“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Said his father. It was his favourite quote.
It was not the only quote he knew.
It was the only book he had ever read.
He had abused both the book and the quote on countless occasions. Marcel lifted his eyebrows. He had no patience for his father. He could no longer see the man behind the quotes. He could no longer see his father behind the book. He could no longer see a human being behind the wall of unique and obtuse philosophy of but one book.
He felt neither pity nor hatred. Only a deep feeling of annoyance. He could no longer relate to the very thin man sitting in front of him and lecturing him. His sentences were shot like cannon bullets, staccato.
Unable to listen to it, Marcel stared blankly at his father’s clean-shaved face, and although he tried not to see it, he was startled by the number of wrinkles that had appeared in the last few years, making his father’s face look like an old parchment, an old treasure hunt map, except there was no treasure at the end. There never had been. It had all been one big bluff after the other. Until it all blew in his face, without forewarning, leaving him an old man, who had read one book in his entire life and could probably recite it by now.
His father had once been a beautiful young man. Marcel was convinced that his life would have taken a better turn had he been real ugly.
He would have read more books, that is certain, since ugly people don’t have friends.
He would not have had so much time to organize how to ruin his life in such perfect and minute details.
He would have had to work at a real job. It would have taken him a long time to find such a job because people do not give jobs to ugly men that easily either.
And once he had landed “a” job, any job, he would have had to work hard to keep it, because ugly people are always the first ones to be laid off too.
But no, he had been so handsome, he had never had to look for a job. He had never looked for anything, yet everything had come his way. Now he was sitting in front of his son, talking. Incessantly.
It was at that moment that Marcel noticed the twitch in his father’s left eye. The minute he saw it he knew something was the matter.
He looked at his watch, suddenly very nervous and anxious to leave.
“All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade.”
“Light and shade” thought Marcel. He had not heard that line in a long time, but he could remember very clearly the last time he heard it.
It was a very cold April morning. He was ten. He did not want to go to school and was sulking by the sink, washing his face with cold water as his mother tried with patience and calm to explain how important it was for him to go school. She did not say why. They both knew why: without an education, his life would be even worse. He was shaking from the cold water and had goose bumps on his arms. He was in his underwear by the sink. His mother had gone down to prepare his breakfast when he heard his father come home.
Drunk and beautiful. Beautifully unaware of how completely wasted he was.
Shouting quotes, entire passages from the book.
His mother, like so many others before and after her had fallen for the quotes that spoke about love.
“… All the beauty of life are made of light and shade”, followed by a thundering shot, echoing endlessly all through the big empty house.
The morning light had turned dark for Marcel who was crouching on the floor, his deformed face between his hands, his uneven legs folded underneath his scoliosed back. He cannot remember how long he remained in that position. He remembers the officer who found him lying there. He remembers telling the officer, that no, he had no other family, no uncles or aunts, no brothers or sisters, no grand-parents, no sir, he had no one.
He remembers coming to visit his father in different facilities for the last 25 years. He remembers, fighting to be accepted, by the other kids, fighting to get a degree, fighting to find a job, fighting to keep it.
And here he was looking his father straight in the eyes, knowing what the light and shade meant, and for a split-second before his father lifted his gun to his temple, they recognized each other, and shared an exquisite and unique “father-and-son” moment.
When the neat and young police officer rushed in to find two lifeless bodies, the only element that bugged him was who and how the gun had been brought in, undetected.
Alex S David
(October 13th, 2013)