after life, part one

The first drops of rain started to drop on the windshield as Saleem started the wipers.

“Do we have to talk about this right now?” he said.

“Is this a bad time? Seeing as we’re both here, it seems a good time as any,” said Nabeeha, her eyebrow slightly raised. Nabeeha and Saleem had been married for three years. Their baby girl, Mariam, was snugly tucked in her car seat at the back. Both parents would sneak a glance from time to time during their car rides.

“I guess I’m not ready to talk about it yet.”

“Not ready? You know this eats away at me on the inside.”

“It’s not easy for me either. I’m afraid for what this means. For our future.”

“I’m not going anywhere. I want to make this very clear, I love you and I love Mariam, I’m not going anywhere.”

“Me too.”

There was a pause for a few beats, and both of them asked simultaneously, “Now what?”

“Hah. I don’t know,” said Saleem.

“That’s the thing, right. I don’t know either.”

They both turned back for a quick glance at Mariam. It didn’t last long. Their glance was interrupted by a horn sound that seemed to be coming closer and louder. A container truck came sliding at them sideways. The type of containers you see stacked on a huge ship, often carrying merchandise in the import/export process. The truck continued sliding, carrying the car with it, until it wedged the car in between a tree.

Nabeeha was unconscious, blood slowly flowing from her ear. There were no sounds of Mariam crying. Saleem maintained faint consciousness, a blur of realization. He fully intended to call out the names of his wife and daughter, but was unable.

Saleem felt the glowing ambulance and firetruck lights. He felt the commotion of the men outside. He felt the wheels of the stretcher used to carry him to the ambulance. He felt the ambulance wobbling on the road and the sirens streaming above. Then he too lost consciousness.

“Stay with us, buddy,” the paramedic said, “we’re almost at the hospital.”

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