Please note: this is entirely a work of fiction!
At home, Farid and I do not only walk on eggshells; we walk around broken glass. Dad got angry again, yesterday. He bought Mum a box of chocolates today, to say sorry, and blamed ‘work stresses’ once again. Today, I let one of the little chocolates sit on my tongue for a few seconds. But as I chewed, my taste buds were not comforted by chocolatey sweetness. It tasted quite bitter, to me: all this has happened far too many times already.
It is always hard for us to see our mother in such a vulnerable position, on the floor, her facial expression distant, her eyes enlarged with fear. Dad becomes a different person when he is mad. He acts like the entire world sits in the palm of his hand. He acts as if Mum is not his wife, but some personified evil that he must actively stamp out. Farid and I have learnt not to say anything during these episodes. The bruises on Farid’s temples are a good reminder for us to keep our mouths shut.
Normally, after this happens, Mum takes a few minutes to just sob her eyes out, on the floor. Dad walks out wordlessly, still overtaken by fury; races off down the road in his black Mercedes. We never know where he goes. He spends most of his time outside, nowadays. According to Janice, his secretary, he is only at work for three hours a day. The rest of his time, we don’t know what he does with it. But I don’t mind. I feel much safer and happier when he is not around.
Today, Mum’s nose is bleeding. She doesn’t like to speak to us after this stuff happens. We ask her if she is okay; run to get some tissues. Once, I even tried to call the police. Mum seized the receiver off my hand, her eyes still blinded with tears. Yesterday, in Psychology, we learnt about something called Stockholm Syndrome. I’m pretty sure that this is what this is: why on earth else would Mum spend each of her nights sleeping next to a beastly man that does things like this to her?
I know I’m meant to love him. He’s my Dad. But the sad truth is, I don’t. Whenever he is around, my throat becomes tight, and my palms get all sweaty. And Farid practically becomes mute. The loudest, most animated little boy I know becomes mute whenever his own father is around.
I wonder if Mum thinks that she is to blame for all this. Why else would she have those slits all across her arms?
Mum does not like going out, these days. Whenever her friends invite her to something, she tells them, she can’t. She has a husband and kids to look after. If only Dad thought the same way: while he is out doing God knows what, wherever he goes everyday, Mum stays at home, scrubbing, and scrubbing the house, almost endlessly. It’s like she is trying to wash something away, but always finds that she simply cannot.
When I was Farid’s age, I was convinced that this is what love looks like: like walking on eggshells, and around broken glass. Like bruises around one’s eyes, that should be concealed with makeup whenever we need to go shopping. Like boxes of chocolate left on tables, little prettily-wrapped, worthless apologies.
Today, no more. I am not a child anymore, and Dad frequently forgets this. Mum isn’t a child at all, but Dad still somehow thinks he is in charge of her. But today, I pick up the phone and call Nana. I tell him all about the daily tortures his little princess – his Zanor Tukra – this piece of his heart – is being subjected to. An angry, defensive, incredulous voice responds to me from the other end of the conversation. And this is the first time I have ever heard Nana’s voice choke up into tears.
Two hours later, there is a ring at the doorbell. Dad does not get up. He commandingly nods his head at Mum, his de facto willing servant, and she timidly gets up to answer it. She is pleasantly surprised to find her father standing in the doorway.
I know he is going to come and give Farid and me a massive hug in the next five minutes or so. But first, there is something he urgently needs to see to. In a heated instant, he lunges towards my dad; yanks the glass he has been holding all this time, out of his hand, and smashes it against my father’s head. Believe me when I say, I have never seen my dad – the self-proclaimed high and mighty man – cower so much in sheer cowardice before in my life.
Now, I am not usually one to condone masculine-rage-fuelled violence of this sort. But today, I am thankful for what my Nana has done. After a few minutes of speechlessness and of crying out in vulnerability, embarrassment, and pain, Dad tries to order Mum to sweep up all the broken little pieces of glass that freshly plaster the sitting room rug.
“No.” Nana says, standing up, and helping himself to a handful of chocolates from the box on the table. “It’s now time for you to sweep up all this broken glass.”
Sadia Ahmed, 2020