I woke up suddenly, fearing I was late. But there was still an hour to go. Too much time.
The morning was so pleasant; it could have been home. I walked to one of small round benches in the garden and watched two bright blue birds flutter across the trees. A frog hopped away and something moved in the bushes.
Where do we go from here?
I wrote my address down on a piece of paper. In cursive, as I had been taught in primary school. As I had done since childhood. The only one I had ever known. It had my name in it. It was my way to deal with loss, write it down.
Zoon Begum, the Lady of the Moon, the cat. She had just came by one day asking for food and never left. She sat on the chairs all day waiting for me to come by and rush to rub its nose on my shoes. Zoon loved that. She spent the whole winter, braving the snow, sitting under the rags waiting for warm bowls of milk and biscuits. Come spring, Zoon Begum left.
Who shall take care of you, Zooni?
And now I followed the memory back. To Zoon, to the morning smells of dew, to home. To an old wooden chess board that belonged to my grandmother. Some things leave behind very private memories. These sixty-four small squares held sixty-four small blanks of memories which I could not explain to anyone. It smelled of ancient wood and by constant use, it carried the aroma of my grandmother’s memory. Of all things, I needed to salvage this.
Was it too late now?
Srinagar was having a hot, unduly sunny afternoon where the windows were framed white in the heat. For a moment, it was hard to recognize. But if I squinted my eyes, I could see myself in it. A bit altered, of course. I folded the chess board and rubbed my hands. In my mind a small vial of bottled fragrance corked itself shut.
How long will this memory last?