It turned out that there was mercy, too, after all.
The taxi driver who drove me to the airport was a tall, strapping man who gave me a hearty salaam with a booming voice as he loaded my bag into the trunk. As we made our way onto the M25, he spoke in an endearingly lilted Cockney accent about his children and grandchildren, about his love of his job, about how much things have changed for those of the Pakistani diaspora living in Britain. I went from having the usual reluctance I have with people who are excessively friendly to letting my heart be opened, letting the warmth and friendship of a stranger pour in.
And before I knew it, I was telling him everything. He just seemed to know so much, and I had nothing to lose by telling him what was hurting me, so I did. He listened compassionately. He told me his own story, a story that mirrored mine so completely that I started tearing. I asked. And he explained matters to me, adding: “There was a time when people prayed for adversity so that they could be closer to Allah.”
In spite of the company, in spite of the so-rare feeling of being seen and heard, I felt more out of sorts than ever. Maybe because it was too intense, too much for me to take. As I paid him, he seemed to sense this, and he pulled me into a tight hug. Usually a person so wary of physical contact, I didn’t resist. “It’ll be aright, love.” he said reassuringly. I nodded through my sobs.
Once he drove away, I continued to cry for a few more minutes, not caring who saw me or what they thought. But then I wiped my cheeks, took a deep breath, and started pulling my luggage towards the entrance of the London Heathrow terminal. And as I did so I had a strange sense of something I hadn’t felt since I was a child: that this was a scene in a novel. More than that, I felt that this was a fitting scene to end the novel, to finally finish off the never-ending narrative.
And it really did get better, later on.