Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scenes of the Father: Duplicity and Deceit

Last time I went back, my aunt (technically, she's my cousin, but not blood-related cause my father was adopted and shit) said to me, "The last time I went back, your father started talking about you guys (my siblings) and he started crying his ass off."

That comment put a smile to my lips. Cause I know that my father does not cry. He never did, and he never will.

My aunt was lying because she is a woman, and ALL women lie. Some lay.

Anyway, women, especially Malay women, have this thing about keeping the illusion of family together. Even though 85% of ALL families are fucked up, according to some TV psychologists. And if it's on TV, it MUST be true.

My father is not the best father in the world. Sometimes, he sucked at it. I mean, he was not a molester or anything, but he was and is no angel. He didn't walk off a Hallmark card or one of its sappy movies.

Ever since he was born, he had to make do with living with other people. He was adopted a few weeks after birth. Then, to study, he had to go and live with strangers till he got a job in his early 20s.

He stayed in Mentakab, studied at an English boarding school, where he studied the Gospel of St Luke, which I stole from his library and read in secret and found out that as far as forbidden books go, it was boring.

He stayed with lots of strangers, eating their food and sleeping on their extra bed, or mattress.

It must have been a hard life. I stayed with people before and it was some of the most horrible experiences of my life. Up to a point that I had to listen to Whitney Houston. He had to do it for more than 20 years.

And so, when he started teaching us shit, my father was quite a tough taskmaster.

I was 4, and I had learned to count and read simple words. He had a heart attack and was lying in bed. My mother, The Great Manipulator, ushered me into the bedroom and asked me to show my father what I had learned.

I started counting and stopped at 19.

"And what comes after 19?" He asked.

And I was like, "Shit would I know."

Later, in primary school, I'd go home, top of my class, with my report card - straight As and all, and I'd show it to him.

One year, I remember, I got an average of 98.7%.

His comment?

"You could do better than this. You only got 95% on this subject."

In my head, I was like, "What the fuck, man? What's better than number one? Number Zero? What's better than 98.7%?"

And that was AFTER I argued with my teachers on the validity and accuracy of their tests, earning me a few extra marks here and there. Yeah. I cheated.

In high school, I simply gave up. I rebeled and focused on proving people wrong.

"You will not ace your exams if you do not study!" They said.

"You will not amount to anything if you do not spend at least 8 hours a day studying!"

Fuck that. Fuck all of that. Lies. GNR.

So anyway, yeah, my father does not cry. He got his third stroke and he's still smoking three packs of Gudang Garam a day. He buys cigarettes by the carton. And he handles hazardous materials every single day. Moving lannate around, some illegal pesticides over here, there, and whatnot.

He's one tough motherfucker. And a real one, at that.

There was a time when I hated him, and hated to be him. A regular phase in anyone's life, I assume.

He was almost an emotional cripple. He never went for any sappy shit or held his children or anything. He was pure intellect, with his Atlas, and red Pilot pens.

So I went the other way. He wrote in really neat cursive handwriting. I made sure that my handwriting consists of as many font styles as I could muster.

His language was like, fucking ancient palace style or something.

I remember his letters.

"Ke hadapan anakandaku Amir," he would write.

"Diharap anakanada selamat di sana. Ayahanda sekeluarga di sini sihat-sihat belaka."

I was like, "what the fuck, man?" Am I like, fucking royalty or something?

So I wrote like I was a maniac. And sent it to him.

My decision to be a writer was in defiance to his wishes. He wanted me to be a doctor. Maybe after seeing my handwriting.

He scoffed and ridiculed my decisions. He didn't think I could tough it up. Surviving in big bad KL while trying vainly to land a job as a writer.

What he DIDN'T count on, was for me to be as hard-headed as he is.

He was supposed to be some government official or something, cause his uncle was the MB of Pahang, but he decided to become a teacher.

So anyway, after a few years, I realized that I was becoming him. Damn. That's cliched. But it's true.

If there is anything I wish I could have inherited from my father, it would be the lack of emotions. I do not want to feel anything. I do not want to have a heart. I have no time for feelings.

I have to do my work. My Great Work. I need to do it. And emotions have nothing to do with them.

So here I go. I'm off to the office. I got some work to do. At 2.39am. Cause I'm fucking great and all.