Monday, 25 May 2015

Then

My father is tearing up bibles under the hedge in an agony of rage 
and frustrations.

          "Hear this if you are so almighty. I am the great defiler. Go 
on, Smite me. What's one more life to you?"  I watch from the verandah. 
Looking out into the heat haze it seems I am seeing the pain he feels as
 a halo fizzing around him. How will he manage alone? He has nothing 
without me. Not since Mother died. It's been worse these last few weeks,
 since the fever struck. He will get through this. I cannot afford to be
 drawn into his madness, not today. I must make my escape as planned.

         I must meet with my grandfather on the Jade Bridge where the 
poor and disenfranchised of the world wait. They gather in hope of alms,
  I go for deliverance. The elegantly dressed merchants and westerners 
who pass pretend not to see the desperation in their fellow men. Who is 
it do they suppose that holds them up in their superior ranks and ivory 
towers? There can be no upper class without a lower class. Surely they 
could afford some mercy, some humility.
         I know I would have 
no hope were it not for the generosity of my Grandfather offering to 
bring me out into society once we reach India. It is a chance for a 
future I did not dare to dream of. A chance to be part of society's 
mesh, rather than falling through the sieve with the dregs as my Mother 
had feared I would. I take my valise and hat box and set off to meet 
Grandfather.  
         How long will it take before my Father knows I
 have left? I picture him running the moth-eaten brim of his straw 
boater through his fingers as the fever dies in the cooling yellow air 
of sundown, calling for his gin and tonic with quinine,  unaware that it
 is Genesis burning to keep away the mosquitoes. He will stand in his 
cooling sweat, listening to the chant of the cicadas and crickets, 
muttering quietly to himself like a madman in his striped blazer. He 
looks like the consummate gentleman from the verandah but so much is 
hidden by distance.
"God, bless and keep him safe from his own destruction" I pray, a tear 
escaping below my veil.

         The steamer will pull out of the dock at sundown and I will 
leave behind everything I have known. The bridge comes into view 
spanning the sluggish water. This ornate stone bridge that has stood for
 hundreds of years offering safe passage will now transport me from this
 life to another. My leaving will not change this place, it will carry 
on regardless. Our presence on the earth is a mere blink in history, a 
flittering thought in a cloud of dust blown away in a heart beat. 
  
       My grandfather waves and tips the brim of his top hat to me. I 
recognise him from the photograph in Mothers album. I am flooded with 
relief that he is here and rush to kiss his greying whiskery cheek, then
 admonish myself for being so informal.  He smiles as he takes in my 
face
     "Ah, so like Evaline my dear. You have your Mother's 
spirit." Seeing the trail of my tears he squeezes my arm, then links it 
through his own, patting my hand. I feel the calm descend. I am safe in 
his hands. I will sail to India with my Grandfather to make a new life 
and take only the memory of my Mother's kindness with me.
 
The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan 

1 comment:

  1. I love the characterization in this!! :)

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