It was no longer at the back of his mind while he operated on his ailing patients, listening to Jack Johnson and carefully rerouting the blood flow from the heart to the machine, removing the sick battered heart and placing it gently in the silver bowl. He knew that the heart was no longer viable, that it was a dead organ that has been pumped, shocked and injected with so many chemicals, but he always felt that he had to be gentle with it. The heart has done all that it could do to keep its owner alive, but sometimes biology fail. The heart was not responsible, it should not be punished, but revered, celebrated, acknowledged for hanging on, waiting and ever so religiously beating. Even if they were slow, faint and life-threatening beats, but it did beat, it did pump, it did push the blood into its battered arteries. It did that because it was its job and it never gave up. Now after it had completed its job so meticulously, he gave it the permission to rest, to give up, to let go, knowing that it had done all that it could. He bid the ailing heart a farewell in his brain, and then from the other side, he was handed the young, vibrant replacement, pink and ready to take its place in the race. He always pictured the young heart smiling, energetic and eager; a young soldier ready for battle, incapable of picturing the road ahead with his inexperienced brain. Before he placed it in the patient's chest cavity, he said a little prayer, that he always says before putting the young heart.
"May God grant you strength to continue, resilience to hang on, and familiarity to blend in. May your presence bring health to this ailing body and vibrancy into its weary brain. May God bless this heart and this body and keep it in his grace, protecting it and preventing it from further weariness."
He knew that he was an instrument of God, he knew that health was granted by the Lord and so he always made sure he said the prayer. It was his way of obtaining permission and of thankfulness that God gave him the talent to save the lives of others. He smiled, as the young heart started pumping; the nurses and other doctors uttered sighs of relief and congratulations. He allowed his young student to close up under his watchful eyes. Even though he could leave the student to finish up on his own, he wouldn't. He always felt that patients trusted him personally and he would never betray their trust. Each case, each patient was personal to him, that's why losing any one of them always hit him hard. They were his friends rather than distant personalities; friends who gave him the most precious of things to guard; their hearts. How could he be reckless with such a thing?
After the surgery, he went to relay the good news to the family. He went to the waiting room, his wife was crying, his son was pacing the floor, his grandchildren were anxiously clinging to their mother. They feared the worse. As soon as they saw him, he smiled. He knew that they shouldn't be put in more angst. They knew it was alright. He explained that it was a success and told them how to proceed, what will be expected and how crucial the next period would be. Sentences of thanks to him was said, prayers of thanks were expressed to God and hugs were given all around, as the family rejoiced. Her husband, his father, their grandfather would live to see them progress through life, he would share their laughter and happiness for as long as God would allow him, and for that they were delirious. It was their right.
It was his last surgery of the day, he went to his office to change and head home. It has been almost 8 hours since he last checked his phone. He casually checked for missed calls, but found a couple of voice messages. His mother reminding him of the dinner the following weekend, his sister worried about her pregnancy and wanting him to come to check on her. His friends reminding him for the nth time that they were getting together the following day and then a couple of messages from his assistant about next week's surgeries and a swanky dinner related to the hospital, where the chief of staff wants to show him off. He would have to go, not that he wanted to, but to progress, one must give in to the occasional social nuisance. He laid the phone on his desk and went to take a quick shower and change. He would pass by his sister on the way home. He was gathering his stuff when he noticed that his phone was flickering; it was a text message that he managed to miss.
He managed to see the sender. It was her. The message was so casual, so light and friendly. She got right into the subject, without a hello or a how have you been. She seemed to pretend that it wasn't years since they have last spoken. She seemed to have forgotten that she was no longer an element in his life. The dead brain cells were violently revived, the filthy grey suddenly returned to a healthy red, the awakening was so severe, that he instantly experienced a sharp pain surging through his head and cold wave of emotion through his body. He held the phone tightly in his hands as he searched for the message's date; maybe it was an old text. It wasn't, it was sent 6 hours ago. It was as fresh as the morning coffee he drank each morning with his neighbor; an old patient who has become a great friend. He remembered the last time he spoke of her to his neighbor, it was 3 years ago, he remembered how he described her, he remembered how his friend felt his aching soul. He remembered the loss he felt when she disappeared from his life. He remembered the obsession that lingered in his brain; the way he constantly checked his phone, the way he incessantly checked his email and the way he wondered where she was. The obsession clung to his brain like a rabid dog hanging to a limb. He hated it, but it wouldn't go away as much as he tried.
As he read the text a couple of times, he found that the feeling of resentment was no longer available within him. Instead, hope took its place. He felt his face move as he smiled and a familiar and refreshing feeling overcame him. He was, in fact, happy. Even though he wanted to hate her, he could never bring himself to do that. Although he might have said it to himself a couple of times, but he always realized that he was a liar. He was a liar because within him, there wasn't a single drop of hate towards her, instead there was rivers of affection, kindness and even love (although he never really admitted it).
In her message, she said that she was back and if they could meet tomorrow morning since it was an official holiday. She said that she had brought him a souvenir and wanted to give it to him. She mentioned a time and a cafe; it was his favorite one in the city. He wondered if that was a coincidence. He thought that maybe she needed a favor from him. If that was the case, he would feel disappointed, but he would calmly oblige. He knew that he would never be able to say no to her and she knew it as well. He typed on his phone.
"Alright, see you then."
He waited a while until he was no longer dizzy and headed for the parking lot. He drove the car, but all the way to his sister's, his brain was on overdrive. He arrived at his sister's home which was located in a posh neighborhood in Maadi, on account of her being one of the country's well-known diplomats. He opened the door and stepped in. He shouted, announcing his presence.
"I am here, let's see what's wrong with the little rascal."
His sentence was received with a loud and greatly unexpected, "surprise" along with light and the appearance of a great crowd of people. It was his birthday, but he completely forgot. He liked his birthday, but he had been so busy that it completely slipped his mind. He was genuinely surprised, but pleasantly so. All his friends, family and colleagues were gathered, the living table was piled high with gifts, wrapped with all sorts of festive wrapping paper. Different kinds of food, drink and decadent deserts were placed on the dining table. Although he had never been a fan of parties, this time, he felt happy and blessed. He was happy that people thought of him as someone worthy of celebrating, that they cared about him and his birthday. Still, he made sure there was nothing wrong with his sister's baby, as it was his initial intent. Then, he enjoyed the party to the fullest. He had never had that much fun in his life, he knew that it was one of those days he would remember forever and hoist as an example of the perfect day.
The party continued till the wee hours of the morning. Friends helped him load the many presents into his car; he was particularly excited about the iPhone his parents bought him and the cool new e-reader his friends got him. He felt like a kid.
The way back home was delightful as the sky turned blue, announcing that soon the sun will rise and the air was chilly, as expected from a winter morning. He thought that the weather couldn't be better as he rolled down his windows and enjoyed the crisp cool breeze. However, God proved him wrong as tiny drops of rain started to fall down; the smell of rain dominated the air. He reached his home just in time, as the sky started to pour down. He let his dog inside and they both sat in front of the huge window in the living room, watching as the rain cleaned the earth. It was a magnificent sight, specially as the sun started to slowly rise, accentuating the rain with an orange hue that the greatest artist can never emulate. The rain slowly dissipated and a faint rainbow formed across the sky.
"It's a nice day, huh boy?"
He addressed his dog, who seemed to agree as he smiled, opening his huge mouth with his tongue lolling out. The golden retriever came into his life when he found him as a puppy in front of his doorstep, three years ago. He was abandoned and weak. Although he never was a pet person, he was always kind to animals. He took the small puppy and nursed it to health with the help of his best friend, who happened to be a veterinarian. He was supposed to give it away, but just before posting the internet ad "A cute golden retriever seeks a nice loving home", the healthy puppy yelped out. It smiled and then yelped again. He ignored it and put his hand on the mouse, but before he could click, the puppy yelped again, but this time it was a long wail like a wolf's. He realized then that this puppy was his, not anybody else's. He kept him, but trained him well, so that he can maintain the order of his home. The dog proved obedient and easy to train. Ever since, he'd become his companion and furry friend. He even attributed his new physical fitness to the dog, as he would often take him for long walks every single day.
Only three hours left for his meeting with her. He decided to take a nap. He slept on the living room couch, watching the world and his dog slept underneath, guarding his master. Two and half hours passed, marked by his phone's alarm. He woke up, let the dog out, who saw a couple of birds in the garden and started to bark and chase them intently. It was a beautiful morning and he realized that whatever happened, and whatever that came out of that meeting, he wouldn't care. He realized the blessings in his life and he was entirely satisfied with his current situation, regardless of the obsession. He got dressed and fixed his hair, paying special attention to calm his naturally curly hair. After he checked himself in the mirror, he went out to the garden; the weather was pleasantly cold. He looked at his dog; he was still chasing the bird, but when he saw his master, he stood still waiting for the next command.
"Guard the house."
The dog acknowledged the command with a short and precise bark, as if saying "Roger that."
The car was drenched with water, he got in and turned on the front and back wipers. There were still some scattered clouds in the sky, threatening to reveal their contents very soon.
He found a parking spot right in front of the cafe since it was early in the morning, and nobody wakes up early on weekends. He was 5 minutes early, so he went inside and got a seat in front of the window. He ordered a coffee and sipped it slowly, while reading the morning paper. Just as he was flipping to the next page, he saw her. She didn't look different, but maybe more beautiful. She also looked refreshed, the last time he saw her, she was stressed out and worried about her big move abroad for the sake of her PhD. She was also depressed and anxious. Now, she seemed serene. She was getting something out of the car; a huge gift, which she struggled with.
He went outside and helped her. She smiled. He smiled. They both went inside the cafe, him carrying his gift, but more interested in the buyer of the present than the gift itself. They chatted away for hours, each of them taking their turn to spin their life's story during the past three days. The empty cafe filled out with people, as they continued to talk. The huge gift was still on the table; unopened and temporarily ignored.
"Aren't you going to open it?"
She said with a mischievous smile. As he unwrapped the maroon wrapping paper, he found two boxes neatly stacked, one on top of the other. The one top was marked souvenir. The other one was marked bday. He opened the souvenir first, it was a first edition of the famous surgery book "Grey's anatomy". He'd been searching for a first edition, ever since college. She remembered. He then started to open the second box, which was his birthday gift. On top there was a map of Cairo, on which she put a post-it note.
"Directions to *hopefully* my future home"
On the map, there was a huge red X, the area seemed familiar, too familiar. He realized that the red X marked his own home. Below the map, there was a fancy welcome mat on which it was written,
"Welcome to the residence of the Seliman family and their dog. "
Note: I started writing this, with no real direction, I got the inspiration for it yesterday at night. I hope it's not too sappy, but since Ramadan is near we keda, I didn't want it to be depressing.
Ramadan Kareem :D