In a little repository lodged at the back of my mind are some isolated memories I have of my father.
They wane in detail, sculpted in a way that I now only remember a few things in their indeterminate form; like a wad of blue paint or plaster spread aimlessly over a vast canvas of time.
Some memories fortify through repetition, like his stern reproaches, the silent drive from college with an unmissable grumble over the traffic, and stories I’ve heard from others who have conversed with him.
I own little of these conversations or experiences, and the ones that persist in my memory flicker almost mutedly amid the backdrop of other memories.
I was around 6, or 7, when my dad and I had covertly established a daily routine where we would head out to the porch after dinner for some alone time. The television blared from inside the house, and a faint clanging of pots and pans reached our ears, but we couldn’t care less. We would pull out two foldable chairs and place them side by side on a slope- me on the right propped on a white and blue chair, and he, on a hard-shelled reclinable beach chair.
I’d count the stars above me, curious of their names, how far they were from us and why some sparkled while others didn’t, waiting for a cloud to pass before I resume my curious endeavour.
Clearing his throat, my father proceeded to ask a riddle. I gave up after just one attempt but he shook his head and insisted that I try harder. After multiple attempts consisting of impatient guesses, he would disclose the answer, which was often comical or punny. I’d giggle and demand for more until the night runs a little late and he’d say “no more for tonight.”
I’d reply: One more, please!
I wondered if each night before bedtime, he’d sit alone to prepare some riddles for the next day? I had asked so many questions that I didn’t notice if he had trouble keeping up, or if he was annoyed by my vexatious inquisitions. I asked about everything- the universe, mythology, food, the weather, but I forgot to ask about him.
Many years passed and our nights at the porch dwindled. I stopped collecting memories of him simply because there weren’t any but hand-me-down stories that put me off him even further.
There was once though, where we waited silently in the car, parked at a little green patch just outside my sister’s tuition centre. We were waiting for her to exit the gate, and I was anxious, hoping that the wait would be over, that he suddenly said something and broke the silence that lay so densely between us.
Our car was cold, and the air-condition was pushed away from my face. My seatbelt was long unfastened and the vehicle that held us merely rumbled softly in the night. It seems so unlikely now that he would start a conversation and I wonder sometimes if it was something I had made up instead.
He started by telling me about a dream he had as a boy. Then, he was merely about twelve or younger, and was still living with most of his siblings and parents in a shabby little flat in Kuala Lumpur. The house was cramped, filled with scraps and unwanted newspapers and paraphernalia only grandpa and grandma would hoard.
What made his dream different was that it recurred ever so often, and every time, something different happens. In the deep gallows of his sleep, entities or strangers without names would threaten to break into my father’s home. They pry and hack at any entry they could find to finally get a hold of him, so he would not escape. My father runs, but always gets caught in the first few successions. But when he wakes, he devices a plan— an escape route, a loophole or a way to ward those entities away. Everyday, he finds a new way to escape his house that was slowly being engulfed by the same nameless monsters until one day, he finally escapes,
and he finds himself flying.
I wonder even today, what made him tell me that and I wonder what ensued. Did I ask him more questions? Perhaps he took such a long time to go into detail, that when my sister finally entered the car, we resume our silence once again and headed home, parked the car, slammed the door, went upstairs and did our own thing.