Another ‘first line’ taken from the handout at last month’s creative writing group. The line is in bold again.
He stared at the writing on the envelope, a taut expression on his face. I watched him from the breakfast table as I munched my cereal, wondering what significance the cursive address could have, to elicit such a response. Normally my father was a buzz of activity in the mornings, a ball of nervous energy bouncing around the house, always on the verge of lapsing into total hysteria…or so it seemed to me, at any rate. To witness him stilled, pensive, was not merely noteworthy – it was unprecedented.
Presently, he gathered himself and resumed his customarily frazzled preparations for leaving the house. I quickly finished my Weetos, grabbed my schoolbag, and followed my older siblings to the car, but inwardly I was ruminating over Dad’s peculiar behaviour. How could the mere sight of handwriting do that to a man? What meaning could be imbued in the curves and loops and crossed T’s and dotted I’s so that a person could be rendered statuesque, stony-faced? Who could have penned these few lines, lines powerful enough to momentarily paralyse my father?
I was too young to understand, then. I did not yet know the complexities of human relationships of the web of complicated emotions in which people can become entangled. I was blissfully unaware of how easy it is to find yourself in thrall to another, of how difficult it is to extricate yourself from such a mire of your own making. I grimly see, now, with all the experience I have accrued, just how someone else’s script can evoke such feelings of joy, sadness, anger, irritation or, in this case, terror.
Sometimes I like to think that, if I had been older and wiser, I would have been able to approach my father with sensitivity, offer a sympathetic ear and understanding counsel. That I would be able to convey my own appreciation for his fearful reaction and, most importantly, ascertain the identity of the mysterious sender. This, however, is fantasy. No matter how different the circumstances might have been, I know with absolute certainty that Dad would never converse on any matters of emotional depth. He would deny, laugh, belittle, change the subject…anything but engage with such deep sincerity.
When he disappeared that night, the others had been shocked. Not I. Even ten year-old me had had the wisdom to join the dots. I had seen his face. I had seen his terror. I had seen his desperation. While everyone else searched for him, I had ransacked the house, hunting for this envelope, this letter bomb that had blown my entire world asunder.
It is thirty years on, and I am still searching.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♥