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The Laws That Govern by Umbreen Butt

This morning, I discovered that Midnight had run away. Sakina, the
cleaning lady, informed me through a crack in my bedroom door,
flashing a toothy paan-stained grin; she always believed that black
cats were incarnations of djinns. I stood blocking the doorway, unable
to rush out or panic. There was a naked man asleep in my bed, and that
talkative hag would be cleaning your flat after mine.

Sakina was crazy, you once told me; she offered you brazen opinions on
the women in your life, which sometimes made you paranoid. But I need
not worry, for according to her, I was good for you. According to her,
you were not good enough for me, but I never told you that.

I do not sleep with younger men; I do not have sex right after a break
up: it brings bad karma. This one, snoring softly in my bed, has
nothing to offer, unlike you. But he holds every part of me in his
mouth, and tastes my reactions. Our lovemaking must have driven my
kitten away.

“I am not into open relationships,” you concluded the story of your divorce.

That night, sex was a punishment. You kissed me absentmindedly and
then pushed in. When you rolled off, the distance between us stretched
for miles. I kissed the chalk wall of your back, outlined your
shoulder with my tongue, held onto the flesh with my teeth. You
swatted me like a mosquito, told me to stop it. I felt like a child
being reprimanded. When you spoke of the past, you made no apology for
the present. Did the cleaning lady ever meet your ex-wife? Or her

You had just returned from spending New Year’s in India; you were in
Dehli and tried cocaine for the first time. I was in Karachi, taking
a pregnancy test for the first time. We met in Lahore, where you
crossed the Wagah border at 3 a.m. There were no crowds watching on at
that time, so you rushed into my arms, like it was the warmest place
on earth. I told you that I was not pregnant. You told me that I would
look beautiful carrying your child.

From my balcony, overlooking the Arabian Sea, I can see hawks climb
the empty heights above Karachi. They stop suddenly, as if in
mid-sentence, and then fall straight down like a dead weight towards
the sea, pulling up in a sweeping arc across the tops of the date
palms, just before my heart sinks irretrievably. Watching the hawks, I
think Newton is a sham: there are no laws that govern the world. But
you and I never had enough momentum going for us, nor grace.

We first met in a wine bar in New York City. You left your wife in
Toronto. I was moving to Pakistan. You drew our future home on a
napkin, an egg-shaped shelter in Córdoba where, on Sunday, the family
would gather for the grand Spanish barbecue, and your grandfather
would ask me for a dance, and maybe even try to kiss me on the mouth.
Over a glass of bubbly South African red wine, you promised to build
me a studio with a terrace and a fountain, and because Spattorino
(wine) sounded as far away as Spain, and red wine was never
effervescent, I chose to believe you.

I believed the hushed world you drew, spoken of softly, as if some
dreams were too fragile to rush through. The candle between us kept
the snow outside at bay, but in Córdoba, the flatlands would stretch
for miles, and fill us with possibility, because over there, the world
would begin at our doorstep.


Umbreen Butt is the former Senior Producer Documentaries at Dawn News TV. She holds a degree in film from New York University and most recently has been doing aid work in Pehsawar.