Moonlight on the roof

by yunus mohamed

It was a striking full moon under the smooth velvety sky. A beautiful disk created through the debris of rocks that hurled against each other to become an object of pure light and love, a goddess, worthy of being worshipped by all the ancients. The moon looked as if it was dancing, singing, to the hum of the universe’s eternal song. A rhapsody perhaps, free flowing, like the gentle bend of a river.

There I was, on the very rooftop of Bilquis and Naushad’s home, sweeping away the silvery shards of this wondrous moonlight with a broom held resolutely in my hands. I heard the sound of hurried footsteps. When I looked below, I saw Bilquis come running out of her front door and into the courtyard ranting and raving at me. ‘Oh, Bilquis, my Bilquis, looking so splendidly, so very beautiful.' Even through shadows I could see that her eyes shone like crystals, and the dark softness of her flowing hair shimmered under the night’s sky.

‘How dare you sweep moonlight from my rooftop Fareez! How dare you’ Bilquis screamed looking up at me before coming to a halt right in front of the clothes line. That voice. Aah!, like a melody , a voice that over the years seeped through my veins till it reached my heart to settle in there forever, every word, every glance, every doting memory of her voice.

Just then, her husband Naushad came tearing out of the house with a large stick in his hands. I laughed. I noticed two pairs of pants, three shirts and a large bathing towel hanging on the line, swaying gently through a slender breeze. In the corner of the house lay a rusty tin bucket, pieces of a bicycle chain and a bundle of wood waiting to be scorched perhaps , I thought it strange, how we leave in corners, things that are deemed to be unwanted, like an old parent, like a discarded lover. Suddenly, they both screamed at me, Bilquis and Naushad, as if they were as one, and I well… nothing at all, of no consequence.‘
“Come down this minute “Fareez.” They said to me, as if they had one voice, inseparable .Did they think that for one moment I would listen to them. Did they think my heart would mend so quickly? I laughed to their faces as I held the broom in my hands. A cold breezes swept pass me suddenly, and I began to shiver like a newborn leaf.

The breeze passed and I continued to sweep the watery moonlight off the rooftop with my weapon hating Naushad. I looked up at the sky briefly and noticed that the stars above seemed to be looking down at me in melancholy. I thought stars would be happy to see me sweep away moonlight from the roof of Bilquis and Naushad’s home. My father once said to me “Fareez, stars will always be envious of the moon not only because the moon is so much closer to us than they are, but because the moon will always kiss you with her light long before the beam of stars reach the earth."

I looked at Bilquis, standing with Naushad, so close, their shoulders touched. My heart splintered with every breath I took.
‘Come down from the rooftop this instant Fareez.’ Naushad threatened waving his stick at me. It was Naushad’s favorite stick which he used to intimidate anyone who crossed his path. But everyone knew that the stick was more dangerous in my Bilquis hands, than in his.

‘Fareez always does this to me, at every full moon, ever since we married. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, Naushad,” Bilquis said hands on hips looking up at me angrily. “If only her eyes could reach my heart, if only” I wondered restlessly. I continued to sweep moonlight off the roof, gently, patiently but with purpose.

Bilquis fell to the ground and began to wail uncontrollably. Her bun loosened with a sudden jolt through heart wrenching sobs. Her long hair flipped over before resting on the ground. Naushad dropped to his knees and tried to comfort my Bilquis kissing her cheek tenderly. My heart sank, withered, and died all in that one moment.

‘It’s only moonlight; it will return tomorrow my beloved.’ Naushad whispered in Bilquis ear. In that instant, I wanted to jump off the roof and strangle Naushad, but the broom would not let go of me, holding on to my hands firmly.

“Naushad, you don’t understand, Bilquis said looking up, her eyes still watery. “We will have to wait another month for the full moon to appear in all her majesty to bathe our home with love once more.” ‘Then this ‘mad’ Fareez will come again and sweep the moonlight away from our rooftop, as if all he wishes for us to live in perpetual darkness Naushad,’ said Bilquis with another loud wail.

“Don’t worry about Fareez darling; everyone knows that he is crazy. Didn’t you hear, his father threw him out of the house when he tried to cover all the windows with black curtains so that the sun wouldn’t enter, until the moon arrived?” Naushad said to Bilquis cradling her head in his arms.

‘I don’t care what he does in his house Naushad, this is our home.” Bilquis said wiping her eyes with her pink scarf, the scarf Naushad had given her as a present for her last birthday, while I watched in agony. What could I give my Bilquis for a present I thought a thousand times before her birthday? In the end I gave her a pen to write her poems with, in the hope that perhaps, one day she would write a poem about us, Fareez and Bilquis.” Yes , that would be the title. But that ‘fish eyes’ Naushad , gave her that beautiful  gold and black scarf, draping it around her shoulders so intimately, glancing at me with all the cruelty his eyes could muster, as if he knew, all of my inner secrets.

                                                   *** 
Moonlight began to inch away gradually from the rooftop of Bilquis and Naushad’s home. Bilquis looked up at me and began to weep again, but softly her chest heaving back and forth. ‘Don’t worry my darling, the moon will soon return.’ Naushad said to Bilquis, kissing her cheek gently. I looked away, and continued to sweep the last remnants of moonlight from the rooftop leaving behind dark patches of blackness.

The Story continues here.......