A Day to Forget, Remembered

August 18, 2008 at 2:11 am (Dominic Alapat, Short Story)

  

For Noel, that long ago April day was one of those days he never wanted to remember. This far away and when he thought he felt relaxed after a nice, short little break from work. Yet, for Noel, the thought lingered till he was able to see the old house he lived in as a child. The two-storied, lime-washed building with common verandahs.

 

Noel’s father Joseph was a heavy drinker who often got drunk on holidays, turned bitter and angry, beat his mother and created a scene. Suddenly this unhappy April day came to his mind. It came in flash. A flash of light, which when settled, revealed a garden during sunset. A woman and two children are sitting on a bench. All around them people walk, some exercise on the parallel bars nearby. For Noel, who is one of the children, the other his older sister, something is sinking inside him this evening. He breathes in the fresh smell of the grass. He feels the change from the claustrophobic green walls of his house to this freshness and light around. Yet, he feels as though a huge part of himself is not there. In his mind, he can barely see his sister. His mother, who sits between them, is silent, sad and not talking. She is shaken. Noel watches her sad, pale face, the nerves around her neck. He and his sister too are not talking.

 

Then what sinks inside he realizes this far away are the scenes that took place that day in his home. He would have been sitting on the blue sofa in the drawing room, the other blue one his sister’s, they had decided among themselves. And he sees his father, drunken, lunging at his mother, swaying on his feet and shouting. His mother weeping, pale, on the verge of collapse. The scene had gone on for hours, the shouting, the tears, the trembling. He and his sister were barely able to study that day, at least Noel knew he wasn’t. Book in hand, he had watched the screaming unfold, until his father had got drowsy and had fallen asleep.

 

Noel was ashamed of his parents. Of his father’s huge paunch, his mother’s aged face. The pain went coursing in his mind, the same scene played again and again.

He remembered how his father had woken up and had probably started to drink again and shout. His mother kneeling before the picture of Christ or maybe made to kneel. Weeping, praying. How she gathered Noel and his sister and fled to the garden. Noel felt pain. He felt it then and saw how it had a way of being with you, how it could rear its head again in a flash. How they were playing out in his mind while he was sitting in the garden. Why the people there strolling about, exercising, did not give him the joy he usually felt. How he saw his father over and over again. The scenes and the sinking. The nauseous smell of alcohol from his father’s mouth. The scenes played over and over in his mind. His father’s lungi coming off and how he quickly tried to tie it back. His face bloated, his eyes and mind senseless.

 

The scenes played then in the garden as it played now. He wondered what it meant. He knew there was something missing, something gone. What has drowned in me, Noel thought, as he lit a cigarette and waited for an answer.

 

– Dominic Alapat.   

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