I wish that photo hadn’t fallen off my mom’s wallet. I wish I hadn’t known about him. I would have happily lived and died imagining that I was the result of a divine birth or something. Now that I had a glimpse at the man, I cannot erase his image from my mind. I have questions and I need answers- the more elaborate, the better.
Growing up, my mom was the only family I had. I never asked her about my father or her parents. Those were considered taboo topics according to our unspoken rules.
She was my hero. She was this cool person who worked multiple jobs to support us both but still found time for me. My heart used to swell with pride whenever my friends commented about how lucky I was to get a mom like her. We didn’t have much, just enough to live by, enough food, enough fun, enough love. But we were happy, content. When had all that changed? When did my mom transform from a super cool person to just a normal flawed individual? Or was it all in my head? Was I expecting too much from her?
Whatever gap we had in our relationship, got widened after the photo fiasco. She wasn’t ready to tell me anything more than I knew, which is nothing. Harsh words were said. Accusations were thrown against each other. Her determination to protect his identity surprised me. Why would you do that for someone who apparently abandoned you and your child? Love and loyalty are twisted emotions sometimes. Eventually I gave up. In less than a week, I moved out to a small apartment near my office. I had been pushing myself for it for quite some time. The current happenings just accelerated it though.
Since the time I moved out, she had been bombarding my phone with messages and voicemails. One day she turned up at my doorstep- looking like the bleary eyed, messy haired version of her normal self. She sobbed like a child and begged me to come home. I stood there watching her tears, unmoving and unfeeling. I should feel guilty for acting like a brat, demanding things happen in my way. But when the betrayal is still fresh, guilt always takes a back seat.
I didn’t hear from her for so many days after that which made me uneasy for some inexplicable reason. Then her message came yesterday and it had only one line. ‘Your father has agreed to meet you at Dr. Wilfred’s party tomorrow.’
For the first time in days, I could feel the anger fleeing my body, but immediately replaced with nervous anticipation. Until I received her message, I hadn’t decided if I wanted to go to Dr. Wilfred’s party even though his daughter is one of my best friends. Thinking back, I remember mentioning it to my mom before ‘it’ all started. If ‘he’ is coming to the party, Dr. Wilfred surely knows him. I have been to their house so many times with Sia, their daughter. Have I ever seen ‘him’ there? Or anywhere else? He could have been the man sitting next to me in the train. He could have been the man standing behind me in the ATM queue. Endless possibilities.
I could stand in the open doorway of an airplane at 10,000 ft, in my skydiver costume and look down at the beautiful earth with a smile on my face. I call that invigorating. But having to meet my father for the first time ever? I call that terrifying.
What does someone wear when they meet their father for the first time? I wondered, eyeing the pile of clothes on the bed.
Looking at the wall clock and realizing how far the needles have moved, I grabbed the first dress that caught my eye and ran to the bathroom.
Half an hour later, I parked my car outside Dr. Wilfred’s house, my ten-year-old Subaru standing out like a sore thumb among all the BMWs and Audis. Her parents are doctors, notable for the philanthropic work they do in the society and their parties are well known for the crème de la crème attendees, if I have to believe Sia. Talking about Sia, she has been incessantly messaging me since I confirmed I would be coming. When Sia first told me about the party, I hadn’t given it a thought at all. I don’t own anything ballroom worthy- neither clothes nor manners. I had always been self conscious around them despite the fact that they never gave me a reason to. Having more issues than an impoverished country would do that to the self-esteem of a person I guess. In my mind, I knew I wouldn’t be going even though she tried to convince me that this party is just a small affair, nothing like their previous parties. But looking at the fifty or more cars parked outside, I have a feeling that Sia was probably trying to soften the blow. And now, my mom has given me a reason to attend the party too. But I am going to leave that little detail out of my future conversations with Sia. I don’t want her to think I was here on a personal agenda, although it’s partly true.
“Good evening Miss. May I see your invitation please?”
I pulled out the glossy card from my purse and handed it to the well-built man in black uniform guarding the door.
“Quite a fancy looking guard for a fancy party huh?” From the blank look on the guard’s face, I can see that my joke fell flat. Never mind. It was worth a try.
The petite girl next to him was more welcoming though, with a pleasant but practiced smile on her face.
“Enjoy the party Miss!” She chirped while opening the door for me.
As I stepped into the carpeted hallway, my eyes widened in awe at the splendid spectacle displayed in front of me. The whole living room has been transformed into an impressive grand ballroom, chandeliers hanging down from the high ceiling. Small groups of gorgeous, impeccably dressed men and women stood chatting and laughing. I glanced down at my Zara maxi dress and the flats and I have never felt plainer.
While scanning the crowd for familiar faces, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, growing increasingly restless. My father is somewhere here, probably watching me and waiting for the right time to approach. My gaze wandered round the room, looking for a dark haired head. His hair looked dark in the photo, but that was before two decades. What does his head look like now? Grey or maybe bald? Sia stood in a corner seemingly immersed in a deep conversation with three men wearing suits. One of them is her father. I know the other two from somewhere, can’t remember properly. She hasn't spotted me yet, but one of the men did. He was a good-looking man, probably in his mid-fifties, with a thin pointed face and a fringe of greyish-white hair around his balding head. When his eyes met mine, recognition shone in them. He quickly said something to the group and started walking towards me, finding his way through the crowd. Finally, the moment is here. The moment I have been waiting for the past few weeks, or even more than that. Skin clammed with sweat, I concentrated on taking deep breaths. Am I having a nervous breakdown? A few more steps and he will be here, right in front of me.
Quick...need to act quickly.
I lifted my dress lightly, turned around and bolted for the door. From behind, someone called my name, but I kept running. I can’t stop now. I pulled open the massive oak door and in my haste to flee, almost hit a brick wall and it made an ‘oomph’ sound. No. Wait. It’s that huge guard from before. He is like a giant block of iron, roughened and cold. I mumbled a brief apology as he moved aside to give way. Now I just need to get past the perky girl too.
“Miss, you leaving early?”
Spoke too soon...I guess.
“Err...yes. Just… a case of...sore thumb.”
She eyed me head to toe, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration, trying to figure out what I meant by ‘sore thumb.’
No time to explain baby.
After giving her a slight wave, I practically ran towards my car. I will clear it up with Sia later. She will understand why I had to run away.
The feeling of not belonging somewhere is awkward, equally painful too. But my mom had warned me, hadn’t she? Her exact words were: “ Don’t get hurt my dear. We don’t belong in their world, I never did. And believe me. I tried to fit in, but in the end my dignity couldn’t take it anymore. “
It’s time for me to finally admit something. No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I am different from my mom, deep inside I am just mirroring her in more ways than one without realizing it.
Our views, our insecurities, our fears- they are the same and that scares us both.
I was about to start my car when my phone chimed with an incoming message. Without looking, I knew it was from my mom. Knowing my mom, possibly a simple line like ‘how did it go’.
I wish my answer was that simple too.
What would it take to mend a broken relationship? Hopefully nothing more than a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates…