dorey Wayne had mentioned. I playfully replied “Yes”. She then inquired further, “ From which department?”. “There are… from mine and other departments as well”, I answered. Her curiosity tingling her to inquire about me and my possible girlfriends made her vividly ask, “Are they as silly and funny as me”. Once again I affirmed in positive.

I could see the curiosity in her eyes. Trying to know my female acquaintances and was also cautious not to make her objectives too apparent. Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered there. Most of the couples, mostly old lads and their wives happily enjoy dining out. Specific was such a couple on the table across from us. Often some elderly individual would come by and greet them, chatting for a while in a welcoming manner. As we both saw these old lads and their wives having a good time, Anne said something which I was already expecting. “Look Nasir See !, those old couples are looking so great, so loving. And someday, Nasir would also be sitting with his loving old wife, and I would come by still single. Which would make Nasir’s wife jealous of me!”, she threaded a story, Once again I said nothing but only smiled at her adorable romantic thoughts.

We were served the sandwiches, and as I began to relish the food, Anne whispered slightly pointing at her plate. “Nasir! There’s a hair in the sandwich”. We eventually complained about it to the waiter and requested another sandwich. In the meantime, I took Anne’s photos as she would play with the little décor pot plant. As we enjoyed the food, a lady in a nice blue dress entered the cafe, Anne was quick enough to see me checking out that lady and immediately said,” Nasir!, Is she more beautiful than me!”. There it was, One after the other, she was making her interest apparent. She wasn’t able to contain her attraction anymore. And I have read the dating book and was pretty much aware of her mind at that moment.

“O Gosh!, this girl is really into me. It’s so easy dating her, courting her, she can’t hold her anymore”. After finishing the tea, I wished to convert this hangout date, into a formal one by ordering some sweets. The Café only had brownies, so we enjoyed some hot brownies. It was quite large, more than enough for 2 people. While we were enjoying it, she received a call. It was a guy on the phone, soon afterward my emotions engaged as she laughed and flirted on the phone. I got some of my internal uncertain male awakened, who’s afraid of losing his girl to another man.

Despite my efforts, my mood had suddenly changed during those 4 mins of call, resentful at her not being completely exclusive with me. Nonetheless, I tried to keep up a good mood, but the anger was undesirable. Nonetheless, soon after ending the call, she came forward without me asking and told me about this guy. Gabriel, a café owner often gives her and her friends good company at his café. She told me that he is a married guy and that he gives them good fun company. From the way she laughed and talked on the phone, I was certain that this guy was hitting up her. But maybe to assure me, she told me about his context.

 Nonetheless, as the conversation had begun about her friends, she told me about another guy she came across at university. “ He asked for my number… and since then every day he is messaging me and suggesting different books and stuff…etc, I don’t like this”, she told me, how he is making her feel uncomfortable.

This did give me some assurance, that I was courting her in the right way neither too reluctant not forcing her, but letting her come to me at her own pace. And I was also blushing inside and sympathizing with this poor nice guy, who was acting just like I did a year ago and unintentionally turning her off. Nonetheless, I did know, that there’s still a strong competitor in the field.

It was getting dark, we asked for the bill. As the two of us left the café, I cast a melancholic gaze upon the photos of Pakistan’s Literary giants, decorated on the walls. We took some photos alongside these frames and then left. It was 9 o O clock. We decided to take a walk on the Mall road, before heading for our homes.

We had to cross the busy road across Anarkali. The road was bustling with fast-paced traffic casting high beams on the trespassers. I led her across calmly. Passing each lane one by one and with patience. And every time car would cast a high beam towards us, she would cry out,” Nasir look!, The car’s coming..!”. I would smile seeing her shouting with fear. “Nasir,.. I don’t wanna die, I still need to complete 2 years at UMT!”, she continued shouting as we crossed the road.

During this whole moment, there was a battle going on inside my mind. “Should I hold her hand?”

“No you Dumbass, she’s not loyal to you yet, and neither would be most probably, she flirts with other guys, she doesn’t deserve this affection!”, came one thought.

“Yes, hold her hand, it’s the perfect moment. Don’t miss it” whispered my second thought.

But the damage had been done, I listened to the former and didn’t hold her hand. I adhered to it for the rest of that night. We were walking on link road. My conscience had still not settled, still contemplating her behavior. We came across two cafes and led Anna inside to check out those.

It was empty on the link road and quiet.  Our arms brushed against each other as we walked together. Passing by a tobacco store, she asked me if I smoked. To which I said, “No!”. She was talking a lot, which I couldn’t remember much about. And as we reached Empress Market, she started talking about how much fun she had tonight. “ I enjoyed so much with you. Now I am certain that I can go anywhere with Nasir, he would always take me to amazing fun places and have a great time”. I couldn’t enjoy these compliments much, as I was still not in a very happy mood. She then said, referring to the book,” Now Nasir will remember me through this book! But you better remember that there’s only one queen in this, and that’s me!”. She did make sense, as I didn’t give her much time on texting. She would everyday text me, trying to start a conversation, but I didn’t and cut her short.

The moon was full, the road flooding bright by the busy traffic on Mall road. I took Anna’s photos as we walked by my favorite building, the old market on Mall road. Our date was becoming more and more like that shown in movies. Boyfriend and girlfriend after a fun romantic date, walking down the road, chattering and laughing while taking each other’s photos. And seeing each other’s face shine in the lights of traffic.

The ride had come, we sat, and once again this driver too complained about my closing the door too forcefully. As I sat in the car, I felt drowsy as the sugar had started showing its effect. Feeling tired and a bit resentful about her call in the café, I thought about why I hadn’t held her hands during the whole evening.

We two were silent for a while, and then I asked her to play some songs. She played out the famous Indian songs, “Deewane Hum nahin hute, dewaani raat huti hai…: It’s not us who are insane, it’s the night which brings insanity”. Imagine sitting in a car with a beautiful girl who’s into you and you are into her. And after a successful date, you two are heading back home with this song playing.

The car drove fast by the canal as we two listened to this song in silence. Afterward, I played some of my favorites. The conversation we had then in the car, wasn’t fun rather melancholic. We talked about her family and her time in Istanbul (Turkey). Eventually, we got off, she paid the fare this time. It was a rather melancholic see-off. We waved each other bye and headed for our hostels. She probably getting ready to go to Gabriel’s café with her friends, While I walked towards my room with a ton of thoughts burdened under the discomfort of her not being exclusive.

About the Author:

 Nasir Hussain is a 4th-year student at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore. He writes on different socio-politico affairs regarding Pakistan. His different articles have been published in Pakistan’s national newspapers: Daily Times, Pakistan Today, AE Magazine, The Asian Mirror, and Timesglo.com.

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