I will always remember that day.Some say that it’s unreasonable to expect a five year old to remember everything in the right sequence of events. I’m inclined to agree. But deep down, I also know everything I saw and heard that night. No matter how much people trivialise what I say, they cannot take away what I saw. And when such memories are imprinted in your brain, with the same intensity that the colonial slave-traders branded their slaves, you hardly forget. And the nightmares liven them. Every single day.
I will always remember that day.
It was a few days before Christmas. I remember, because I was upset about having bitten Tony Gonzales on his arm. No, the biting did not bother me. He deserved it. What upset me was what my mother had said. She looked into my eyes and said that I had been a bad boy and so Santa wouldn’t be bringing me any presents that year. And she had told me off in front of that over-sized buffoon. Just for that, I wanted to bite his other arm too. Santa wasn’t going to come anyway. But I didn’t. It was because for the first time, my mother’s eyes were missing the twinkle that they always had. I couldn’t bear to see my mother upset. So I did nothing. Except follow her home with the demeanour of a quiet, little lamb.
That night at dinner, my mother had a forlorn expression. She had not spoken to me since the incident at school. Neither had she laughed when Maria, my elder sister, had recited a joke she had learned. I can’t remember what the joke was - but only that it was something funny, and I too had laughed along. Maria and I had a chasm of an age difference - 11 years. After dinner, my sister left for the movies along with her douche-bag of a boyfriend, Buster. I mean, who gives a dog’s name to a kid? After they’d gone, mother had rushed me upstairs. Father had not come home yet - he had been working rather late for the past few months and they had been arguing a lot.
Mother tucked me in tight and left without saying a good night or reading me my bed-time story of the little cat who would not have its milk. That was the first time that she had forgotten to do either. Usually she would sit around to make sure I had slept; but that day, it had seemed like she did not care. She had seemed impatient and agitated. I remember blaming myself for having made my mother upset. And I had cried myself to sleep for that.
I woke up to loud voices. Maybe screaming is more apt. I don’t think I noticed the time. All I knew was that it was late. Too late for my liking. And people were shouting. I tiptoed towards the stairs. The voices were coming from the kitchen. As I slowly climbed down the stairs, the voices became clearer. “You Bastard!” , I heard my mother scream. At least I think it was a scream. I’d never heard her raise her voice before. Not even when I had managed to slip a red sock into the washing machine along with all her whites.
Back then, I knew not what ‘bastard’ meant. All I knew was the intensity with which the words were spoken. And the hatred that coated each word. As I neared the kitchen, I heard a thud. And a groan. Followed by a long pause. And then a blood curdling cry. I stood rooted to the spot. The kitchen door, that was slightly ajar, was only a few feet away from me. But I couldn’t move.
"How could you? You wretched man! She’s your……", I heard my mother’s voice, slowly fade out. Like the horn of the local train did, as it sped away from the station. I still do not know where I got the strength from. But I took a step. And then another. And then a couple more, till I reached the door. And then I peered through the gap. In there, I saw the scene. One that would haunt my nights and days for months and years to come. One that no amount of therapy or counselling could cure. One that I wish I hadn’t seen or heard.
I noticed my mother sobbing. The sound started like a tiny sing-song noise, like the hum of the bees in Mr. Dickenson’s yard. Gradually rising and falling. And then it exploded. I had to rub my eyes to be sure that the source of the voice was indeed, my mother. I hoped it was not. But my eyes said otherwise.
She was leaning over a man on the chair, hugging him. Rocking back and forth, like she was cradling a baby. A man who I would soon find out was dead, with a kitchen knife through his chest. A man I would soon find out, was my father. I wondered why my sister hadn’t rushed down yet. I would find out later that she was in the kitchen that very moment. Lying in a puddle of blood. Unconscious. But still breathing. Barely.
I will always remember that day.
Because it was the day I lost my family.
Although this work is fiction, I have read and in some cases, even known a few families who have been shred to pieces because of instances like these. As a parent, it scares me. The fact that sometimes we cannot trust the very people who are responsible for us. I've left out explicit scenes or descriptions so as not to disturb the readers. Also it is the first time, I've attempted a 'first person narrative style'.
[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn't] Image source: Getty Images