There’s the beach stained, sandy jeans which the tiny finger of your tiny left hand is resting on, (he’d always told you your hands were tiny, and he’d place it upon his to demonstrate), and the sunflower resting in your mother’s vase that you glued back together turns to smile at you, at him, at both of you, sitting side by side on the floor, sand decorating the carpet, backs resting on the yellow sofa that you always hated, but god, it was comfortable. The TV sounds in front of you, but it is vague, you are elsewhere, until his hands accidently jostle the popcorn bowl, his hands were always too big, and brown and creased in places that somehow made them strong, it reminded you of cardboard, but cardboard didn’t have the exact the same warmth as they did when they enveloped your hands, or the exact same feeling of security that they poured forth when placed on your back, “careful, careful” , before you shot off on your first bicycle alone, and proud, even though you lost balance and fell, five yards away.
The sand in your blue jeans cuts into your legs, but you are too lazy to wash it off anyway, so you sit there, finger hooked on to the belt, back resting on that sofa you were glad to be rid of (you think of the pale morning when you dropped it off at a second hand store, the bout of relief and the canon of grief that made home right in the middle of your lungs.) The lace curtains draped at the windows make pretty patterns on the carpet scattered with sand that you two are sitting on and while Jennifer Aniston smiles from the screen, you eyes gauge the sunlight filtering through, thoughts clouded on the day spent, the waves almost green-grey, the half made sand castle that you were never going to be able finish, the water so cold, his hands holding yours, telling you, “swimming isn’t that hard, Elsa” but you had always been afraid of the water anyway, and now you can’t bear to look at it. You remember his hands accidently elbowing the popcorn bowl, head turning back to Friends, even though every once in a while, his eyes met the clock- he was going to be late making dinner. He was always late, for everything, even to your first school concert which was the very first time you sang in the choir, drove you late for your driving test, late for his own birthday party.
You remember thinking that the saltwater staining your jeans knee high won’t go away if dried, but you were exhausted anyway, your father had still brought extra clothes to the beach which he changed for the ones that were wet, but there again managed to get sand all over the ankles because he could not just keep out of the water. You remember thinking of his laugh while he laughed at your favourite television show, you remember how the light coming from the window cut through the cracks of your mother’s favourite vase, the only shattered remnants you had of her apart from the creased photograph that smiled at you benignly every time you snuck money out your father’s wallet. You remember the sunflower slowly moving to fall into a crevice left on the rim of the vase, slowly half-turning to face at you in the evening light almost as if to say “this, this is the last time you shall smile.”
You think of how that day, the light fell through the windows on the sand sprinkled carpet, it reminded you of the chocolate cupcakes he always made way too sweet with rainbow sprinkles that you had forever loved, nobody made cupcakes that were that sweet, except his big brown square shaped hands. You think of how he measured your growth by placing your palm on his, going “two inches long this year, Elsa”- defying growth charts everywhere, but that was your father- a man of defiance. He loved his flowers fallen on the ground, he never picked them off the stem like normal people did. You think of how he always placed a red hibiscus that fell from the tree across the your prep school, when he walked you to school every morning, and on days that were wet, he’d place them in his wallet to dry and press- even though they never came out pressed neatly. You had never thought of what he did with those flowers, what happened to the wilted ones- did he throw them away or did he have a secret journal he kept them in? It was too late to find out anyway. You remember the flowers they had placed on his grave, all white, a little bit of yellow but mostly green wreaths. You remember your eleven old self screaming internally- he wants red, red hibiscus, but you knew the relative holding to your hand tightly would never have understood anyway.
Written by Afra Jabit
Illustration by DRG