Chapter 2 - The Scar
The scar he reminds me. Although he doesn't have to. I see it in the mirror every morning as I brush my hair, pausing to turn my head, letting my fingertips linger over the scar's bumpy and jagged surface. I admire it for a moment, pausing to remember. My scarlet letter. My mark of love.
The scar he reminds me is what he wishes he could take back, have it to do all over again. He wouldn't have asked me to come to the train station. He wouldn't have left me out there searching on the platform. Alone. Vulnerable. He wouldn't have put that impossible distance between us, the distance only ill-fated lovers can know – to see, but to never touch. No he insists, he wouldn't have moved. He wouldn't have left Javed's house, not without me. He would have demanded it. I turn to look up at him with a slight shake of my head, a smile spreading across my face, and I lean in and kiss him and tell him he is wrong.
The scar I remind him is my journey. My stake for freedom. An attempt – yes thwarted –a flawed plan, but nonetheless an action, a movement, an undertaking. The scar was me doing. The scar was me believing, perhaps for the very first time, anything could be done. The scar was me no longer a victim of circumstance rather an insurrection of the heart. A mutiny. An uprising. Finally, at long last a combatant. I would go I tell him, even if it meant the same result, the same cold metal slashing across my face, the same blood pouring out of its gapping wound, the same brutal beating at the hands of Javed, my punishment for disobedience. I'd go for that moment when he saw me. When he slowly rose from the railing and looked down at me and realized everything I had wanted to tell him but couldn't. I there and I had come for him.
The scar reminds me of brothers. Brothers I spent a lifetime between. Brothers whose divide was as deep and wide as this cut on my face. And how was it that I fell in the middle? Slipped in like an intruder, only widening the conflict that existed. One trying to pull me to safety, the other dragging me along in his world of corruption, carrying me like dead weight he must discard. It was the scar that each brother reached for to ask his forgiveness. Salim with a touch. Jamal with his kiss. Forgiveness I gave them both.
Yes, even to that brother – my childhood rival, my betrayer, my captor – the brother who once held me as I lay on a dirty hotel room mattress and listened to my bitter sobs. The brother who coldly told me it had to be done. He had no choice, as if my innocence was something that could be thrown away like an insignificant artifact. Yes, forgiveness for the brother who ultimately became my deliverer. The boy who handed me the keys and told me to go, just drive. The brother who became my martyr. The brother who both placed this scar on my cheek and yet relinquished me into the hands of the only person on this planet who could wipe it away.
The scar is not a symbol of what was taken from me, but what was restored, by him, with a tender kiss on the cheek. His apology, but one he never had to make. Isn't it every girls dream to be pursued by a love as innocent and pure as his? An unwavering determination, a pursuit so relentless the thought of it brings me to tears. A person must be worthy of such devotion, of such love.
The kind of love I see every time I look into his eyes. Eyes in which I except to see my flaws and blemishes, the disfigurement from years of abuse reflected back at me. I'm not the same girl I want to tell him, the one in the yellow dress, the one he must of fell in love with so long ago. Another lifetime ago. I'm used up. Feisty Latika is gone. The playful girl who loved to run and jump and play stick ball in the streets, the one who used to sing and laugh as she watched him dance, she's gone too, left somewhere back there… on Pila Street… in that hotel room… inside Javed's mansion.
And yet, all it takes is one look from him. I am shiny and new. He stares and I see my reflection in his big brown pools and I search for it, looking deeper into his eyes. Where is it? I touch my cheek. I stare harder. Where is it? It has to be there – this scar. It is gone.