It’s difficult to talk about him. The memories, fragmented as they are, seem more vivid in retrospect. It has been so long, over a decade. The hurt has only gotten stronger, never abating. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation then. I didn’t understand the horrible odour of death or that the sterilized blue-green smell of the hospital was not a good omen.
I ran along those hospital corridors, asking for money to buy hot chocolate from the cafeteria or taking a peak into the nurses’ Duty Room every few hours. I remember the downward sloping path to the Canteen and the prison-like gates of the small elevators. The hospital was big, and fascinating. I remember racing around the compound competing with my little brother to find the scariest things.
I remember the day it happened. Or at least, my memory has constructed images that tell me how it happened. I was outside the room in M ward. People were inside, cleaning his body. Ma told me later that there was just so much blood. I was confused at first, they didn’t tell me much. But I made sense of the lulled silence adulterating the hospital’s commotion. I remember Pa’s eyes, wet with pain. I never had, or have, seen him cry. To lose your father, no matter how, is difficult. To lose a father like Chachan, is downright devastating. My father’s strength on that day has remained one of the most compelling memories I have of him.
I remember crying, because I knew Chachan wasn’t coming back. I remember hating everyone, everything for not warning me. My cousin asked me, “Are you crying because everyone else is? Do you even know what has happened?” I thought about it for a while, and then I felt immense anger towards him. How dare he underestimate my understanding of the situation? I refused to explain myself to him. The rest of the memory is hazy. There was an ambulance, I think. I followed it, but they didn’t let me in. There were a lot of people, someone took me away. I don’t remember the funeral. Or anything after that.
There were days when I would sit in my room for hours, just looking through old photographs, searching for your face. Your smile was so pristinely beautiful in those pictures.
This is the one where I am on your lap. I don’t remember it being taken. I was probably two or three. Do you see the joy in my eyes? You were my hero even then. You left too soon. It’s unfair, I never got to know you. The older members of our family tell me stories. He was like this, he said that, he told me this once. I resent that I have no memories of you to hold on to. It is with a mixture of anger and sadness whose source I cannot plug that my tears rain down making blots on the photo paper. I have resolved now, to create my own fantasies of you.