Habilin

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘habilin’ or ‘anything given to somebody for safekeeping’. 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.

***

The key in Maliha’s hand felt heavy, the weight of responsibility and risk imbedded in the brass dragged at her fingertips and tainted her palm with sweat. She stared up at the creamy stone walls of the colonial building where her great grandfather had opened his first office and took a slow breath. Her grandmother hadn’t needed to remind her of the importance of the site, not only in terms of architectural heritage but as an integral part of her family history. Maliha had almost refused; hadn’t her last place of business been destroyed by arson? But her grandmother wouldn’t be swayed.

“It’s an empty legacy,” she’d said. “Abandoned and rotting. You are so full passion Maliha, just think of the history yet to be made. Your great grandfather built a place for our family here, for you. Do whatever you like with the place, make it yours.”

The foundation she and Ramin were creating needed space, it was true. To build her vision of a place to develop knowledge and understanding of humanity’s place in the universe free of intolerance and judgment they would need somewhere to host the lectures they were preparing. Somewhere to run an office that, for the time being, only the two of them would work from.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!”

Maliha started, the key cut into her palm and she winced as she forced her fingers to unwind. Ramin grinned at her as he bounced up the steps and under the arch of the double doors, his teeth flashing white in the morning sun.

“This place is amazing, Maliha!” he whistled. “Does it need a lot of work inside?”

“I don’t know, it’s been empty for a while,” she replied. “I guess we’ll see.”

Stiff armed, she raised the key but couldn’t quite bring herself to place it in the lock. A hand covered hers and Maliha looked up into Ramin’s smiling face.

“Let’s do it together, our first step,” he said.

A warmth that had little to do with the hazy summer heat bloomed Maliha’s chest and she nodded, mouth too dry to speak.

“On the count of three then…one,” they pushed the key into the lock, “two…” the lock gave, squealing for oil, “three!”

Together they pushed the door open to reveal a dusty hall beyond, sheets still laid over pieces of furniture and highlighted by strips of light filtering around the gaps between the heavy shutters. Maliha was struck once again by a vision of possibility, she could almost see people walking the corridors in this incredible place her grandmother had entrusted to her. It was only right, she thought, that she should start a substantial endeavour with a weight of responsibility and history behind her.

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