It was the noon of my eighteenth birthday. The house had died one night when I was nine, so, midnight surprises with lit candles piercing through the fondant of birthday cakes wasn’t something that happened in the house, not anymore.
But, when I woke up that morning, for three seconds, before the sunlight hit the light brown of my eyes, I could almost feel your kisses on my eyelids, waking me up to the smell of your homemade laddoos, a birthday special.
But nine years had worn off my juvenility and I knew better than to expect anything but a thoughtless expensive gift from dad and a handmade card from Twinkle. My friends had all left town, I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe the nine year old in me was hopelessly waiting for you. But, that morning, when I left my den and walked into the drawing room, I saw you – half nervous, half excited – sitting at the edge of the L-shaped leather couch. You didn’t belong here anymore, you knew.
Through the blur of my myopia, I could see your cropped curly hair; they used to be longer, darker. There were bags under your eyes; did the anticipation keep you from sleeping last night? You had grown older, but your smile hadn’t. You smiled at me like you had only kissed me to sleep last night.
And all I wanted to do was slap you.
I wanted to scream and shout and break things and cry and slap you.
I wanted to scream, Fuck off! LEAVE. I wanted to yowl how much I hated you for leaving me behind, for leaving Twinkle behind. I wanted to say, I hated school, because everybody said, your mother left. I wanted to say, Dad couldn’t cook chicken like you, neither could the maid he hired. So, I stopped eating chicken. Where were you when my heart broke the first time? Why didn’t you stop me when I broke hearts in return? Why did the alarm clock replace your morning kisses? Why do I cringe when people make promises? Why does Twinkle not even remember your voice? Did you never want to hear my voice?
I wanted to tell you how awful you were for not stopping to say goodbye. I had gone to sleep that night, nine years ago, with the Walkman by my side, ear pods plugged to drown the sound of one of the usual fights. When I woke up next morning, father simply announced, your mother left us, consider her dead.
But I couldn’t.
When I missed you too much, I scratched you name on bathroom walls and cried. Dad caught me one day. He said, men don’t cry. Maybe I was never man enough, though testosterone does leave the lacrimal dry. Every night, I dreamt of you, so I stopped sleeping at night. And every time the postman’s cycle rang close, I ran out thinking, today he has a letter from you; you must know I am waiting.
I wrote you letters but never knew where to send them. I wrote them anyway. When I changed school, I made up stories about you – told my friends, the sandwiches were made by you. I loved your ham and cheese panini, do you even remember?
So, when I saw you smiling at me from the leather couch, all I wanted to do was slap you. I wanted to scream and shout and break things and cry and slap you.
But treacherous unmanly hot salty water poured down my eyes and I stood there and I shook. I wanted to slap you, but all I could mouth was – I missed you.