In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘siping’ or ‘lie down deside someone’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!
Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.
“You’ve been in this room for three days Ramin, that’s enough time for anyone!” Maliha declared, throwing the drapes across his window open and letting air back into the musty, stale room.
Ramin groaned from his bed and a pillow was launched half-heartedly in her direction.
“What are you doing here?” he moaned. “How are you even inside? Go home like the rest of them, this isn’t proper at all. Go on, I’ll tell your grandmother on you if you don’t go away!”
Tutting, Maliha stood back and crossed her arms. Ramin’s little apartment was a mess and although she could understand his despair, she also refused to tolerate it any longer. There was opportunity to be had if the man could look past the immediate failure of their organisation, opportunity Maliha was eager to share if she could just force him from his terrible funk.
“I bribed your neighbour, and if you won’t get out of that bed I’ll join you in it; now that would be a little scandal for you, hmm?” she said.
“Ridiculous,” Ramin scoffed, and rolled until his back was to her.
Maliha narrowed her eyes and uncrossed her arms. Days of dealing with her own anger and disappointment bubbled dangerously beneath her skin and without a second thought she accepted the gauntlet Ramin had thrown. Without even kicking off her shoes she clambered over a pile of discarded clothes and dropped lightly onto the bed. She felt Ramin stiffen but he neither moved nor responded and, out of stubbornness more than purpose, Maliha lay down.
Silence stretched between them, it filled the air by pointed absence until Maliha couldn’t contain herself any longer.
“I know you’re hurting, I am too. But just because some of our team have gone doesn’t mean there isn’t still work for us,” she said, and continued. “There’s lot of talk online at the moment about the meaning of life and religion since they found that signal, but no one here says anything out loud unless they’re behind closed doors. We made an oath, of a sorts, when we signed our charter; we promised to do everything in our power to spread unbiased information, to fight the corruption that breeds in ignorance.”
“Maliha…” Ramin began to speak but Maliha cut him off.
“No, you listen to me, Ramin. There should be a safe space, somewhere for people from the streets to listen to genuine information about the possibility of life somewhere out there, to be able to ask questions and have discussions with their peers. And I intend to make that space, but I need you to help me, and get out of this forsaken bed!”
Panting, Maliha stared Ramin’s ceiling as she finished her speech, eyes and face hot and suspiciously wet. But Ramin shuffled next to her, finally sitting up and looking down at Maliha where she lay.
“I wish I had even a quarter of your drive and determination,” he said. “But I suppose what little I can offer, you’re welcome to. Now get up or I’ll tell your grandmother what a scandalous woman you are.”
“So you’ll help me?” Maliha confirmed as she stood up.
“Yes, yes I’ll help you, now get out! I’m not exactly fully dressed under here!”