Too late | Act Youth Force
‘’Hey, Daniyal. Do you want to come out with us for dinner tomorrow night?’’ Ijaz asked his friend on call. ‘’No, I’m afraid we have a test three days later that I need to finish studying for. If I don’t tackle this one properly, then I might fall very behind.’’ He replied in a very straightforward manner, because he understood what his priorities were, and he needed to make them clear to his friends too. ‘’Okay, good luck. Maybe next time.’’ Ijaz responded indifferently. This attitude wasn’t new for him. By now, he had gotten used to the routine of asking Daniyal to spend time with his friends only to be brushed off in return. Everyone knew that spending time with his friends was the least of Daniyal’s concerns.
‘’What did you get, Daniyal?’’ Ayesha questioned, as she saw Daniyal receiving his test paper. ‘’Wait, let me check…….oh no. Oh no. Oh no.’’ Daniyal began to exclaim out loud, and Ayesha observed his eyes widening and immediately swell up as well. She went forward and took a peek at his paper. ‘18/20’ was marked on the top of the paper, with a bold ‘good job!’, right next to it. ‘Daniyal, this is amazing. You’ve received the third highest marks in class so far. Why are you so worried? I think you should be really proud of yourself instead.’’ She tried to encourage him with a smile on her face, hoping that her positivity would leave a mark on him. ‘’No, Ayesha. You just don’t get it. I poured my heart and soul into studying for this test. If I can’t get the highest or full with trying so hard, what’s the point of me even trying?’’ He lashed out at her with his face showing a shade of crimson. Ayesha gave him a look of disbelief, and walked away. She figured that there was just no point in dealing with Daniyal.
‘’Hey, son. I received a brochure from your school which had a list of the societies you can join this year. They looked really interesting. What do you think?’’ Daniyal’s dad asked him. ‘’No, dad. Societies only end up wasting your time. I’d be much better off studying by myself. My life would be more productive that way.’’ He replied in annoyance. ‘’Hmm, are you sure? Since, you can pick up a few sports, maybe make a few more friends, and well, everyone is doing it. Why shouldn’t you?’’ His dad responded with a concerned tone. ‘’Since my grades will fall, Dad. That’s why.’’ Daniyal exclaimed firmly and left the room swiftly. His father sighed to himself and sat down on a couch. ‘’There’s more to life than just studying, son….’’ He thought to himself in exasperation.
20 years later…
Daniyal sat down on his chair. He rested his head for a few moments and tried to get rid of all the concerns he’d dealt with during the day. He took off the badge which symbolized his executive position in his company and kept it in front of his nameplate so that he wouldn’t lose it. After taking out his phone, he decided to scroll through Facebook for a while in order to distract himself. ‘’Hmm….nothing interesting here….Hina now has a new puppy….Sarim went to Kashmir for the winter break…. and wait, what’s this?’’ He suddenly exclaimed in shock. What had caught his eye was a picture with all the people he’d known from high school. All of them were formally dressed up and looked like they were having the time of their life. The background was a very fancy one, and he saw a table with food in the corner as well. ‘Why were they all together?’’ Daniyal wondered, but then he saw the capture of the picture: ‘’High School Reunion, always a pleasure reminiscing with my old friends. Truly been a pleasure meeting them all.’’ That’s how he got his answer. His heart immediately sunk, and his tears slowly began to well up at the same time.
Why didn’t they invite me? Did they even think about doing so? What’s worse, them not remembering you or them not inviting you because they don’t like you? He kept thinking, over and over and over again. He wished he could call someone in order to talk to them about it and receive some kind of assurance, but he knew that all the names in his phone book consisted of either work related individuals or his family members. There was no one he could turn to. His mind brought him back to the past, like the time, Ijaz had told him that he was done with trying. Also, instead of apologizing, Daniyal thought that it was for the best because then he wouldn’t have to waste time refusing to go to their plans. Including, the occasion when Ayesha had asked tried to cheer up after he got an unsatisfactory SAT score. She’d told him that it’s okay if he didn’t go to the University of his choice because the ones he could go to were still amazing. Instead of thanking her, he’d told her that she didn’t know about good universities, to begin with, because she’d chosen to study in Pakistan. All the memories, he’d suppressed inside his head for over a decade started to resurface once again, and now that they were here, they were taking control.
Suddenly, anger surged inside him. He couldn’t believe that he had been such a great fool. He looked at his nameplate which stated: ‘’CEO: Daniyal Ahmad’’, and for the first time, he had an urge to pick it up and smash it against a wall. ‘’What was the point of all this?’’ He questioned out loud. ‘’I didn’t want this life. I thought, I could be happy, once I was settled. That’s why I worked.’’ He stated in exasperation, ‘’but now….it feels like….it was all for nothing.’’
Written by: Zobia Akhtar | Cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash