TITLE: The Brown 26th May 2017
By Rebecca Bithyah
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I spend my days before the window, searching the sky. I know it should be blue, but it’s greasy brown. It’s as though a filthy exhaust fan filter has been laid over the world and casts a murky haze over everything I see.
It was fastened there the day I lost you.
Since then, I am devoid of emotion or care. My essence has been replaced by a dull nothing. Breathing is an effort. I bother only because I will see you again, in the game. If I can convince him to play.
Today, I have set the table with special care. He has been reluctant to take part lately, so the game must be perfect.
In the late afternoon, a car door slams. He is here.
Running to the front of the house I cry, “Daddy, Daddy, you’re home,” and fling my arms around him.
He disengages my hands from about his waist. “Emily, you are twenty years old, not a child.”
He is going to be difficult, but I know what to do.
I retreat, drop my head and make my voice quiver. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all day Daddy. Please, can we play the game?”
He moves to the room where the game is arranged, glances at the place set for you and flinches. He doesn’t sit at the table but slumps onto the couch and pats the seat beside him. “Come here Sweetheart, we need to talk. I had a meeting with Dr. Mense last night. He says that treating you at home isn’t working. He wants to put you in the hospital for a while, so you can get better.” Here he pauses and rubs his face. “So I can get better too.”
The brown, momentarily brightened by his homecoming, darkens. I close my eyes to block it out but see rain on a foggy windshield. My heart beat kicks up a notch.
“No, but, if I’m not here, how can we play the game?”
“We can’t do that anymore. It’s not helping either of us.”
I try to listen to him, but the sound of squealing tires shrieks in my head. My breathing thrums. The dull nothing expands. Tears erupt and glide down my unswept cheeks. “But it does help. You want me to be happy again, don’t you Daddy?”
He covers his face with his hands. “Dr. Mense says I’m hurting you when I play along. Please, stop this Emily. Come back to me. I’ve lost my wife. Now, I’ve lost you. Be the young woman you are. Not this. It’s killing me. Can’t you see? You’re killing me.”
The brown lifts. His skin is sallow, and there are lines where I don’t remember them. His body sags.
Should I stop? Is there a future besides playing the game? Is Dr. Mense right?
My thoughts are interrupted by the screaming that lives in my head. The same screaming that ripped from my throat when I saw your misshapen body.
I make my decision. The game is the only way. He must play.
Shaking my shoulders back and forth in contrived sobbing, I contort my face into the grief mask it knows so well. He attempts to hold me, but I won’t accept his comfort. I stagger to my feet, drift to the table and grasp my teacup.
He flops his hands to the couch, pushes himself up and drags forward.
You waft like chiffon into your usual seat. The brown retreats, but you are still vaporous. He must engage.
“Daddy, sit down and tell Mummy all about your day. You know how she loves to hear about your work.”
My father sinks into his appointed seat. Tears drip from his cheeks. He picks up his cup and reaches it toward the teapot that sits in front of your place setting. “Thank you, Dear. I’ll have a strong one this afternoon. You won’t believe the day I’ve had.”
You coalesce. You are as solid to me now as the day I took your life in the car I was driving too fast. I shake that blood-stained image from my mind and focus on your shining hands, leaning forward to take my father’s cup. You turn to me and smile.
The brown evaporates. The dull, suffocating, nothing disappears. You are here, and for these moments, I am free.
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