In the Winter in Dubai
by Faisal Pakkali
In the winter in Dubai, the air was dry, dark, cool, and good for walks. Nadir had often imagined himself walking hand in hand with the girl. Ambling along the dusty pavements and parking lots outside the Al Burj-Al Nahda residency, or strolling through the shaded paths of the Dubai Corniche, where the air would be sharper with the chill and tang of the sea.
But it had all come to nothing. Nadir had tried the best he knew how; he had tried being nice and heartfelt. But nothing. And now he did not give a damn for walks or the winter air or many things at all. Most of all he wanted to be alone. He wasn’t sure of himself in front of everybody and it was better to be by himself. So, every evening after his college let out, Nadir would stop by the Al Nahda Pond Park before driving home to his parents. He would recline the car seat and listen to music and look out the window at the sky that darkened like a bruise as the time wore on. He would imagine himself again walking hand in hand with the girl. It was a habit now.
Other times he would leave his car and meander through the park. He would find a bench to sit on. In the movies he had seen people feed bread crumbs from a paper bag to fluttering pigeons. But there were few pigeons in the park and anyway he did not want to draw attention. So he would sit on the bench and wait for time to wear on. Though there were lots of people around, it was not noisy as the park was large.
There was a pond at the centre of the park and one day Nadir decided to walk towards it. The pond was in truth no larger than a good swimming pool and a few shabby ducks cut across its smooth grey surface. Nadir walked towards where the shallows wet the sand and looked at his reflection in the water. It was a blank face that stared back at him. He bared his teeth at his reflection. He felt so far from himself that he could not quite comprehend that the face in the water was his own. He stooped and picked up a small smooth pebble from the sand. He flicked the stone and watched it skip several feet across the pond before going down for the last time. He bent and picked up a hand full of pebbles and as he did so he was aware of a pair of eyes watching him. A little boy was watching him from a few feet away. He was a stout kid dressed in a pair of Bermudas and a parka, and he watched as Nadir skipped another stone across the pond. Still with the boy’s eyes on him, Nadir threw another pebble; bouncing it along the glassy pond. And then the boy walked over and stood staring at Nadir until he turned around.
“Hey,” said Nadir.
The boy said, “Hello. That is really cool.” He pointed to the stones in Nadir’s hand and then at the pond.
“Oh, thanks.” said Nadir.
“Can you teach me how to do that?” the boy asked.
“Well – all right,” said Nadir.
“Awesome! My name is Balu, what’s yours?” the boy asked brightly.
“Cool.” Balu swung his hands from side to side.
“All right,” said Nadir. “Stand like me. Your left side facing the pond slightly and your right side away. Now here take this pebble.”
Nadir positioned Balu and showed him how to hold the pebble with his thumb and middle finger on either side of it.
“Okay now. When you throw the stone you have to flick it, all right? Just flick it. Ok, now throw.”
Balu swung his chubby arm out and tossed the stone, which sailed over into the middle of the pond and sank with a prompt splash. Balu looked up at Nadir, his face scrunched with disappointment.
“Aw man,” he groaned.
Nadir nodded, “You just need a little practice. Here–” he gave Balu another pebble.
“Remember, flick it.”
And finally, a few tosses later the boy flicked his stone and it skipped thrice across the pond before sinking.
“Whoa,” said the boy and jumped.
Nadir patted him on the back. “Finally!” he said. “Now keep practicing.”
And Balu flicked a few more pebbles and they all skipped at least twice across the water.
The boy was bobbing up and down on his feet.
“Awesome!’ he kept exclaiming.
The two of them skipped stones for a few more minutes when a salwar clad woman, who happened to be Balu’s mother, approached them.
“Balu!’ she said. “Time to go home.”
“Mom, mom.’ the boy said. “Did you see that? I was skipping stones across the water. He taught me.” He pointed at Nadir.
The mother smiled at Nadir and then looked down at the boy.
“Now Balu, what do you say?”
The boy turned to Nadir. “Thanks!” he said.
“Oh, no problem,” said Nadir.
The mother then spoke to Nadir, “I hope Balu didn’t bother you too much. He’s been asking his father to teach him how to do that – making those stones skip – for a long time now. But, his father doesn’t know how.”
The woman laughed. Nadir assured her that Balu was no trouble.
“Thanks a lot once again. Goodbye!” said the woman as she turned away.
The boy waved at Nadir as he tagged along behind his mother. Nadir waved back at Balu and then turned around to face the pond. He looked once again at his reflection in the water. After staring for a long time he stuck his tongue out at it. He then looked up at the sky. The red sun was low in the horizon and it was getting late. He needed to get back home. Nadir turned around and started walking. He decided he would go for a little walk in the cool winter air among the breeze rustled trees before going back to everybody.
Faisal Pakkali is an Indian resident of Dubai. He is twenty-one years old. He studies accountancy and writes in his spare time. He has previously been published in Bartleby Snopes, Pantheon, Everyday Fiction, and The Missing Slate.
Stories @ Digging Through the Fat: Volume 2, Issue 8
April 8, 2015
Photography by: Gessy Alvarez