personal blog: simon
being on time, if not early, is a prerequisite to my sister’s good mood, and for a moment I sit in my car squeezing the steering wheel.
as I sat squeezing the steering wheel just over two years ago. I wondered should certain traditions be purged as I typed the hospital address to the Google Maps.
I leave my car embarking on the unknown. it can go either way. well or poorly.
“Simon.” my sister’s wave in a distance and a call with a smile. it’s a good start although I dread this meeting already. my wave however small. “hi.” she squeezes my arm. “how you’ve been?” her smile expanding. joy plastered across her face. Gemma’s rusty red lips quivering. a twitch she expressed as a child when she was nervous. but, I don’t care much for the colour of the lipstick, if anything it looks a little trashy.
“fine.” my answer without caring to ask her likewise and we enter the bakery. Gemma does this all the time, setting up meeting during the time of her errands.
“good… good,” and takes a whiff. “it smells so good in here.”
“it’s a bakery.” I mutter stating the obvious and deliberate smugness. every bakery smells good.
“oh. stop.” she strikes my arm for acting like a smartass “let’s get an expresso,” and clasps her hands together with wickedness, as if to be a disobedient mom for a moment. like breaking a curfew or straying from the routine or godly path.
“sure.” my exhale of indifference and I scroll to my sister’s last words.
“you’re selfish… selfish,” her hurt carried to my core as she swept the crumbs off the table, turning her back to me to make a definitive statement that the conversation was over. then with bitterness, “you’re breaking mom’s heart.”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” my question. an endorsement of my presence.
“but, you won’t see him?” Gemma argues once again hurt.
“no. I won’t.” the heavy stern in my statement and Gemma’s face sourly wrinkles.
that smell of the hospital and I didn’t see my father that day, just over two years ago.
“how is Isaac?” I ask after we make our orders.
“he started senior kindergarten.” seemingly glad that I have asked the question.
for one thing I know, mother’s always love to talk about their children. but, I am evading to be the subject of the discussion. yeah. I know. somewhat cruel and vindictive… and cowardly. but, we have established that already. I am a coward as much as I a mess.
“he’ll be six soon,” Gemma adds and rests her eyes on me. “are you going to get the flowers?”
I nod. “yes.” she has asked me that ten times in the past week.
“tulips. not roses.” she has to squeeze that reminder in.
“are you still just going to drop them at my house?… it’s mother’s day.” little bit of pleading and guilting.
“yes.” I have made some amends with my mother recently but I have been away for such a long time from my family that they are becoming more like strangers to me.
then silence and I know this silence. it’s the silence when Gemma prepares herself to assault me again. “he’s been asking about you.”
there it is. the sword. my father is the sword. my mother is the grenade. I want to make sure I make that distinction. plus, I’m well prepared to receive this well over due of a conversation. I reply nothing.
“we moved him to a home.” Gemma continues.
“mom told me.”
“he’s not going to be at mom’s.”
“I know,” and I know she’s lying. I’ve been trapped once before.
my father looked horrendous last time I saw him; but, I couldn’t allow him to hold power over me, and I mended my senses. the stench of his cigarettes lingered in his cloths, a heavy breath. my father smoked religiously; although he seldom drank. his stern stare that once gave me an eternal chill, vanished. plus, he was a different man last time I saw him from the casualness of my parents’ conversations in the kitchen as my mom hanged over the stove and my father with embellishment chewed on the prep. he was different than that man who had a firm hand when his kids misbehaved, when my older sister and brothers stooped out of the line. his anger simmered quite quickly like a hot kettle screaming throughout the house. a shout of stern grizzly voice, at times, raised hand, yet rarely executed, but it did happen, and on occasion unannounced and undeserved. an establishment of dominance and of control. but he looked like a different man in the wheelchair. he was different than the man full of anger and executioner of obedience. he almost looked like the man I remember from when the night fell. as the nightlight from the streetlamp vaguely seeped into my room. my brother’s fumbling over the floor mess in the bedroom next door, and then the burst of laughter that followed from my brothers as they tortured each other. squealing and rumbling, then silence. my father became a gentle giant. a lullaby sang. a prayer repeated on a loop. a bed-time story read. a ritual to appease the day. normalizing us. he seemed like the same man, fragile and giving.
my sister played that deceitful play to lure me to our mom’s and my father looked like a feeble man. by then my mom settled in a small bungalow. fitting for one. the pale-yellow stucco was in a need of a wash or repainting. the trim on the windows looked recently fixed and painted. stairs redone and coated with a silver gravel epoxy. the door like a sealant to trap any emotional spill. I hesitated before knocking but my mom opened the door with exhilaration, swallowing my shoulders in her embrace. few pats on my back as if I have been a good boy, cuffing my wrist and pulling me into the tiny foyer. “you’ve been missed,” as if that a proclamation of truce. a segue to pardon the crimes of the past. yet, the unpolished boots scraped the footrest and the faint figure of my father wheeled into the view. once, a tough man reduced to a bastard who jumped. hitting the concrete, like a slug through his brain, to be confined by immobility and muteness.
I felt nothing. still feel nothing. not a single drop of remorse. every addict relapses.
“you don’t have to forgive him.” my mother claimed. “he jumped.” like I didn’t know
I knew she wanted to say that it was for me but I corrected my mom instead. “smashed his brains,” and I liked how it sounded. more vulgar. the punishment was fair.
“well, I learned my lesson and I won’t ask you again.” the mocking flare of Gemma’s brow.
“good.” I grin approvingly and with a jolt of amusement.
and I still haven’t forgiven him.
“mom will have to forgive you… again… maybe we can do mother-daughter-son lunch or something some other time.” Gemma suggests mostly to herself.
“I appreciate that.” I nudge her hand, indicating that I have heard her.
“you went kinda dead on social media. everything okay? seeing anyone?”
I love my sister and her prying ways. “no.”
“last time we spoke, you had this friend… Jacob… you spoke of him…”
“he’s just a friend.”
“just?” my sister sounds a tad disappointed.
“yes.” I smile.
“I’m sorry… those are the worst.”
“it’ll be nice to have you come for a visit. Mark would love to see you.” then Gemma turns to me with despair. “it’s been too long.”
amazing how time has passed yet Gemma’s invitation sees to sisterly, home bound, as if time has not lapsed at all.
“you can invite your friend.” she adds.
as usual. she has not believe a word I said. “I told you…”
“it doesn’t matter. we would like to meet your friends. like an enigma, you divulge so little.”
but it’s not like we were ever close. she used to call me ‘smut’ after all. I smile at the thought of Gemma meeting Jacob. he’s a character of his own. not everyone’s flavour.
“or maybe the guy you’re seeing.” that conniving smile. “there has to be one.” she adds.
I cannot argue with her for the fact that there isn’t one and I let it be, entertained by my sister’s insistence in creating my world that’s filled with happiness and love. maybe it’s a way she’s able to cope with the misgivings of our childhood and thereafter.
“sure.” a relinquished agreement.
but my sister always have to have give another strike, as if my love misgivings isn’t enough, and inquires, “don’t you want to get married?” as if that is a right in every human life’s passage. “have kids?”
“you’re going to be a horrible mother to your son.” I joke.
“prying is in my nature.” her witty comeback.
after a moment because I cannot even gather my emotions to a logical order, my slightly glum answer, “I don’t know.”
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© simon whittle — second act