You might like to call my disappearance a hiatus, I’d much rather call it trying to sort out my head and the buzz of activity that was swirling within it, leaving me feeling deliriously hopeless. Am I fixed? No, I wouldn’t say that, but I know that I’m no longer completely broken, and feel as though I’m on the mend.
It’s strange that at my lowest point I was unable to pick up my pen and scrawl all that was swelling within and around me. For 3 months my pen faltered with each uncertain beat of my heart, as though it would give up trying to keep me here at any unannounced moment. And it was that fistful of flesh that taught me the most important lesson of all: not everything is in my hands.
It had fallen out of the photo album – the fat leather-bound book with clear pockets that held snapshots from the past. Our past. It was crumpled along one edge, as though it had been balled into a fist and then smoothed out again.
The fist must have been an inferno of anger, hoping to crush the present that was distinctively different from that past. The past of four of us smiling, holding one another – happy. Arms were draped on shoulders and around waists; one head was cocked to the side as an ocean of wavy hair rippled in an attempt to reach the ground; a lopsided smile was spread across a face to hide the shiny tracks of the braces underneath, and wide red-rimmed glasses perched on a nose, one slip and it would’ve been at the very tip. My family. Perfect to the point of imperfection – bound by a pact of unconditional love. Mum, dad, Salma and I. And that picture had been snapped only 2 months before our rollercoaster of happiness spun wildly off its tracks.
I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why I went down there. I’d mistaken the window of hope that I’d seen in my dreams for reality. I’m sure he had turned around when I called his name and pulled the corners of his mouth towards his eyes in the widest smile I’d ever seen. The smile had formed slowly, but the sight of his sparkling teeth confirmed it: he recognised me. I was afraid he wouldn’t. I was afraid that I had disintegrated into a distant memory with so many others – irrecoverable. That smile said it all. Murad hadn’t forgotten the face of his remaining little girl.
The window of hope was wide and gleaming, so I jumped through only to fall flat on my face onto turf that was far from green. He didn’t smile at me. His teeth didn’t sparkle. There was no recognition because his sight was clouded and he couldn’t see. The tall can of beer that he’d crushed as he stumbled lay beside him. And I didn’t move. I didn’t rush to help him up. I didn’t cry out to him. ‘Dad’ couldn’t be formed on my tongue because there was no star in the heavens that could convince that that was my dad.