'I Hate You!'
The words pierced my soul. I just stood there holding the I-care-for-the-environment card, smudged with my daughter's gruesome, heartfelt emotions. My world was crumbling inside. The last vestiges of filial relations were getting blurred as I stared at it. I suddenly noticed the motifs: the Hallmark Cards Inc. in bold black print, the sedate Ms and the flourishing Ts…aww... kid of the new age… bad handwriting (I remember Mom was so particular about our writing with a fountain pen on that four-lined 'English Copy'… What had my wife been doing? Didn't they have those four-lined notebooks in the US?), the rough texture of the handmade paper, the bamboo splinters meshed and grinning through the texture - I noticed everything. Everything! The stage the card had transformed into, the words, as characters prancing on them and once in a while a word unmasking itself to show eidetic images of a life that couldn't be, that was never meant to be, that didn't exist. I stood there, a spectator, an outsider.
I didn't have the strength for anything. I went straight to bed, falling supine on it.
My eyes closed - events, faces and emotions, whirling in my head. I don't know when I drifted from the real to the surreal, from the physical to the metaphysical, from reality into a dream…
In an uncertain dream
An apparition stares at me,
Blood on his temple, his lips stretched,
May be he is an angel, may be its me
I don’t know.
He says something
That I don’t understand
Wrapped in a dissolving realm
He’s gone before my stretched hand.
I sit before her
As she talks at length
Her experiences with love
As if she has understood men.
She speaks of devotion, matrimony
And of conjugal bliss
But I think she has missed
The excitement – the defiance, the madness,
The ability to love
When love’s labor’s lost,
The infinite suffering, and
The morning after’s limping.
In another dream
I have suddenly tripped over
A murderous thought
That ruthlessly clobbers
Claws, rips apart
This child like innocence
And then it vanishes
Like a beautiful woman
Mocking at my pedigree.
I try to break free
But she binds me – her smile
In a different afternoon
Amidst friends & coffee sessions
I have suddenly lost
The thread of the argument.
There are voices raised, agitated,
High-pitched drama mixed with intellect
But in our hearts, as the argument rolls,
We become detached more & more.
Amidst rising smoke
And half-burnt conversations
I wish to get up
And walk away.
May be you wish me to stay,
You hold my hand
There is still the ache in the heart,
There is still the simmering urge,
There are still unexplained abandoned sentences,
There are still moments unspent
But I have made up my mind
To get up
And walk away.
Walk away? No! I got up with a jerk. My throat parched, my eyes red, perspiration on my forehead as I stared at the clock - three 'o' clock in the morning. I emitted a long sigh and fell back in bed. I wished I could have betrayed this cold heart for once. I wished I could be a child again, crying.
Days went by as my health deteriorated. However, my family was oblivious to my condition. I managed to send a cryptic, congratulatory note to my wife. A few friends came forward to keep tabs on me and to ensure I wouldn't slip into an abyss. I would often joke with colleagues that I now knew, from first hand experience, what psychosomatic meant!
Then the monotony was broken one day when I came home to a message on my answering machine. My wife, sounding a bit distraught, informed me that our daughter seemed aloof, had been behaving rather oddly and that she had suddenly decided to take a trip to India. But given the nasty card she had sent me, she was a bit embarrassed and even felt awkward about getting in touch with me. She asked if I could help arrange her trip and ensure that she would be well looked after when she visited. I was thrilled. This was heaven sent. A smile broke on my face. I picked up the phone and immediately called up my wife. We were perhaps speaking after 4 long years.
"Oh Hi! So you got my message! This is a pleasant surprise!"
I smiled. "Yeah! I just couldn't help calling after hearing this news!"
"Yeah! She's been behaving strange. Just kind of take care of her and see that she gets back to her normal self. She just doesn't open up with me. And because of that balderdash of emotions; she is too embarrassed to get in touch with you straight."
I let out a nervous giggle. " Nah! Don't worry. I'll fix everything."
The pun jabbed me hard. I suddenly lost color.
"Oh! I am sorry! That was mean. Anyways, please take the flight details."
"No! That's ok! Yeah please."
"And do keep me informed…"
"By the way! Congratulations!"
"Thank you! Will you please take the details…"
So, I was back at the airport to receive her. She looked gorgeous but a tad too sad. She smiled at me and said, "I am sorry Dad!" I hugged her, "Daughters don't need to say sorry to their Dads." And so we began building upon those 14 odd years of lost time. Some personal exile this has been!
But the floodgates opened when I took her for a movie. I guess it resonated her personal life and she wept copiously, in the hall. I found it strange. When we got home I politely asked, "Is everything fine sweetheart? Why are you so tortured? What is the grief that gnaws at you? Didn't we both agree the other day that we are best friends? Won't you let your best friend into that soft, velvety heart of yours? The harshness of my world has made me sore.”
She hugged me and broke into tears. Wailing. I could feel the pull on my shirt. My collar and shirt, wet with her tears. She was crying inconsolably.
"Daddy…Daddy… please help me! Please help me Daddy! I am pregnant! I can't tell Mom! I can't tell anyone! I have no one to turn to! Please…"
Oh Lord! Why did you make the poor soul suffer? I hugged her tightly.
"Don't worry child! Daddy is here! You've got nothing to worry now! There can only be smiles now. We will take care of everything. We will weather the storm together and no one will know except the two of us… Often I find happiness… At the corners of your smiling lips …"
She looked up at me, incredulously, her innocent eyes searching my face, "Will you Daddy?" I was transported to that scene on the airport, 14 years ago. My little girl hugging me but this time I was pleading silently, "Baby! I Love You! Please don't cry!"
Oh! I didn't want to burden this moment with my stupid adult sentimentality. So I said with a smile on my face, "Once there was a mouse with a verrrryyy looooong tail…" She broke into a giggle and hugged me with all the love she could muster in her heart.
"Daddy! I Love You!"
©Murtaza Danish Husain
February 4, 2005