There are stories behind locked doors like these on every corner,
this one, for instance, bears the weight of lost loves and abandoned fortunes.
Tariq travelled 15 hours to reach these then brown doors in the middle of the night,
with nothing but his wife Sameera’s hands to hold in his palms.
They built themselves a home with discarded sticks and stones,
raised a son, called him Faizal, sometimes Faiz with love,
and lived a life they could tuck in at night in exchange for a sound sleep.
But no, this is not the story you came looking for.
Three doors down, in a house with crooked windows and a patchy roof
lived Noor, Sameera’s only friend in this lonely town.
Together, they exchanged recipes and stories of forgotten pasts,
and built bonds woven into Faizal’s handmade sweaters.
When the news of Tariq’s death came, Sameera was the last to know,
she folded all his clothes and tucked them away along with hers,
wrapping one end of the noose around her neck and the other around her dreams,
and ran away with Tariq once again.
They left Noor and Faizal like two disjoint pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
to find their jagged edges which would fit perfectly.
Faizal grew as the boy with Sameera’s eyes and Tariq’s smile,
and Noor’s heart which taught him to forgive but never let go.
But this is not the story you came looking for.
Faizal married Afsana, the artist who lived on the other corner of the street,
and together they repainted the walls that stank of sacrificial blood,
breathing life into the embers of a fire that had once destroyed all.
They lived until they had more wrinkles than bones in their body,
and left the nest empty when they were ready to fly away.
But this too, is not the story you came looking for.
What we’re really trying to say is that
sometimes, if you spend too long fading into the background,
you might actually become it.
We know every story that has walked these streets,
every battle that has been fought,
every life that has been lost.
Which is to say,
we are the ears that live in these walls,
the pillars that do not let the weight of unfinished stories
burn the entire city down.
So for once,
don’t come looking for the story, find the storyteller,
because sometimes, it is the cage that is waiting to be opened up,
and not the bird.