Soulmates and Cities, by Farwa Zaidi

November 16, 2021 at 10:48 pm

I wrote this short story for one of my classes and wanted to share! Hope you guys enjoy 🙂

As she stepped off the boat and into the city for the first time, she is gripped with a sudden fear. Will she ever find her true pair, or will these travels continue to be a waste? She has been traveling from city to city, constantly on the water, looking for her soulmate. Kashafi legend says that each human is born to find their true pairing, even if it takes their whole lives to do so. As soon as she was of age, she left the Kashafi region to fulfill her destiny. She knew she had yet to meet her soulmate, and she vowed to travel the earth until she did.

Her current stop is in Ranawi, southeast of Kashafi, and about two weeks of travel away. Despite being exhausted, she makes sure to walk through Ranawi with her eyes peered. After all, her soulmate could be anyone she passed by. After a mile long walk and a feeling of defeat, she decides it’d be best to retire for the night and resume her search in the morning.

The next day is bright and sunny, a stark contrast to her mood. So far, she is not enjoying this new city. She has always heard of its’ eccentricities but didn’t believe them all until she saw them. Ranawi is completely unlike her small and quiet city of Kashafi, where everyone who is born is immediately a community member. In Kashafi, she and her mother and sisters would run to each house where new life was being born and welcome the newest baby to their hub. Tradition was that each woman of the city be present at the birth of each new child, and legend foretold it bestowed a lucky life to them. In Ranawi, she didn’t see any community. It was more like a jungle. While the night before she had walked the near empty streets desperate to find a welcoming face, today she can barely see any faces in time before they speed walk away from her. How is she to find her soulmate in these conditions?

Ranawi is filled to the brim with tall buildings, no nature in sight, and people constantly rushing to their next destination. She is used to the calm peace of Kashafi, where each meal is eaten with her neighbors, slowly to cherish their time together. The food they eat is grown by their own labor, giving it the special taste of being made with love. Each family has their own plot of land, where they grow what they choose. Her family has been growing coffee beans, potatoes, and tomatoes for generations. Since her great great great grandfather began their coffee business, her family has been known to have the best tasting coffee in Kashafi. She misses it deeply while drinking Ranawi’s coffee, which she would more aptly describe as mud.

She is impressed by one thing about Ranawi. No two people here look the same. She has never seen such vast differences in skin color, language, and customs. In Kashafi, the residents are a deep brown shade, made darker in summers when they harvest. In Ranawi, she has seen pale people, brown people, darker brown people, and everyone in between. This encourages her to believe she might well find her soulmate here. After all, if people from all over the world are condensed into Ranawi, her pool is made infinitely bigger.

She is tempted to approach women who look like herself and greet them with a traditional Kashafi bow and embrace. She must always remind herself that this is not her home, and here, touching and embracing is discouraged. It is a stark difference from Kashafi, where she can barely leave her home without being hugged a dozen times. In Kashafi, the community is bound by a love for each other that manifests in gift giving, acts of service, and physical touch. A traditional gift for new parents is a basket of harvested food, coffee in her family’s case, at least three meals, and hugs to remind the parents that they are not alone. In Ranawi, she has not seen a single person touch another, and it upsets her in a way she never expected.

As the days go by, she is less and less convinced that she will ever find her soulmate amidst the madness of Ranawi. She has spoken to less people here than in any other city she’s visited, and hardly any of them have spoken back to her. She spends her days wandering the streets, waiting for some magical stranger to catch her eye. It is a shame that everyone here avoids eye contact. She misses the warmth of her own community, the way everyone she sees in Kashafi is always happy to see her. She wonders if her soulmate was her city this entire time.