Being a Canadian woman writer of European descent, I came into Fauzia Rafique’s The Adventures of SahebaN without background knowledge of the role (Mirza) Sahiba plays in much of traditional Punjabi culture. The beauty of Rafique’s text however, is how my lack does not impact my understanding of how the narrative turns a cultural model for perfection (Sahiba) on her head to showcase the flaws of that very perfection, and (in particular) to show that a woman can be honourable, and pure, and loyal, without bowing to the restrictive ideas and expectations that society and religion place upon her.
We’d gotten a vehicle to Mars for Christ’s sake, and this is what they choose to celebrate? Curiosity, out there all on his—its—own, humming to the frequency of “Happy Birthday”? Mics up to max, an ear-numbing static filling our large control room, some of the more senior staff sing loudly over the noise while eating crumbly cupcakes over their consoles. Normally I might put a stop to it, but they’d been working so hard.
3 AM, downtown’s deserted. Just my truck and the road.
I shouldn’t have come this way, too high profile for carrying valuable cargo. Hitting every red light, besides. Good thing the cops are all busy with them murderers and ruddy fucks causing shit where they shouldn’t. I don’t plan on meeting any trouble. Not tonight, anyway.
“Think that one looks fresher than the others?” I flick my cigarette at a grave to my left. Both of us watch as the cherry fades into the yellowing sod.
“What’s the name?”
“Hughes, 1943 to 1987,” I say.
Nicholas gives the stone angel a kick. The priest at the bottom of the hill stops mid-eulogy and scolds us with a brief silence. A few black-laden mourners notice the pause and begin looking around strangely, unaware of the priest’s line of sight.
Lights off, we’d crashed hard onto his grandma’s sectional, still spinning after our longest night yet. Through the fog of comfortable darkness, Aleks mumbled on about his dreams. How none seemed exactly the same, but had a similar feeling. Like knowing for certain you were about to die, and praying for the end.
“And there’s this sound…” he’d managed to say through the alcohol I could smell on the both of us, “…like breaking. Like the sound of rocks breaking. Over and over again. A mountain cracking in half.”