Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, january 19, 2012


“This is a honeycomb world. It hides a hollow heart.” -John Connolly

There are certain places in this world, where the past and the present are at tangents. Places where the surface stretches over all that has passed; a skin so porous that sometimes the past oozes out. It meshes with the present, adds depths to our shadows and makes yawning chasms of every window that glimpses out of torn, broken buildings. There are places where the past has the audacity to reach out, with its desperate clawing clutches. And sometimes, it touches us.

[One]
The Father made his meandering way through the grime caked, muddy halls of New Market. He heard snatches of conversation, the inherent greed in them seemingly palpable.

For The Father, this excursion was one of sentimentality; he was looking for things that would please his son. A son, who would soon say goodbyes, would soon beat a path away from his door. The Father had already given his son much, had given him the opportunity to move on to fairer lands. But sentimentality was the flip side of logic. He would pass on a few trinkets in the hopes that his son would cherish them. A carved ceramic mug, a cheap wallet, the giving of which spoke more of a rite of passage. New things from an old New Market which he hoped, given time would become the portal to memories, of family and kin.

FLICKER
The Father made his meandering way through the grime caked, muddy halls of New Market. He heard snatches of conversation, the inherent greed in them seemingly palpable.

For The Father, this excursion was one of sentimentality; he was looking for things that would please his son. A son just walking, a son just teethed. One who’s vocabulary consisted of unintelligible sounds, all of which seemed to convey a vast plethora of emotions that the most able of writers wept to recreate. A son who held in his tiny grip a promise of beautiful things. But sentimentality was the flipside of logic. The Father would buy a few trinkets that age would see battered and chipped, luster and feel gone, but which he hoped his son would cherish in the years to come. A box of building blocks, a red toy car that spoke more of a rite of passage. New things that would soon grow old, things he hoped with added years, would take on a patina of memories, of family and kin.

[Two]
The multitude of people, moving along in unending streams had swallowed The Father’s family. An anxious, inexplicable restlessness seemed to settle in. Even though he knew his son and his wife weren’t really lost, their sudden absence had brought about a painful realisation of just exactly what they meant to him.

His movements became somewhat strained, took on a sense of urgency that was wholly disproportional to the severity of the situation. Unbidden images of wandering about the market came to his mind, all of them sharing the same dire end. With them came a rueful understanding that all men in times of stress were pessimists.

In the midst of his search he noticed a red toy car his son would have liked. He promised himself he would come back for it. Rites of passage could never be forgone.

FLICKER
The multitude of people, moving along in unending streams had swallowed The Father’s family. An anxious, inexplicable restlessness seemed to settle in. Even though he knew his son and his wife weren’t really lost, their sudden absence had brought about a painful realisation of just exactly what they meant to him.

Unaccountably, his movements remained free of anxiety, and he was left with only a vague sense of urgency. His surety that his wife was safe remained unshaken. And age had gifted his son the ability to make it back home. However, unbidden images of accidents and misfortune came to his mind, each one more fantastical than the last. With them came a rueful understanding that all men in times of stress were pessimists.

In the midst of his search he noticed a wallet his son would have liked. He promised himself he would come back for it. Rites of passage could never be forgone.

[Three]
When lost things are found, the necessity of touch, the tactile need to hold on becomes more important. The Father had found his wife. A swift flash among colours that had coalesced into something he familiar; he had recognised the slight tilt to the head, the way she wore her hair, familiar things made more familiar in an alien background.

She was standing just outside the main thoroughfare of New Market, a string of CNGs in front of her. There was a stillness to her, a sense of… wrong surrounding her. A limp hand holding on to bags and he saw her sway with the crowd passing her by. And she didn’t seem to notice. He saw her search the crowd, the back of her head swiveling frantically. But he was right here.

The urgency that had filled him earlier had found a real outlet. He quickly walked up to her, a hand settling on her shoulder. And he felt her trembling. She turned towards him, and The Father knew instantly that the memory of that face would haunt him for years.

“I can’t find him…”

FLICKER
When lost things are found, the necessity of touch, the tactile need to hold on becomes more important. The Father had found his wife. A swift flash among colours that had coalesced into something he familiar; he had recognised the slight tilt to the head, the way she wore her hair, familiar things made more familiar in an alien background.

She was just outside the main thoroughfare of New Market, a string of CNGs just in front of her, the road roaring its mad song as vehicles swooshed past. She was talking, and frantically with someone he couldn’t see. Arms waving about and bags at her feet, the attention she was attracting was forming a crowd around her. He watched a child pick up one of her shopping bags and run.

Once again he found himself curiously at ease. He walked up to her, wondering if she was arguing with a street vendor or if she had met someone they knew. He called out to her and she turned towards him, and The Father knew instantly that the memory of that face would haunt him for years.

“I found him…”

[Four]
A flock of crows lined the power lines above The Father, their relentless cawing drowned out by the road. In silence, their bobbing heads and flashing black beaks seemed endlessly mocking, like feathered jesters standing at attention.

The face of his wife was an aching vista of desolation. He felt a softening of the world around him, her gestures rendered in buzzing silence was reminiscent of the silent crows. A mime act from a house of horrors. He would have laughed if his body hadn’t suddenly been reduced to unresponsive flesh.

And he felt himself move, walk away. His son would be just around the corner, and if not, maybe on the other side of the road. Children were adventurous, he’d probably thought crossing the road a brave act, and was stuck on the other side. His son was probably on the other side. The endless road, the faces of people, all silent... did expressions always contort our faces so? His son was on the other side.

From behind him, a piercing wail of a mother broke through, rising.

FLICKER
A flock of crows lined the power lines above The Father, their relentless cawing drowned out by the road. In silence, their bobbing heads and flashing black beaks seemed endlessly mocking, like feathered jesters standing at attention.

The face of his wife was an aching vista of fevered eyes and clutching hope. He felt a softening of the world around him, her gestures rendered in buzzing silence was reminiscent of the silent crows. A mime act from a house of horrors. He would have laughed if his body hadn’t suddenly been reduced to unresponsive flesh.

And there sat a man on the sidewalk. Legless and deformed he was staring back up at him, gaunt pits for eyes, a maimed hand raised for alms. Supplanted on this image was another one. One that brought up debilitating memories, a picture of a clean face, unmarred. But no… He already had a son, not this man. He had lost a child and raised another. His son was on the other side.

From behind him, the delirious laugh of a mother broke through, rising.

There are certain places in this world where the impressions of life leave a deeper mark. The detritus of the living may sometimes fill up these holes but every now and then cold winds raise the dead leaves up and the holes are exposed to cracking abysses. And from these chasms, the past pours out to stain and taint the present. There are places in this world, where the past grabs hold and doesn’t let go.

“To those who have been forsaken, hell has no geography.”
(John Connolly)

By Tareq Adnan
(da.phat.one@gmail.com)

 

 

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