By Ammar Al Naaimi
His eyes snapped open exactly one hour before the alarm went off. He looked up at the ceiling, then turned to look at her. Asleep, her head lolled over to one side. Aisha, his wife, looked comical and beautiful all at once. She was undeniably human, fallible in so many ways. He wasn’t about to describe her as the light at the end of a moonless eve, nor as the perfume waiting at the heart of the rose. But he loved her regardless.
Assim stood up quietly, and smiled to himself. He unlocked his phone as he left their sparsely furnished bedroom. He was a true planner, a man whose heart was made of excel sheets. Today, his checklist contained five special things to do for her. Before working on it, however, he made sure to block Aisha on WhatsApp, making it difficult for her to contact him throughout the day.
His first task involved a piece of paper and a pen. He found a beautiful love note online and tried to copy it exactly onto the page. He agonized over the calligraphy, and inevitably smudged the note here and there. He bit his lips and closed one eye to check his writing. Anti al ishk, hatta indama yantahi dam il qalb. You are my passion, even when my lifeblood is spent. Good. Assim grabbed a magnet from the kitchen counter and stuck the note to their battered second-hand fridge which rumbled worryingly on most days, and reminded himself that they will be able to afford a better model someday.
For his second task, Assim went towards the pans and, as quietly as possible, took to making his wife’s favorite breakfast, shakshuka. He fried the tomatoes slowly, and carefully, adjusted the spices just the way she had liked them at the small, flower-filled Egyptian restaurant they’d visited a month ago. With the breakfast cooked and steaming softly on the stove, Assim quickly hopped into the shower, put on his dishdasha and tied his masar around his head, and left the apartment.
The third task on Assim’s list took place at 8:45 in the morning, at the office where he worked as a low-time accountant at a nameless company. “Hey guys, do you mind if I turn on a song?” he asked. His office mates in the other cubicles were confused, but shrugged their approval. Assim chose a song he knew she would like. At around the one minute mark- the chorus she sang along to- he recorded the music as a voice note, then whispered “You look good today,” into his mobile phone’s microphone. He unblocked his wife just long enough to send her the voice note, then blocked her again quickly before she could reply.
The fourth task on the list took place at 5 PM, when Assim walked out of the office. He climbed into his creaking car and drove off, not in the direction of the house, but towards Al Qurum Natural Park where, three months ago, Aisha had commented on the beauty of a particular type of flower. He picked five of these and then tied them around with a string, creating the tiniest bouquet in Muscat. Finally, he drove home, passing by the glistening waves and crowded beaches.
At the apartment, Assim walked in to see Aisha fretting over his whereabouts. “I couldn’t reach you!” she complained, but with a smile on her face. She knew him to be eccentric at times.
Assim responded by handing her the flowers and showing her the note. “I wanted to do something nice,” he said sheepishly, running a hand over his disappearing hairline. “Five things, for five years of marriage.”
Aisha laughed and embraced him. “So next year, it’s six?” she teased.
“I look forward to the year I do fifty,” he replied. “So now, the fifth thing: I promise that one day, I’ll have a better car for you to drive, that the fridge will be fixed and that I will buy you real bouquets of flowers, all sourced from Holland. For now, is it enough that I love you?” he asked.
Aisha went quiet in his hands. “I love you too. Now and forever and no matter how much money you make,” she whispered passionately.
Later that night, Assim worked on an excel sheet in bed. Aisha slept bathed in the light of his screen, and he watched her with a small smile, his heart aching. Yes, she was utterly, beautifully human. Just a person. She wasn’t the light at the end of a moonless eve, nor the perfume waiting at the heart of the rose. But she was his light. She was his rose. Even if he couldn’t afford the big gestures, Assim would do the tiny things to make her happy.
Ammar Al Naaimi is an Omani author living in Muscat. His first book, “Unoriginal Tales: Ten Fantastical Stories from Oman,” came out in December 2019. “Sarim,” an urban fantasy novel about Omani exorcists, is set to release in the coming period. When not writing… well, no, he’s always writing. He’s probably writing right now.
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