Oct 20, 2010
The floor is swept clean and mopped. The air hangs with the scent of burning candles and fresh flowers; roses and white lilies. A butterfly enters the room and hovers over the flowers, flowers, whose blossom lasts for only an unsatisfactory period. Delicately laced white curtains line the windows.
As I move through the crowded room, I become conscious of the fact that the whole atmosphere of the room looms with grief and heartache. I can read all of a sudden people’s mind. Aunt Susan thinks about the time I first taught her to drive a car. My best friend David remembers the time I spent with him last month in the pub. Hey! How can I possibly know what these people are thinking about? And there is my beloved elder brother Mark deciding the arrangements for the funeral. Wait a minute! Whose funeral? Just let me get past the crowds to the front in my living room. Oh… oh my God! No… no, this can't be… oh my God no!! Nooooooo…
It’s been almost an hour now, and I see people moving in and around my house. People coming in with wreaths bedeck my body, while whispering some last goodbye words to my cold body. I can hear everyone of them. From what I heard from them, it seems like I had had a fatal accident while I was riding my bike, and passed away on the spot. I see my little sister sobbing by my lifeless body.
Then he enters! The one who I had learnt to hate, I dreaded meeting him. He walked soberly towards me with a bouquet and a toy car, and yes, I remember that car he held in his left hand. It was the only model missing from my ‘Super Racer Collection’ that I had treasured as a young racer car enthusiast. I was seeing him after many long years. Now he looks fatigued and much older for his age. His suit is black, his hair grey and his eyes red…His eyes were red that day too, that day when he stormed out of the house never to return until today…
I clearly remember that dark Wednesday evening, nine years ago. My father came home and told mom plainly that he was tired of her and the kids and was leaving home for good to settle elsewhere. My elder brother, who was thirteen, was at his best friend’s birthday party. My younger sister was peacefully asleep in her cot. I was in the same room as my parents, playing on the floor with my precious cars from my ‘Super Racer Collection’.
My father never explained his unforeseen behaviour and decision. My startled mother dreadfully reached for a chair to sit on. She sat there, shell shocked as my father walked to his room and began to pack his clothes into a suitcase. She sat there numbly as he quietly visited my sister’s room and planted a kiss on her forehead. She sat there quietly as he placed on the table all the keys, the documents and the bank books. She sat there as he tousled my hair playfully, as he always did. He then planted a kiss on my still stunned and quiet mother’s forehead. She sat there and watched him walk out of the house.
Then suddenly she began wailing in a voice that gave me the shivers. Nobody knew where he went. We never saw or heard of him again. Relatives and friends visited us in the following few days and sympathized. Nobody could understand why he had deserted us. Everything happened in a flash.
Nevertheless, I grew bitter by the day. I could never forgive him for walking out on his wife and three children.
My mother had taken good care of him. Specially when he had that bad accident the previous year, mother was worried sick, running all over trying to find a blood donor for him, with ‘O negative’, a rare blood group. After his disappearance, often at night I saw my mother weeping in secret, while she wore a brave face in front of us. She blamed herself for not being able to stop him from leaving. But I knew that at that moment she was too shocked to even move a finger, let alone plead with my father. This only increased the fury that I had begun to nurture against my father. The doubt that there was probably another woman in the picture made my blood boil. I hated my father with a pure passion. I was eleven when he left and now, as I see him for the first time in nine years, I begin to boil with anger…
He leans over my body and begins whispering to my cold corpse oblivious to the stares of people around. What is he whispering to me? Let me get a little closer… “My beloved son, it breaks my heart to see you, so young, no longer alive. There is a secret, which has been weighing on my heart all these years… When you were young, I had a bad accident. I needed a blood transfusion urgently. The doctors luckily found a donor. The whole thing happened very fast. A year later when I volunteered to donate my blood to some needy person, I was tested, and to my horror, I was told that I was HIV positive.
"This brought my world crashing down, son… I could not bear to tell your mom the truth… I know the stigma that society attaches to such people. I did not want my family to suffer because of a terrible mistake that happened to me. People would have ridiculed you all in public, irrespective of the truth. I was wounded in spirit, and did not want my family to suffer too. Therefore, I thought it wise to move elsewhere. However, I always kept track of all of you. I was overjoyed son, when you stood first at the state level in your board exams. You reminded me of myself as a young boy. I love you son, I always have. Please forgive your father, son, for not being there for you all these years. Please forgive me…”
As my body was taken to the Church for the final rites, it tore my heart to know that I wasted half my life hating my father when he needed someone to love him, to understand him. Why had I accused him of being unconcerned and impervious, when he had actually thought of protecting his family from pain and agony? Why didn’t he just tell us the truth years ago?
But then, I can understand the fear and terror that might have gripped him back then. My poor father… My heart goes out to the man sitting at the rear of the Cathedral, weeping softly, with my toy car in his hands. How I wish, those hands would tousle my hair just one more time… My heart aches … though now cold; my heart still aches with an everlasting pain….
However, this much I know - of all the things that I have experienced in life, the only thing I will take beyond the grave is the Last Whisper.