The boy in the picture

 

“Naim, you are generalizing things. You yourself being a student of International Relations and Politics shouldn’t make such comments about a particular nation. It almost sounds xenophobic.”Ayesha seemed genuinely irritated by the strong hatred Naim held towards Pakistan.

“It’s not about being xenophobic. I just can’t get over what they did to us, thousands of women were raped, children ripped into pieces in front of their mothers, brutal murders of freedom fighters. If there was ever a book called, Atrocities of War, there would be a special place for the Pakistanis in the top three along with Nazi Germans and Genghis Khan.”

A skinny young man in his vests and lungi tied just above the knee carrying a gun in an old picture was Naim’s childhood hero. His grandfather was a Muktijoddha. In every family gathering, there would be at least one story of his bravery. Even though some of the incidents seemed a little far fetched, Naim believed that it was his grandfather who saved a woman being raped or the popular one where his grandfather got into a weed infested pond and held his breath for three minutes to escape from a group of passing Pakistani soldiers.

As a child, Naim would cry everytime when he was told that his grandfather was captured right before the war ended and no one ever saw him again. They did not even find his body. Movies, books, family, friends only supported his idea of how mass atrocities was committed by these urdu speaking murderers on innocent Bangladeshis.

When Meherjaan released, Naim’s friends forced him to watch it.  The idea that a Bangladeshi woman could ever fall for a Pakistani soldier was outrageous. He wrote multiple blog posts criticizing it. These blog posts were some his most popular posts and except one or two supporters of the film, majority agreed with his hatred of this blasphemous portrayal.

Going to George Washington University was a conscious decision he took to expose the brutal impact of Pakistanis on Bangladesh even after forty years in his dissertation to a global readership. It has been almost two years and Naim’s was still sticking to his idea.

As Ali walked into the classroom, Naim couldn’t help but stare at him. He was tall, handsome with sexy stubble on his face and those lips. He got a tiny erection imagining Ali’s beard brushing against his nipples. Ali was from Pakistan. A fact that disgusted and aroused him at the same time in a weird way. Since they were in the same course, there was no way he could avoid Ali and deep down he did not want to either. It must have been while discussing about Breakfast at Tiffany’s when Ali mentioned how attractive George Peppard looked shirtless and Naim got an idea of Ali’s sexual preferences. Ali also seemed interested in Naim as he would always partner up with him for group assignments or make weekend plans just with him.

After the initial sexual fantasies, Naim couldn’t help but notice how nice Ali was. Gentle, good looking, kind with a subtle but effective sense of humor. The dreams started out of nowhere. Subtle at first but became more intense when regularly the young man from the picture and he would have sex. Even as he dreamt, he was conscious that this was his grandfather but he had no control over it. He would wake up every time with a hard on and when that went away there was just a lot of guilt and pain. One day the dream changed a bit, the boy and Naim were laying with each other and talking. Suddenly a Pakistani soldier breaks the door and enters. It took a second for Naim to recognize him. When he woke up he was drenched in sweat. Why did Ali shoot them? He would dream a variation of the same dream repeatedly over the next couple of days.

Ali and he spent more time together and it must have been at Georgetown Waterfront where Ali quickly kissed him. It was not a long, sloppy kiss but an innocent one, almost a peck. Everything was falling apart for Naim as the boy from his dreams, feelings for Ali and hatred for Pakistan overlapped. He started missing classes, avoided Ali and all his friends. He stopped talking calls from his parents and friends back home. He felt numb and this feeling of nothingness overtook him. The boy from his dream started taking shape in his real world. Naim would talk to him, feel his touch and started believing that only this boy could save him from this nothingness. He emailed his department that he wants to take a break because of a family emergency. It was just him and the boy from the picture now..

It would have been just like another day. Ali would have rang the doorbell multiple times at Naim’s apartment and left. But today was different, Naim opened the door. It had been almost two weeks that they saw each other but Naim had considerably lost weight and looked extremely tired and sleep deprived. He told Ali that he was not well and wouldn’t want to be bothered everyday as it disturbed Junayed and him. Ali felt tinge of jealousy at the mention of this name Junayed. He literally forced himself into the house to talk to Naim. The space was filled with a  rotting smell and had not been cleaned in sometime. He thought that Naim must be under the influence of drugs and fallen for one of the other addicts. Ali wanted to know the whereabouts of Junayed as he wanted to beat up this bastard who had caused so much pain to his sweet friend. Naim pointed to his bedroom and Ali called out loudly for Junayed and moved towards it only to find a messy bed and more rotting smell. He turned back to ask Naim where is his druggie friend, only to find that Naim was standing right behind him.

As Ali followed Naim’s eyes, he could see a picture of the young man with the gun and Naim said, “Junayed”. Suddenly Ali felt an extreme pain and fell on the floor with blood gushing out of his neck. The knife must have dug deep into his neck as he just shock for few seconds before he stopped moving.

As Ali’s warm blood touched Naim’s feet, for  a split second he thought of the kiss they once shared at the waterfront. And then it was gone, it was just Junayed and him left in his room.

Art: Freedom Fighter, Zainul Abedin