Friday Flash: Steps back

Sundry shop near Tanjung Malim

Sundry shop near Tanjung Malim

Little boys and girls have very fragile egos.But Maman’s father did not know this.
He felt that as a single father,
Struggling through the days and well into the night
That his responsibility of a father was fulfilled

Maman!!! Cipan, where are you? Did you call the gas fella or not?!?
No, ayah. I was trying to finish my homework. Puan Azalia is very strict and will beat me on the backside with a thick rotan if I don’t finish it.
WHAT? Then how do you expect me to slave away and cook your dinner? Maybe I should beat you with a thin rotan. You will know that a thin rotan more painful than a thick rotan
Sorry, ayah. I did not know that. I believe you. I will call the gas fella right now.
But it was too late. Maman got a taste of that thin rotan that night, a full course in fact.

Fragile egos need love and guidance
Nurturing, hugs and kisses
And the words
I love you
I believe in you
You can do anything

And so Maman grew up with a fragile self-esteem and a fragile confidence
Which is never a good thing for a young man to have
He had wavy black hair and olive skin and an admirable jawline and his mother’s eyes
The combination of which made him an attractive lad
But none of that mattered with absolutely no love of one’s self you see

Maman!!! Did you go and change the lights or not? I told you 10 times already, my mouth also tired of saying lights!!
Oh…No ayah. I thought you said you’d get the new one first.
As you can imagine, ayah didn’t remember saying that
And what ayah didn’t remember, never happened

Ayah was a stern man clearly, but who used to be gentle
Until maman’s mother and sister were killed on night
A brutal murder it was
So brutal that it changed ayah
And forever changed maman

Today, Maman is 40 years old
Pakcik Onn had called him on Tuesday to tell him the news
Ayah was found dead in his favourite chair in his favourite spot
On the balcony, where he used to watch the world go by
Hoping ibu and Yasmin would come walking home
On Monday, they did come walking home
Only to collect ayah

Forty-year old Maman stood at the entrance of the alleyway
The dusty old road he left behind 20 years ago
That same dusty old road he ran on, away from his past
Away from the rotans (thin and thick), the gas man and tears
No more, he vowed to himself as he held his tattered bag close to himsel
No more, no more, no more
Ayah had half-run after him
His old age and tired limbs holding back, but his temper pushing him forth
Maman!! Maman! Come back now!
No more, Maman whispered to his father
Without ever looking back

There stood Maman again
Never thinking he’d be back here
After running away, after escaping
He never thought he’d have to trace back his steps

After a few deep breaths, he picked up his suitcase
Each step heavier than the last
Retracing each step, memories flooding back

Maman got to his house
There was a crowd of people, mostly elders
He was surprised to see ayah having so many people interested in mourning death
There were even women crying!
He stopped and looked around to make sure he was in the right house
Yes, yes he was…

It was overwhelming, people were coming towards him
Telling him how he has grown up
How he looks healthy and stealthy
A proper city boy now with proper shoes and oh, a fancy hat too!
How his father had died suddenly, and how they had all lost a dear friend

After the prayers and ceremony, Maman sat alone in that house
The dust of memories settled once again
He looked around, studying the house again
Nothing much had changed
The furniture and even the television seemed archaic now

The emotions trickled in at first
Like currents of the sea they got stronger as the day wore on
And came in violent crashes
Sending Maman into the depths of its sadness
He was lost there for a while
But soon realised that it was the past
One that he needn’t live in anymore
So he swam back to the surface of that ocean
And forced his way to the shore

At this point, he was kneeled over
His face on the floor
And he was sobbing
His tears and mucus wet his face and his shirt
But these weren’t just tears
They were tears from deep, deep down inside Maman’s soul
Where the feelings and emotions and hurt he thought he had burnt were actually shelved
From his memories, from all the pain and hurt he had witheld
All those long and lonely years

He sobbed
For his ibu and Yasmin
For the love he missed from the women in his family
For the hugs and the kisses and the lovely warmth he remembered
For the fact that they were taken away from him so quickly
For the love he thought his father should have given him
For the paternal support he never felt

He sobbed and sobbed
Till his he thought his heart was physically aching
Till he was too tired to sob anymore
Till he was fatigued
And slowly, after what felt like days of crying, he was exhausted and fell asleep

The next morning
Maman locked up the house
Someone would come later that day
To see that it would be sold
He said his goodbyes to the uncles and the aunties
Probably for the last time
He took pictures of their faces and printed them onto his memory for safekeeping

Maman began his slow walk towards that same alleyway and walked up it
He turned around and looked at it one long time
Standing there
He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for
For his ayah to come running back
What would he have done? Would he have stopped to see what ayah would say?
Would he finally embrace him and say come back my son?

But that was that unfortunately
That was that indeed
He turned around to catch a taxi

To the airport, where he would get on a plane
And return home
To his own two children
He would give them a big hug and tell them how much he loves them
He would tuck them into bed that night and tell them the story they loved hearing
Of what their grandfather was like
Or rather what he would have liked him to be like
He would watch them drift to sleep

Little Maman was gone now, left in that village
And only adult Maman was left

*****
in response to the picture prompt.

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