Rusty gates! Something in the way these rusty gates creek, makes me nostalgic.
It’s 5 p.m as I make my way through the gates to the place, I once called home. It had been drizzling, the entire day. The familiar creaking of these gates took me down memory lane.
I never really had any good memories in this house, but when I was a kid, I used to return from school and wait in the hall, peering out the window, waiting; waiting for my mum to come home.
She was my solace, and my father’s punching bag!
Every evening she’d make chicken noodles for me and I’d sit on the kitchen platform slurping it happily, giggling as I watched her sway across the room, humming an old Sinatra song.
Evenings were my favorite time of the day, because mum would spend all her time with me. But then at night, Dad would come home, drunk out of his mind. He had a favorite game ” hide and seek”. I would hide in the dark- in the garden or in the basement, out of fear, hoping that he wouldn’t find me; waiting for the night to pass, waiting for him to fall asleep.
Some days, I would be lucky, because he would be in a good mood, so he’d leave me alone. Those were the days I’d believe that my life wasn’t so miserable after all. But on other days, mom would take a beating too when she tried to stop him. He would drag her by the hair and lock her in the bedroom, and my whimper in the cold night would be masked beneath her screams.
Monsters were real, they just never hid under the bed. They would hunt you, out in the dark, in the garden, in the basement!
I snap back to reality. The door is locked and the bell doesn’t work. So, I knock hard on the door. I don’t want to call him “Dad”.
“Hey, it’s me” I shout from the outside.
“I am back here” he yells back from the garden.
Perfect, I didn’t want to go in any way. I’ll make this quick. I’ve a flight to catch at 8.
This time tomorrow, I’ll be on another side of the world, ready to explore the amazon forests with David, my boss, who granted me a 1-Year research contract.
“Peaches! Look at the size of these peaches” Dad exclaims, holding the fruit tenderly in his hand.
I slowly walk towards him, he has his back towards me; but I can sense him grinning with excitement.
He likes gardening now!
This is a man, I once so truly loved, and called my father, even when I was terrified of him!
But on the day I found my mother’s body hanging from the ceiling, lifeless, something changed in me. That day I died too, burying all that I was, along with her.
I made a promise to myself, never to return to this wretched house again. But here I am, 2 years after my mum’s death, in this house again! She’d left me no note, no goodbye!
Never leave without saying goodbye, she always said. A promise she didn’t keep!
“I am going away for a while” I said, maintaining a firm tone.
“For how long?” He stood up and turns to look at me.
Freckles and wrinkles, he looks aged beyond his years. He’s unrecognizable now, but then, I never really knew him before either.
” I don’t know, it’s a research expedition” I answered, looking away, unable to make eye contact.
His face fell with disappointment. It wasn’t like I stayed in touch all this time, but saying goodbye was common courtesy.
“You’d come visit me soon, won’t you?” He asks, with a glint of hope in his eyes.
“Please don’t make this any harder than it is!” I retorted, gritting my teeth.
Deep breaths, deep breaths, I reminded myself.
As I turned to walk away, he grabbed my arm and handed me the peach, his prized possession.
I took it without uttering a word, but threw it into the gutter, soon as I walked out the gates.
It has been 6 months, 2 days and 14 hours since my father passed away. Died on his bed, I found out.
A friend had left me a message expressing his condolences. I only found out about it, 2 weeks later when my phone finally caught reception.
Never leave without saying goodbye she always said. A promise she didn’t keep, a promise he didn’t keep!