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Sepia: Part I
Now that it’s all over, David asked me to write it all down. I’ve never written anything like this, just years of assignments for medical school and a PhD thesis, all in dry prose, religiously referenced and formatted. I’ve never even attempted a diary as it always seemed like a childish activity other girls indulged in.
I was never one for cute cuddly toys or diary pages filled with doodles of hearts pierced with arrows. My mum always tried to dress me up encourage girlie play and was disappointed when I’d rather bury my head in a book. I was always the one girl clutching a paperback when I got taken to birthday parties while all others were playing in a cloud of pink and glitter. I hate glitter.
As I type this on this Sunday morning, the rain that was just a drizzle arrives in full force.
I lean back on the chair and stare at the window as little rivulets run down the glass, distorting the trees and the sky outside.
Rain on a window always makes me sad. Not your everyday, run of the mill melancholy but an iron fist that squeezes my gut and twists it in a deep pain. It’s no good that I live in London, I should move to the Sahara.
I am still in my tracksuit from the run. I should get up and have a shower but something about the rain makes me stay, pain or otherwise. I pick my mug of morning coffee and the aroma hits me and somewhat take the pain away.
I walk up to the window, press my face against the pane (I could almost hear my mum’s voice shouting ‘Don’t keep doing that Susie, you’ll leave noseprints on the glass’ ) and watch the leaves bow under the water droplets and little streams that eddy around the patio.
The sky is slate gray like someone had left the television on after all the programmes have finished. I look out into the yard as the water on the glass plays tricks with my mind and my memory. I could see my Dad standing out there, waving.
It all started on a rainy day like this one. Or should I say ended? Sometimes I get my beginnings and endings confused. May be all endings are beginnings anyway.
When I was eight, my father left us never to come back. He just grabbed his coat and the metal case of photo equipment, kissed my mother’s flour stained chin, nuzzled my forehead till his moustache tickled me and left on what was supposed to be one of his work trips. That was the last we saw of him.
I pressed my face against the window and watched him walk down the rain-soaked street sidestepping a puddle. Rivulets of rain ran down the window and glistened like molten silver. I will always remember the way he walked. Leaning slightly to one side to balance the weight of the case but still seemingly erect and swaggering, like a man who knew what he was doing and where he was going. As he rounded the corner he turned and hesitated as if he had forgotten something. He then did something he does not usually do. He waved to me and blew me a kiss. Then he was gone leaving an empty street with raindrops dancing a parade on the puddles.
He was a photographer for the local newspaper and often had to go away for many days. But he always returned tired and rumpled, smelling of diesel fumes and motorway food. Only this time he didn’t. There were few days of agonising, then the police enquiry, then the eventual realisation that he was truly gone. We never knew what happened.
My mum never recovered from my father’s disappearance. She became fretful and depressed. She never found another man but found solace in her various illnesses. Some imaginary, some real. Some that became real when she imagined them long enough. But all equally important to her sorrow soaked mind. The Doctor became her best friend, the clinic her social club. She always took me with her. I used to cringe as my mum reeled off her latest list of ailments. The Doctor, bless him, was a patient man. He always listened. Head tilted to one side, tap tapping his pen on the table, occasionally looking at me and giving me a half smile before he returned to nodding like a metronome. “You have a pretty little girl, Mrs Miller. And very quiet too. Now about that backache…”
Maybe spending all that time with my mother in the clinic did inspire me after all. When I did medicine so much of it seemed so familiar as my mother had at one time or another thought she had had that ailment. Maybe she hoped atleast her daughter would be the one who solves the eternal enigma of her multiple symptoms as no other Doctor seemed to kind its root cause. I didn’t have a heart to tell her that all her ailments started on the day she realised my Dad was not coming back and slowly but surely took over her life.
I forced myself not to think about my Dad. David says therapists will have a field day with my denial and its repercussions. That’s why I never went to see one.
I should have, because it would’ve stopped me from spending long sleepless nights imagining what could've happened to my father; because it would've stopped me from becoming deeply mistrusting of any man as I view them as someone who'll let you down; because it would've helped me not to get hurt just looking at rain.
And because it would've prepared me for the day my father walked back into my life thirty years later.
The day this story should really start, according to David.
© 2012 Mohan Kumar