Category Archives: Writer@work

“DADDY WASN’T WELL”

I looked at the clock in the waiting hall that afternoon. It was past after three. Silence was deafening.
Looking at my hands, I heard approaching footsteps. I was still staring at my badly chewed-up nails (even one finger had dried blood in it) when the footsteps stopped next to me. Then I heard her familiar voice.
“Ready to go home?”
I looked up and saw her exhausted face. Then I got up and followed her to the parking lot.
The drive home was filled with unsettling silence. Mom was obviously struggling for something to say as she was driving. Me? I didn’t feel like talking.
When we finally arrived home, Mom parked the car in the driveway. She heaved a sigh before turning to me, her eyes flashing in anger and exhaustion.
“What were you thinking?!” she suddenly yelled. “A two-week detention, breaking another kid’s nose? This isn’t like you!”
“Well, maybe you don’t know me very well–” I began, but she interrupted me.
“–don’t get you get smart with me, young lady!” she snapped, slapping at the steering wheel. She was almost hysterical now. “I want an explanation!”
“Oh, do you?” I sneered. Before I could stop myself, I went on, “How about this, Mom? They said Daddy is a sinner and he’s going to hell for what he did – AND THEY JUST WOULDN’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT!!”
Silence. Mom’s face went pale, her eyes wide with shock. I didn’t wait for her response, though. I just opened the car door, rushed into the house, up into my room before slamming the door behind me.
“AAARGH!” I hurled my backpack against the wall in a frustrated scream. Then I started punching the wall over and over again…
…until I finally collapsed in bed, panting in exhaustion. My knuckles were stinging painfully. My eyes strayed to the poster on the wall.
Daddy and his bandmates…
“I hate you,” I breathed before falling asleep…
—//—
“Daddy!”
“Hi, Baby.” A lot of my childhood with him was filled with his long stay at home (which was good) and departure in turns. I used to cry when he had to go on a tour with his band, not wanting him to leave. He’d always just smile and calmly pick me up in his arms. Then he’d hug me as he gently rocked me back and forth until I finally fell asleep.
When he was at home, sometimes he’d sing me something nice. Like when I’d woken up from a bad dream one night or had a fever. He’d sounded completely different from when he was on stage, singing – and screaming – with his band. Or when they recorded songs.
Mom had joked about him being two persons in one. I’d always found that weird. With me, his voice was always soft and melodious, soothing. He’d probably done so just to help me sleep.
Now I didn’t find that funny at all.
I opened my eyes. My room was already dark. Someone had bandaged my bleeding knuckles while I was asleep. The crack I’d created on the wall had been plastered.
Mom? It had to be her. I’d wanted to get up and find her. I hadn’t meant to yell at her like that.
But I was still exhausted, so I closed my eyes again…
— // —
I heard someone sobbing. Still half-awake, I walked down the stairs. I stopped when I saw many people downstairs that morning and frowned.
Who are they? What’s going on?
I saw my parents’ bedroom door opened. I heard the sobbing again, this time much more clearly, and instantly recognised it.
“I thought he was okay…I thought he’d always be okay…”
Mom. My heart started racing wildly when I realised some of these people were wearing the uniforms I recognised.
Cops. EMTs.
Then I saw it. Two EMTs pulled a stretcher from the kitchen, with a black body bag in it. I had a sudden, sinking feeling that made me rush forward then.
“Daddy?” I called out. It was a bad move, because their heads were turned at the sound of my voice. I felt hands holding me back and I started struggling.
“Come on, sweetie,” one of them urged softly. “You can’t be here right now.”
“Daddy?” I heard my voice rise in panic and fright. I turned my gaze at my parents’ bedroom, seeing Mom sobbing in someone’s arms. “Mom? Mommy, what’s going on?”
Nobody had wanted to tell me anything that morning. Eventually, they had to.
That was why he was in a closed casket. The scar around his neck had been too visible…
— // —
I remember getting angry with him before one of his long tours. I had yelled, “Fine, just leave!”, only to regret that later. Then Mommy and I had a video-chat with him during one of his breaks. I’d wanted to cry.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.” But he just smiled. On the screen, I could see his deep, dark brown eyes soften.
“I know, Baby,” he whispered softly. “I’m sorry too. I know this isn’t easy, but you know I’ll be back soon. Okay? Always.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, Baby.”
Always, he’d always promised.
— // —
Wake up, I urged myself, but I kept seeing those painful memories flooding back to me.
When I was finally old enough to learn and understand the lyrics he’d written for most of their songs, I came up to him one night. He was in his studio, working on another song as usual. He was a bit surprised to see me and stopped.
“Hey, Baby,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Daddy, why do you always write angry and sad songs?” I asked him. He looked a bit taken aback at that. “Are you always angry and sad?”
“Nah.” He put his guitar away, shook his head and smiled. “What makes you think that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I admitted. Then I reasoned. “You don’t sing songs like that to me.”
His smiled widened as he pulled me closer, right into his arms. He kissed my forehead while I rested my head against his chest.
“Of course not, Baby,” he said lightly. “You always make me feel happy.”
Somehow, that night I wasn’t fully convinced. I looked him in the eye, touching his stubbly jaw.
“Then what about those songs?”
He considered that for a moment. He suddenly had that sad, faraway look he couldn’t fully conceal. That scared me a little that I’d wanted to cry.
“So many people are sad,” he added very carefully. “I guess, they just want to be heard and understood.”
Silence. I was confused. I didn’t feel like he was really answering me, but I didn’t want him to be sad.
“What can I do so you won’t feel sad anymore, Daddy?”
“Just be the good girl you always are.” He smiled and gave my forehead another kiss. His arms around me tightened and I held him back. “Remember that I’ll always love you, okay?”
“Okay.”
— // —
You said you’d always love me. You said you’d always come back home, but you left. You’re gone for good now, Daddy. Why? What happened? I thought I was a good girl already, like you’d said.
“Daddy…”
“Sssh, it’s okay…”
I finally woke up, this time completely. The only light in my room was from the bedside table. Mom had been sitting next to me, gently stroking my hair. She smiled sadly and her eyes had been red, with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, Mommy,” I apologised, feeling my tears starting too. “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“It’s okay, Baby.” She gently kissed my forehead, the way she always did. The way he used to. “I’m sorry too.”
“Why did he do this?” I knew it was useless, but I had to ask anyway. “Was it because of me?”
“What?” She was startled for a second, then shook her head and stroked my hair again. “No, not you, Baby. Never.”
“Then why?” I didn’t want to make Mommy feel even sadder right now, since she was all I had now. Again, she shook her head – still with that smile on her face.
“Daddy wasn’t well,” she said. “He hadn’t been for a very long time, but he was too proud to ask for help. He thought he should’ve always been strong for us, for everybody.”
We both cried in each other’s arms that night, until I fell asleep again. I silently prayed, something that I knew I’d be doing for the rest of my life since that night:
God, if you are really there, please…Please, don’t send Daddy to hell…
 
He was just unwell…
#BreakTheStigma
Songs that have inspired this story:
 
“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell
“One More Light” by. Linkin Park
“Like A Stone” by. Audioslave
“Will You Wait For Me?” – Kavana
“Whispers In The Dark” by. Indecent Obsessions

“AGAINST MY WILL”

Against my will
I caught your presence
Time stood still
breeding a new conscience

Against my will
These eyes stopped blinking
The heart in for the thrill
The existence of a foreign sensation

Against my will
hypnotized by the sound of your voice
hexed by your smile
abandoning all reasons and choices

Do me a favour
Break your spell
so I can run for cover
instead of gazing at you
completely against my will

R.

“HOPES AND WISHES VERSUS ACCEPTING REALITY”

“I just want you to always be alright and happy.”

“I hope you’re okay.”

“I always have good wishes for you.”

 

Don’t they sound sweet and endearing? They make you feel loved, eh? At first, that is the common impression that we mostly get.

Then, what is wrong? Nothing. It is just that, sometimes those words have other side effects too. You may think I am being awfully, unreasonably negative, but here is the thing:

It is always good to feel loved. Really, we all long for that. However, sometimes we just do not have the heart to tell them otherwise:

No, I’m not always okay.

We do not want to make them feel sad, angry, or even disappointed.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me about it? Why did you have to go through all of that alone?”

“I thought you were always fine.”

“How could you have let yourself get into that kind of mess? Why didn’t you see it coming?”

 

Sometimes, they do not even want to know or hear the truth, like…at all. Sometimes, they are just…tired of their own problems. They’d rather drown themselves in complete denial than having to put up with your issues too.

Let’s stop taking that personally. It is not that they love you less or worse – no more. Because if you bluntly ask them, their answer will always be the same: they still do. That has not changed.

They are only human too, just like you. That is the only explanation. They can get fixated in their own problems, their personal needs.

This is why, sometimes you do not feel like you want to share them everything. Sometimes, you feel like you want to stop doing that completely. Shut them out again, no longer letting them in. You are unsure whether they really want to know or care, as long as you always give them what they want:

A sign that you are really okay, not some lip-service and painted smiles. Any vivid proofs that you still (know how to) make them feel happy. Let’s not burden them so much nor disappoint them, shall we?

Yes, the love is still there. You are sure of it. It is just time and change. Perhaps it has always been that way. No sentimentality, because you have to accept the fact that, no matter how much they (claim that they) love you, not all of them are brave and strong enough to look at the cat once it is out of your bag – or the skeletons in your closet.

 

“It’s okay. I just need you to be honest with me, no matter how bad it is.”

 

R.

“MOMMY, I’M SCARED!”

Mommy, I’m scared
We’ve talked about this before
briefly, but I was still being straight
to the point that worries you more
Mommy, I’m still scared
I still can’t tell the difference
between a monster and a real man
but they say I should take the chance
I can see your disappointment
‘though it remains unspoken
I bet you’re tired of their questions
about me they consider stubborn
and just plain ignorant
I don’t expect them to understand
‘though I wish they’d keep quiet more often
and just listen
before passing me any judgment
as if they had the entitlement
Mommy, I’m scared
I know what you want from me
all you hope that I’ll be
but it’s not that easy
I have seen reality
so dark, love feels like fantasy
I know you want me to be happy
but hey, single doesn’t always mean I’m lonely
I’m afraid of so many things
Mommy, I’m not kidding
You’ve heard bits about the last one
and no, I’m not repeating the same damn thing
many thanks to guys like him
I’m not a rest-stop
or some past-time tale for his future hook-ups
Thank God, I’ve never let him get that far
His selfish, shady ways will never make him my shining star
I don’t fear the possibility of marriage
but they say every outspoken wife is a bitch
How come?
What about husbands who keep treating their wives like shit?
Those who turn their women into merely emotional and physical punching bags?
I don’t want a husband
who’ll turn me into someone unpleasant
I don’t want them to only preach
about how I should be more patient
with him
as they turn their backs on me,
feigning ignorance
giving into this sickening, Culture of Silence
I don’t want the father of my children
to hurt our boys so badly
by calling them faggots and cry-babies
only because they too shed their tears
which is always considered weak and “girly”
I don’t want him to hurt our girls
by treating them like mere objects
locking them, limiting their steps
refusing to let them decide their own fates
I’m so sorry, Mommy
I can face any god-forsaken street thugs bravely
but I don’t just open my heart to any guy out there, you see?
That would be another story
I’m still scared
Too bad
I’m also too much of a coward
because I can’t say all of this to your face
I’m still fighting this fear
even when I’m all alone here
Perhaps someday I’ll banish this successfully
In the meantime,
just bear with me
and believe that I’ll be okay,
Mommy…
I’m sorry…
R.

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO HIT HER TO HURT HER”

You don’t have to hit her to hurt her. There are so many ways to cause her pain and you only need to take your pick.

You can start by not keeping your vow that you will always love her, no matter what. Were those just words to you? We all have our flaws, but why not fix yours first as an example?

Why does it always have to be other people’s faults? Who died and made you God? What makes you believe that you’re always oh-so-picture-perfect? Is it because you’re a man? Is it a non-debatable privilege everyone should accept and understand?

Then you continue by picking on her looks. How she never dresses up more just for you. How sloppy she is at home, unlike The Stepford Wife material you’ve imagined – and expected – her to be. Many thanks to patriarchy, this is how you’ve been raised. Women are supposed to be your servants. Your every wish should be their command, no argument. Why is it so bloody hard for them to understand?

Oh, right. Next you’re going to say that they never use their brains. How typical. You always think too highly of your kind, claiming that women are merely creatures of emotions.

You don’t have to hit her. All you have to do is keep making her feel ugly and worthless. Just act like everything she does is wrong. It’s always her fault. She’s never good enough, no matter what.

Call her stupid or idiot, even in front of other people. Make her cry and walk away. It’s always about what you want, eh? Society and some religious interpretations (or perhaps more like mis-interpretations) will always support you. In their eyes, hearts, and minds, you can never do anything wrong.

You don’t have to hit her. The hardest punch comes from how you disregard her in front of the kids. Don’t mind them. What do they know anyway? They’re just little kids. They still don’t understand the complexities of adults. It doesn’t matter if they claim that they hate you for always making their mommy cry.

Dismiss that. They’ll get over it anyway. That’s what you always believe. They’re just kids. They don’t even know what they’re saying.

As if that’s still not bad enough, you bitch about her constantly on social media. HAVE YOU NO SHAME?!

You don’t have to hit her to hurt her. You’re doing more than enough already. It’s not just her; it’s the people around her. Too bad, not many dare take a stand for her, claiming that it’s also none of their business.

You don’t have to hit her. It doesn’t have to be physical, but you’ve already hurt her. You do that everyday, just to make you feel good. Just to make you feel powerful. Anything for your wretched ego.

Enough. This should end NOW.

You may think you always get away with everything, but bear in mind with this one:

God never sleeps.

R.

“LIVING BODIES IN A ROOM OF SILENCE”

Perhaps you secretly wish I’d talk to you

the way I used to

like I fear silently

whether you’ll really listen to me

or just give me some more scrutiny

 

But what should we talk about?

Once again, this heart is full of doubts

It’s been like ages since we were without

rare moments like this

another short, temporary bliss

before reality takes another swish

 

Must it be the same thing again,

something mundane,

harmless as we conceal our pain?

Not everyone makes a great pretender here

My brutal honesty is the monster you fear,

while the real beast has always been crystal-clear

 

In the end,

the same old song still keeps on on the same old dance,

living bodies in a room of silence…

 

R.

“THE RUDE AWAKENING: What To Say and Not To Say During Eid with Family”

Last year on the first day of Eid, I did something pretty drastic and rather unorthodox. While most people would usually decorate their Facebook timelines with “Eid Mubarak” greetings and all that jazz, I had posted this message status instead:

“Wanna have a peaceful Eid with me? Don’t ever start asking questions, joking, nor making nasty comments about my weight, thank you very much!”

I supposed that had worked, because nobody had bugged me with that. Probably they had read it and did not want to risk it. Although that had been my major relief, a friend then texted me that same day:

“You’re not alone in this. I’ve received similar comments about my weight from relatives during Christmas, until my response about how all my boyfriends loved my body anyway had shut them up. You know, people will always have something to say about us. As long as you’re confident and happy with the way you look, their opinions shouldn’t matter.”

True, I completely agree with her. Still, it is a lot easier said than done, though. You may keep quiet all you like, but there are people who seem to never know – nor even care – when to shut up. Whether it is about your weight, why you are still single, how many kids they think you should have once you are married, your low-salary job…

…and the list just goes on and on and on. It is as if you are never going to be good enough for any of them. Suddenly, Eid celebration with your family feels more like going into an annual battlefield, where their intrusive questions and judgmental comments are the bullets you cannot seem to dodge.

It does not matter what you say.

  1. “Oh, they’re only making a conversation. Don’t be so overly sensitive.”
  2. “Come on, just bear with them. You only see them once a year anyway.”
  3. “They care about you, so that’s why they wanna know more about you.”

My take on all that?

  1. Of all the many other existing topics on earth, why do they always have to go there? And please, enough with the superiour attitude, minimising others. Arrogance always feels most sickening when one refuses to validate the (hurt) feelings of others.
  2. Seriously, do they have to repeat the same old performance every freaking year?
  3. Sure, they do. Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep on poking into our personal business and pointing at each of our possible ‘flaw’ as if they’ve got none themselves.

Besides, what is so wrong and difficult with a plain, simple “How are you?” Let them tell their stories and please refrain from making negative comments and giving some know-it-all advice. (Believe me, people can tell the difference.) When you ask them how they are, do you really want to listen or are you eager to find their faults at things?

Fortunately, there has been a rude awakening lately. Not only articles, memes, and jokes about this matter, more and more people have begun to realise that these questions and comments are just NOT OKAY.

Eid Holiday is supposed to be filled with love, appreciation, and sense of gratitude towards each other – families and friends. How does one feel loved and accepted when meeting relatives makes you feel more like attending an appraisal interview, regarding your past “accomplishments” and “what should be your next goal(s)”?

Let it go. Let them be. Life is too short to keep on criticising each other, especially when all they want is to hang out with you without feeling like they have to keep up their appearances and all. Just pray for their well-being. That should not be so hard.

Thankfully, my Eid was full of kitchen duties (and I did it for Ma, mind you. Not because I am a woman and people think I should.) Luckily, people have stopped asking.

Hopefully, your Eid had been peaceful too. Otherwise, you can start setting a better example on how to be a more pleasant participant for another Eid holiday next year.

R.