Sepia: Part IV
“Well, you can’t see him.”
David held my shoulders, looked straight into my eyes as if he was trying to transmit a thought right into my brain cells. Absurdly I watched his long eyelashes and the almost mascara like darkness in his eyelids. Not fair, I thought, some of us women have to rely on L’Oreal and the like for enhancement while his eyes had that naturally.
“What do you mean?” I mumbled
“Susan, see you are already not thinking straight. If this is indeed your father, you‘re being asked to see him and treat him. After all these years do you really think you can concentrate on the clinical bits. Your head is already swarming with a million questions.”
I shook his hands away and stood up, a wave of anger coursing through my body in a flush of adrenaline. The staff room was in half light, the long shadows of the angular, functional furniture casting geometric shapes on the walls. I stood facing the wall, watching his shadow detach itself from the chair and walk to merge with mine. He stood behind me and said my name again.
Deep down I knew he was right. While there was no rule one can’t treat their own family I’ve always advised my own juniors that there are repercussions of attempting to. My brain was trying to wrestle with my heart.
“Listen, I don’t for a moment doubt your ability to be impartial. It sounds like there is too much at stake here. Let me see him first. You trust me don’t you? Let us find out what is going on first. I won’t breathe a word to anyone. You first need to confirm that all this is not some kind of absurd coincidence. The man may well be someone with the same name and date of birth as your dad.” David whispered.
I turned around and nodded. “Ok. You’re right. But what do I tell that woman?”
I was surprised at the choice of words. I knew very well she had a name, Julie Johnson. I knew she was a concerned daughter who wanted her dad to be seen. Yet the way I said ‘that woman’ sounded almost childishly annoyed, as if she had done something wrong.
As if she had something I didn’t have.
“Let me talk to her, we can make up some excuse. Leave it with me.” He touched my shoulder again and I felt a little tingle. I felt ashamed. He was taken, engaged, soon to be married to a long legged heiress with a trust fund. He can go around flirting and being awfully nice but he should realise he is leaving a trail of deep sighs and disturbed hearts.
“Thanks David. But I want to know everything. I want to see him somehow. I need to know if he is the man who abandoned us.”
“Of course. I am as much curious about this as you are. This is a weird coincidence after all these years. I’ll tell them you’ll be on the periphery as the consultant specialist, advising, helping. We’ll work something out. Janet will have the number won’t she... I’ll go schedule an out patient's visit”
He moved to leave, turned, moved his errant lock of hair from his forehead and smiled that smile of his. “Susan, thanks for letting me in on this. I want to be there for you. I’m really glad you told me.”
He turned around and walked away. The hazy light from the corridor silhouetted him for the moment. I went to the washroom to splash some water on my face and get back to work.
I stared at my puffy eyes and sighed. The mirror showed no mercy after all that crying.
I patted my face dry and reapplied the lipgloss.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci is needed at the wards and at the surgical theatre. No time for any more melodrama.
That night I had that dream again.
I have had a recurring dream since the day my father disappeared. Initially it was vague and as years went by it became more and more detailed. I think my child’s mind built it from an offhand comment I overheard few months after my father went missing.
“These days...” said the well meaning aunt and took a sip of tea. My mother and her aunt were sitting at the kitchen table. The teapot was pale blue and had little flowers on it. My mum always brought it out when visitors came. I remember sitting just outside the kitchen doors, playing with my dolls : my one concession to my mother’s attempts at making me do girlie-play. I soon grew out of it when I discovered books. I had a small wooden toy table and a little tea-set. I was pouring some ‘tea’ and talking quietly to Little Sue. She was my silent friend, a very old doll with bits of her hair in clumps and wearing a satin frock that was a fading turquoise. Her eyes were bright blue glass which always seemed to pay attention to what I said, unlike my mother.
“These days people get robbed for next to nothing. What if he got robbed, Mary? What if someone beat him up for that case full of camera and lenses he carried?” said the aunt.
I remember my mother gasp, as if she hadn’t considered that possibility before. I put my teapot down, reached across and grabbed little Sue and hugged her tight. I remember being very frightened and running to my bedroom.
The dream was always the same, I see a pair of hands, possibly mine, trying to open a metal case. My dad’s case. The latches refuse to open and there is something rust coloured and sticky stopping them from opening. After a bit of struggle the hands unlatch the case and find the camera and the lenses. Only they aren’t the usual glossy black Bakelite and clear glass. They all seem to be floating in blood.
My mother died when I was in the third year at Medical school. I won a scholarship and was staying at the University. I hadn’t seen her for a few months and apart from the regular phone calls (“Have you started studying about the liver yet? I am sure mine is failing”) there was not much contact. I was tired of my mother. I was annoyed that she never gave me another father figure than the one that walked out on us. I was angry at the fact that she never found it in her to forget and move on from that rainy Monday.
But then, I realise that I can’t get angry with her for doing exactly what I was doing too.
I wonder how she would’ve reacted if she knew that we were about to find out what actually happened. Despite David’s caution, deep inside all my senses were screaming out that this was going to be him. The man who blew me a kiss and walked away down that rain splattered road.
I didn’t have to wait long. David was quick to act. He arranged for the appointment that Friday with Robert Miller. The man who could be my long lost Dad.
I somehow knew it would be raining as I drove to the hospital that morning. It had to.
It had some kind of weird harmony to it all.
I felt more nervous than I had ever felt in my life.
© 2012 Mohan Kumar