The following is a personal response inspired by Yasmin Marri’s “The Poison of the Blue Rose,” specifically the role innocence plays when an individual experiences love.
Mr. Aziz was the old man who lived a quarter of a block from our house. I fell in love at the same time he did.
Every second evening my Mother would pack a snack or two in a tote bag and I would head over over to Mr. Aziz’s house. His welcoming blue door would be open just a crack, and I’d walk through it and into the kitchen. He’d smile at me over his newspaper and wait for me to set down the tote bag and arrange the snacks on a plate. He wouldn’t talk to me until I had done so, and then cheerfully he’d ask, “How ya holding up, young man?”
My face would brighten at this, and I would spill all of the events of the day: from the moment I got out of bed to the moment I returned to it. I admit, sometimes I added a few things here and there to make myself sound more interesting than I really was, but all I wanted was for Mr. Aziz to nod approvingly and thoughtfully and for him to reply back with something captivating he’d experienced in his long old life.
One comfortable fall evening when I was meant to go visit Mr. Aziz, I went out with someone else. She was called Leila. I was mesmerized, and I tripped and fell head over heels for the long dark hair, the serene smile, the glistening eyes, the gentle, melodic laughter. I needed it all and all at once. I’d wake with the thought of her and I’d sleep with the thought of her. She was the stars I gazed at as I fell asleep, and the sun that woke me up.
So the next time I went to visit Mr. Aziz, I was all nerves and smiles. I wanted to tell him everything about this strangely amazing thing that made me think of Leila all the time. And so I rushed to his house out of breath and I rushed to his kitchen table and rushed to take out the snacks and when he finally asked, “How ya holding up, young man?,” I didn’t even notice he was all nerves and smiles too. I told him everything about Leila and it was so interesting I needed not to add a few things here and there. He cleared his throat after my rant, and he too talked. In a much calmer tone than mine, he described precisely what I was feeling. I was in awe. Mr. Aziz said I was in love, and then he said he was too. He said I could call his love Miss. Banafshah. It was incredible. I was in love. Also to finally have something in common we could talk about without Mr. Aziz being the wise old man and I the inexperienced sidekick. That was my favourite visit to his house ever.
And so it began: I would go to Mr. Aziz’s bursting with the stories and he’d patiently wait for me to finish. Like the time Leila and I first held hands, and the first time she finally yielded to a hug: how warm she was and how with each first and with each moment spent together I fell deeper and deeper in love. Mr. Aziz would appreciate my tales, agreeing wholeheartedly with the perfection that was Leila, and would acquaint me then with his own. Instead of gesturing his way through them like I dumbfounded-ly did, he’d adjust the pillows behind his back in his rocking chair and intertwine his fingers neatly. Then he’d encompass exactly what I was feeling with the right words, the right phrases, the right expressions: and I would gaze at him in wonderment, grasping each one and forcing myself to remember them for when I would be old.
When I thought of Mr. Aziz, I thought of him as an adult and I expected the same response I got from him about being in love as I would from any other adult. But I was horribly, tremendously, wrong. I soon realized that the reason I hadn’t recognized the feeling of love when it encompassed me was because I wasn’t meant to.
On a chilly spring day, before heading over to Mr. Aziz’s house, I finally built up the courage to tell Mother that I was in love with Leila.
At first, she laughed: “You can’t be serious! You’re only seventeen- you don’t even know what love is!”
“Yes I do, I know love means being with Leila, and I know I will marry her.” I replied defensively.
“Love is what happens after you get married! How are you so stupid?” After she realized I may be serious, Mother threw me out of the house and said to come back when I was normal, and not in love, again.
It was all a horrendous mess! I rushed over to Mr. Aziz’s needing his thoughtful nods and his purposeful recognition of love. How dare anyone try to prevent me from loving Leila? How could I not love Leila?
I pushed open his door and stepped into the kitchen, only to freeze in shock. Mr. Aziz sat in his rocking chair, his shirt disheveled and tears streaming down his face. I slowly sat down across from him, and asked, “How’re you holding up, Mr. Aziz?”
He shook his head, clearly distraught.
“I lied to you, young man. You should hate me with all your heart. Take all the love you have for Leila, turn it into resentment, and shine it onto me!” I was confused. What could’ve happened so suddenly?
“Miss. Banafshah got married, and not to me! I loved her and I thought she too loved me. I ran away from my family for her— she promised to follow me but she did not. I built this home for her and I and our generations to come. I waited and waited… but what does she do? She goes off and marries some rich man her Father thought was a better man for her than I. Can you believe it? She betrayed me. There is no use falling in love, young man. And I am so so sorry I made you love being in love.”
How dare Mr. Aziz take my Mother’s side! Oh, all those times he had preached me on love! He knew best how much I loved Leila.
I stormed out of his house soon after, slamming the door. His rusty, peeling blue painted door: which I had passed so many times but never stopped to look at. It reeked of tiredness, of antiquity. Of a past that, like I, had slammed its injustice in his face.
And for once I wished to have never loved, for what if I lost?