My heart missed a beat when I saw a woman walking opposite me. She reminded me of my mother who I had lost six years ago. I slowed down so I could get a good look at her. She sensed something and gave me a curious look. I smiled but I guess my smile froze while doing so. I was still looking at her when she walked past me.
I stopped and looked back. Then something extraordinary happened. She stopped when she was about 50 metres away. She turned her head, looked at me, gave me a kind smile and continued with her walk. It was as if she knew what was in my mind. I tried to search my mind to what made me think the lady reminded of my mother. There was no resemblance. The only thing was that she was the same age when my mother died.
When I went back home that night, I stopped at the old plant pot that my mother left behind. It was one of those few things I have to remember her. For some unexplainable reason, I watered the plant that my mother used to do all those years back. I took out a pair of trimmers and gingerly trimmed the plant. I did not stop there. With a clean piece of cloth, I gently wiped the pot until the shine on it reflected the lights on the ceiling.
I also decided to change its position. I dragged the old pot to a focal point at the entrance of the house so I can see it every time I walk in or out of the house. It took me about 30 minutes to do all that and yet, I thought I could have done more. I was happy no one was watching me doing it. I would have had an awkward moment trying to explain the course of my action to what impelled me to do it.
After I had dinner, I went to the old drawers and rummaged old pictures. I found some of her old photographs. I wished at that moment, I had taken the time to take more photos of her. I also realised, sadly, that I did not have a single photo together. I might exaggerate, more from regret than anything else, I would have traded one of my fingers just to have a photo with her.
I had a difficult night. I tossed and turned in bed. In the end, I gave up and went to the living room and switched on my laptop to get myself occupied.
It was nearly four in the morning when I went back to bed. Thankfully, I slept soundlessly. When my wife asked me what had kept me awake the whole night, I told her, “Mother hangover.”
She looked curiously at me and asked, “Are you alright?”
I laughed and said instead, rather than admitting the real course of my sleeplessness, “I dreamt of my mother.”
I was grateful she did not press me to tell me about it. Perhaps she sensed it I would rather keep it to myself. Later on that weekend, I picked up my mobile phone and had all my children take separate photos with their mother. Why, they asked. I told them, “It is what your grandmother had wished when she was alive.”
They did not ask questions. Again, there was something in me that expresses remoteness of feelings that they thought they would rather not transgress.
One day, I thought, these pictures would ease their guilt. I could even persuade their mother to leave each one of them a plant pot in her will.
Saleh Al Shaibany