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It is Winter in Germany. The snow ends just before the slippery pebbled street, like a tide that
froze while making its way to shore. Naked trees stare lifelessly at each other. Houses huddle
together, warming themselves, casting a glow over the evening shadows. White. Grey. Soft
Gold. It could be a picture on a postcard, like the ones they sell at the supermarket. Imagine,
being part of a German postcard. A black dot somewhere to the left.

You spot a slightly displaced bench. It seems to have drifted in along with the tide. You walk
towards it, leaving arthritic dents in the snow. The nylon of your windbreaker gives off faint
whistles as you sit. The whistles are cold. You seat your grocery bag next to you, cup your
mitten hands over your mouth and breathe out softly. The warm moisture permeates through
the wool and cools into the creases of your palms. And when you pull your face back, a ball
of mist momentarily floats in the cup of your hands before fading away into the icy air. You
take out your diary and begin making a sketch of the view. You have always been good at
drawing trees. "Witch Trees", you Once used to call these leafless ones. When you are done
with the first tree you begin drawing a witch, crookedly perched on one of its branches. But it
ends up looking more like a scribble. "Wich Tree" you write the way you used to spell it
Once. There. Your own German Postcard.

A lazy bus hisses by and stops a few feet from you. You wonder if this is the bus that will
take you back to his – your – apartment. You read German as if it were English.
"Order..misterrr..strabay," you read out loud. You pick up your obese grocery bag and your
diary and the bus takes you away.

You take a seat behind two middle-aged women. Their conversation sounds like a series of
gargles and hushes interrupted by an occasional buzz.

It reminds you of your own language, Pashto. A relative – you can’t remember who – once
told you that if you ever wanted to hear what Pashto sounds like, put two rocks in a can and
rattle it loudly. That’s Pashto.

"I'm leaving!" your mind interrupts.
"No, that would give it away too easily," you reply, looking into the grocery bag on your lap.
The shapeless potatoes wobble as the bus moves forward.
"We need to talk." That’s how the people in the movies say it.
"We need to talk, I can't take it anymore," you test out loud. One of the women turns back
and eyes you from above her magnifying spectacles. You give a reluctant smile. She returns
it – reluctantly – and looks forward.
Your mind repeats the line. There. Much more original.
You look out the window, as white merges with grey and gold blurs by.
He is back from work. His investment-banker-shoes clomp against the wooden floor. The
compact snow wedged under his soles lets out a grainy crunch. A testimony from where he
has been.

You stare at his reflection in the kitchen window. He takes off his coat and turns on the TV.
You lose him in its glare. The TV pulsates as he changes channels. You go back to rinsing
your potatoes making sure the water doesn’t splash too loudly against the metal sink.

He is wearing a grey sweater that once came to the doorstep in a parcel with a postcard
attached to it, "Itch Leibe Dich" - it was the first German sentence you learned. The easiest
one you learned but the most difficult to comprehend as it sat there, three simple words, on a
crisp, vanilla-colored postcard addressed to your husband. Hus-band. What a strange word it
still seems after two months. The first time you heard it being used for you was a week before
the wedding.

"Is he your friend?" Your three year old cousin had asked.
"Your husband. Mama says he's your husband. What does that mean?"

He walks to the fridge. You stay still. Inertial.
And then, as he bends over in front of the fridge, a faint light illuminating the dark crescents
beneath his eyes, the inertia breaks: "I need to tell you something-"
The back of your skull heats up. As do your ears.
"Hmm?" He faces you now, Diet Coke in hand. He looks different from the wedding pictures.
More content. Like a fat man, after eating roasted chicken and potatoes. You see his eyes
drifting to the sink where the potatoes lie in a bowl of water. Your head is still warm.
As usual, nothing.
You begin peeling the potatoes. He returns to changing channels.
That night you want to write down what you feel. You sit at the coffee table in the kitchen. A
solitary bulb casting an umbrella of light around you. You tear out a page from your diary
and write "I feel:". You stare at the paper for a while. Nothing follows.

You try to look through the nearly opaque window. Frosted moisture occasionally breaks into
jagged rivulets, revealing fractures of the view outside. You think of the postcard that came
with the grey sweater. It was the first of many postcards, all with the same curly handwriting
scribbled on them. There were phone calls too. He would go to the guest room after having
dinner and stay in there talking in German for an hour and fifteen minutes every night. And
you would sit outside, ear pressed against the wall, German-to-English dictionary in hand. It
had become a routine. The only routine you had.

A chill creeps up your socks and asks you to hurry. You sit a little longer looking at the
window. And then you get up, leaving the paper waiting, and go to bed.

He pretends to be asleep.
Sex? No.

All those hours your wise-with-age aunts had spent explaining exactly how you were
supposed to please him had only gotten them excited, no one else. On the wedding night you
had come out of the bathroom, having changed into the nighty that your cousins had deemed
"sexy enough" for the occasion, to find him lying on the bed, back turned towards you,
bedside lamp switched off. You stood there for longer than you imagined, cleavage showing,
thighs bare in front of the back of a fully dressed man.

You sleep now just like you had then; on the farthest end of the bed, not allowing a single
spring to creak.
You dream that you have turned into a Wich Tree. Wich-Tree-You tries to cover itself with
leaves, but there are none. There is only a web of frozen branches; immobile, frozen
branches. Wich-Tree-You asks the other trees for help but they only speak German.
The next morning, while still in bed, you take out your diary and flip it open to the postcard
you drew at the bus stop. A Wich Tree to the left with a scribble on it. You take out a pen and
"Dear Mother,
I feel nothing.
Love, Me."
A week passes after posting the card and you are inundated with phone calls. Your reply is
always the same, "I feel nothing".

Another week. Your mother sends you an airline ticket in the mail. You stare at it for a while,
knowing exactly what it means. You wonder how to say your goodbyes. A big argument
perhaps, and a slammed door? You think of how you will start.

"I'm leaving"?
No, that would give it away too easily.
"We need to talk."? The way the people in the movies say it?

You pack, board a plane, stay suspended in the sky for four and a half hours.
When you finally reach Pakistan, the sun is blinding. You are taken to your parent's home.
The maids, the aunts, the cousins all greet you with perfectly manufactured smiles – wide
enough to look welcoming, tapered at the ends to show sympathy.
Sympathy. Disapproval.
Eventually everyone becomes tired of asking questions. Except your mother, of course. She
serves a question with every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
News about him comes to your house like a contagious flu – hiding in the sneezes, whispers
and coughs of visiting relatives. They sit on the same sofas where they had congratulated you
two months ago on having found the perfect match. Now, they say he has married a German
woman – Ursula. Her name says to you, "Itch Leibe Dich".
"Ish Leebay Dish". Two months have taught you that they pronounce "ch" as "sh". Just two

On the third week of your arrival, your mother brings you a carton of your old drawings to
rummage through. You rummage. Most of them are sketches, half-finished. Some are water
color paintings from school days; powdery paint on jaundiced paper. You take out one of the
paintings. It has stiffened with time. You bend it. It gives off a painful crunch and paint chips
off from where you must have accidently applied an extra drop Once. A black dot now lies on
your white bed sheet. It's just a black dot. Flick it off.

Author: Anoushe Shehnaz Hassan (LUMS)

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