I lost a loved one the other day. No, it was not due to COVID, but he did have some underlying conditions that caused him to deteriorate so suddenly. Technically, I should say that it caused him to fade to black, as the symptoms seemed to indicate.

We were very close, you see, as my family would attest to that. I used to come home from work every day, pour me a cold one (Ginger Ale, that is. I can’t drink any alcoholic beverage. God is watching) and we would spend hours together; watching a game, or idly flipping through the channels, or previewing some YouTube videos, or maybe a little Netflix—without the chill part—as my wife would always be around. She did frown upon my spending so much time with him, but in the end, she would just leave us alone, as she had better things to do. I was not ready for the call when my kids told me that there was something terribly wrong with him. They couldn’t see the light in him, whereas he was always so bright and colorful. There was no sound emanating from him, whereas there was always music and laughter. It was as if he had suddenly gone dead. Indeed, he was dead.

I tried to revive him, but I didn’t know how to properly resuscitate him, as I lacked proper knowledge and training. I didn’t even know where to begin. All I could do was to pull the plug out, and then try to plug him back in. There was some momentary activity, but he would fade to black, again and again. I had to stop trying, once I realized that it was of no use, and I probably had lost him forever.

I didn’t know what to do. There were no games that I could watch any longer. There were no movies that I could play. There were no videos to entertain me. I felt lost and I felt miserable. I just sat in my usual chair, day after day, fiddling with the remote, pressing the power button over and over, hoping for a miracle. But, alas, there are no miracles. Prayer doesn’t work where technology has failed.

It was almost to the day of our fifth anniversary when he decided to leave me. I could remember the day I brought him home, as vividly as the pictures that he showed me for all those years. I had asked my wife to use her credit card, as my credit was worthless. I promised to make the minimum payments on time and without lapse. It cost me over two thousand dollars, but it was all worth it when I unpacked him and put him up on a pedestal. He was mine and I was happy.

After almost five years, the amount that I owed was almost the same as it was on day one. Apparently, paying only the minimum amount due on credit card does not reduce the debt by that much, as the interest accrued is almost the same as the minimum payment. It would have taken me another seventeen years to pay the whole amount, if it wasn’t for the three stimulus checks that I’ve received. It took two US presidents for me to pay off my bill. As soon as my final payment cleared, my television stopped working. It was fade to black, literally, as there was no picture visible on the screen. It was just black screen and nothing else.

After three days of mourning, as is the custom of my people, I started to look around. To my amazement, there was a better friend available at Walmart, for only five hundred dollars. A bigger, better, and technologically more advanced friend was on sale. By now, I had reestablished my credit to a point in the last five years, where I now had my own credit card with just enough credit limit to buy him.

This unpacking was even more thrilling than the last one. My new friend looked shinier, sleeker, and more slender than the worthless piece of junk sitting in my living room. I had to make room for my new love. I couldn’t wait to drag the carcass of my old love out to the garbage can. I didn’t even ask for any help from my kids. I didn’t even care that my dragging the body on the concrete was causing it to break into pieces, which I left for someone else to clean. I was motivated to the point that I picked up the broken body, and with a heave and a ho, swung it over the four-yard trash can and dropped it ruthlessly against the back wall.

The noise that the cracked screen made, was still ringing in my ears, as I plugged my new friend in and started flipping through the channels, looking for something new and exciting to watch. Here’s to another five good years. At least I carried a much smaller debt this time. I am sure I can pay this debt off in the next five years by making just the minimum payment due. Now, that’s what I call progress!

Muhammad Naaem • Columnist

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