He confessed to me one day, “I liked someone else when I was young, you know?” I stared at my father. Listlessly, he turned the newspaper. Mother’s smile confused me; did people really go blind in love? I wondered if he was going to narrate his adulterous mischief. Or maybe he thought I needed to hear of his infidelity in my manhood. I do not appreciate anyone governing my growth. Yet, mother’s smiling face caught me off guard raising oddity in me. I wanted him to continue.
He sipped his tea and said, “She always arrived before the morning sun. The palm trees blew light, soft breeze in her direction. Every time, she knelt to pick up some shells from the shore, I hoped she would gaze towards her left and talk to me.” I imagined my father on some lazy beach. The morning cool and bright: a stark contrast to the smothering rain and gloomy weather outside our window. I could smell the salty beach air. Would he have worn shorts? Trunks, perhaps. I dare not ask. Such illegitimate scenes didn’t deserve to be on my mind. Yet, I smiled out of sheer jubilance. Imagining my father, a teenage version of me in the 1970’s set off a different kind of inquisitiveness.
“Did she ever know you were there?” I asked, hoping that the reply would be negative. Though curious, I really didn’t want an illicit sibling; that’s how mostly these tales turned out anyways.
“Oh, no. She was young and fascinating. I was just a boy of ten.”
“Why are you troubling my son, this early on a Sunday?” mother spoke. Father handed her the toast and replied, “Well, I need him to understand the mystical nature of women. They look serene, but are filled with storms. Despite their docility, some conquer.” He then turned to me, “Some, like your mother felt weak; I’ve underestimated her power.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I projected exasperation, but instead – it resembled fear and guilt. I felt that he knew something that I didn’t.
“Because of this” He placed a Polaroid snapshot on the table and turned it. The lipstick stain of a raspy kiss had smudged some numbers.
“You should call her before they smudge more. Readable things are better than something unidentifiable.”
“I thought you’d add some deep message to the story.” I spoke cautiously. I placed the snapshot in the palm of my hands and turned it, so the red stamp of her lust wouldn’t embarrass me further. I flushed. Mother eyed me and raised an eyebrow at my clandestine blush. She threw her head back and laughed, “I think she’d look good on your arm for those parties you go for.”
“Clubbing you mean?” Father winked at her again. They’re love for each other never nauseated me, but the fact that they had seen her picture made me uneasy. I eyed them again – they weren’t judging me.
“A woman’s not a commodity you know.” I mimicked her ‘look good on my arm’ part.
She tilted her head and genuinely answered, “Well, I know you can respect women. Sometimes, I just want to know how you’d react to someone teasing you. Your respect for them reflects in such moments.”
“It’s more like your charisma than your responsibility. Responsibilities are tiring.” He held mother’s hand and they share a smile of compassion. I wonder if I want something like that someday. I tried not to show it, but I was pleased with his subtle compliment about my character. Appreciation from the one I admired the most made me happy.
“You both seem to like her.” I state.
“I fancy her boldness.”His comment made me smirk.
“Kids these days. Tsk Tsk. So much sarcasm.” He lifts the cup of tea to his mouth and smiles charmingly, “Your son seems to be a little touché these days. . . just like this sun that doesn’t shine even on a Sunday. There goes my morning walk at the beach.” The mention of the ‘beach’ again got me flustered. I slipped the photo up and looked at her again. The palm trees paused in time, the sands sparkling like grains of gold against her dazzling smile. I looked up, mother was wearing red. Her scarlet bikini drastically contrasted my mother’s silk saree. Clothes didn’t matter, she always told me. I understood why now. I was overwhelmed by her exoticness and I didn’t even care by what she was wearing.
“Before you go, tell me – what is she like?” mother asked.
I thought, I wondered, I inscribed. This was what she would feel like to them for the rest of their life; or at least, for the rest of her time in my life.
“She’s feels like a secret hidden behind palm trees, someone who would be able to drive the touch of fumes and metal.”
“She’s complex?” Father asks curiously.
“She’s an assortment.”