Neglected Childhood

Neglected Childhood

8 mins

“What kind of a person are you?” screamed Nadia. She was so frustrated with Tim that she started shivering. She was screaming so loudly that the neighbors peeked out of their windows to witness the dirty fight once again. They were used to it now. Michael rushed out of his room but as soon as he reached the room where his parents were shouting at each other, he stepped back and went to the kitchen. Lucy, the cat followed him and crawled around his legs. After some silence, the sheer noise of breaking the glass came. Michael got so terrified that he ran upstairs to his room, followed by Lucy. He banged the door shut. He started playing his piano, he hated piano though. He had always tried to skip piano classes. So, Nadia had arranged his classes at home. The gate opened. Michael went to the window to see that the piano teacher had arrived. This was one of the occasions when he thanked that the teacher arrived. At least, his parents would keep calm for some time.

Carl, their domestic help who had been with the family for years and had noe become Michael’s uncle Carl, opened the door of Michael’s room for the teacher. Lucy went out and stood at the staircase but didn’t go down. The teacher came in the room. The piano session started. Michael would first rehearse the last lesson and then they would move to the next. While he was struggling to practice the previous lesson, the loudest voice came. It was his father’s. Then a loud sound of a slap came from that direction. It was so loud that Michael shivered and it jerked his hands. It echoed in the rooms. His eyes got glued in the direction from where the voice had come. The intensity of the voice clearly told the depth of anger it contained. The teacher also kept looking in that direction with a shock.

The teacher said, ‘Okay Michael. Let’s start it again.”

But Michael could not take his eyes off the direction.

‘Michael. Michael. Focus on the lesson,’ instructed the teacher. But Michael was so horrified with the situation that he was scared of doing anything. He was scared that even the piano tune might make them angry again. He felt the goosebumps.

The teacher tried to call him again, ‘Michael.’

Michael stood up from the chair and ran towards the door. This time, the teacher almost had to scream his name, ‘Michael, where are you going? Stop. You will fall down.’

But by then, he had got down the stairs and ran towards the door and gate. In no time, he had run away from the house. The teacher reached the front door of the house and noticed Nadia lying in the corner of the room, on the floor. Tim was standing at a distance, his back to Nadia. She saw the teacher. She looked down with sheer embarrassment. The teacher lowered his head with disappointment and went out. Tim came out of the room, lit up the lighter to burn the cigar in his mouth. Before crossing the gate, the teacher stopped, turned back and said, ‘By the way, let me inform you that your terrified boy has run away from your house, in case you are concerned.’ He moved out of the house.

Tim kept his gaze on the gate. His eyes were still flooded with anger. He jerked his right hand to blow off the lighter and took the cigar in his left hand. He threw it on the ground and went to his room.

Nadia was looking for Michael from street to street and ground to ground. She then found him sitting on a rock with Lucy. She reached to him and sat on her knees. She found that he had got scratches on his forehead and his nose was also bleeding. ‘What have you done, Michael?’ asked Nadia, checking his face very carefully.

‘I was running on the ground and fell down. There.’ Michael pointed to the spot where he fell down. It was comparatively rockier portion of the land. Nadia closed her eyes and gulped down a sob. ‘Come. Let’s go home,’ she said.

Tim was packing his bag. He was going to Chicago for a conference. Nadia was helping him.

‘Now what do you think about the boarding school?’ asked Nadia while folding Tim’s clothes.

‘Not again, Nadia.’

‘Still Tim?’ asked Nadia, disappointed by his reaction.

‘We will talk about this later, once I return from Chicago,’ said Tim, temporarily avoiding the conversation.

After two weeks, Tim returned from Chicago. Nadia was waiting for him. She walked to Tim, took his bag and coat from him and put them on the corner table. ‘How are you sweet heart?’ asked Tim. Nadia smiled at him. Her pale and dry lips were stretched. She was smiling after a long time and a heavy dose of drugs. The smile gave her heavily swollen eyes more wrinkles. The glow on Tim’s face was not because he had come home. It was the result of his delightful tour with a person who was the reason behind his wide smile. Nadia was very well aware of it and Tim knew it. They both were good at false playing this game. She asked Carl to get Tim a glass of water and went back to her work in the kitchen.

‘Where is Michael? Hasn’t he returned from football?’ asked Tim, standing at the door of the kitchen, his left hand resting on the door case and right hand on his waist.

Nadia continued cooking. She was clearly ignoring the question from Tim. Tim came forward a little and repeated the question. Noticing Nadia’s ignorance, he walked to Nadia and took her right elbow, turning her to face him, ‘I am asking you something.’

‘And I am ignoring it,’ said Nadia, avoiding eye contact.

‘Why?’ asked Tim, strongly. He was angry with her now. ‘Just answer me, God damn it. Answer me,’ screamed Tim.

Nadia shivered but looked into his eyes confidently and said, ‘I have sent him.’

‘Sent him where?’ Tim screamed even more loudly, tightening the grip on her elbow more. It was hurting Nadia, she jerked off the grip to free her hand. She said even more confidently, ‘Where I have been wanting him to be.’ She said emphasizing each word.

‘No. No, no, no.’ Tim was out of his own control. With the last No, he turned around and kicked the table on his right. The vase, arranged on the table fell down and was broken into pieces. Nadia didn’t move an inch. She looked at him with frustration. He, again, turned to her and walked to her. He shook her from her shoulders, he said, ‘Why Nadia? Why? Why do you hate me so much? Why did you send my son so far away from me. Why did you send him to the boarding school?’ He could not hold back his tears. ‘What’s the point of having a kid and not even being able to have him in our life?’

‘Life?’ said Nadia, looking straight into his eyes. This one word itself had all the answers he was looking for.

She continued, ‘what life are we talking about here, Tim? What life are we giving him? What kind of a human we are trying to make him? He is that unfortunate kid whose father is an alcoholic and a chain smoker, whose mother is drug addict, who doesn’t even know where does his father go every month? And God knows how many step siblings he is already having?’

‘Nadia.’ The kitchen and the veranda echoed with the loud sound of a slap. She fell down on the floor. He pointed a finger at her and said, ‘You are the limit. You are blaming me for this? It was your decision to bring him into the world.’

Nadia, somehow got up, and said with a weak voice, ‘Yes. Yes it was my fault. I had an option to abort him and of course, you had suggested me to do so. But it was me who chose a beautiful life for him or at least dreamt a beautiful life for him.’ Her eyes were glued to the floor, ‘I cannot let him see the shattered world of his parents, Tim. He cannot grow up seeing so much negativity. Every time, we try to pretend to be normal, we try to provide him a peaceful house with happiness. But what can we actually do? Fighting for 5 days in a week? If bringing him into the world was my choice, then it is my responsibility to give him a good life. And he cannot have it here. I know this. And I am not doing anything to you. I am punishing a mother in me more than any damn thing, Tim,’ she broke down and again fell on the floor. Her head was in her hands, she started sobbing uncontrollably. Tim held the dining table for the support and sat on the chair slowly. He felt the rush of hot blood in veins. Nobody moved. Nothing happened for a few hours.

Everything seemed to stop where it was.

After the silence of hours, Nadia got up, her dry eyes were emotionless. Carl entered the kitchen and gave a glass of water to Tim as per Nadia’s instructions. Tim went to the office and Nadia was busy in her house hold routine.

After a week, a call came from Michael’s boarding school. It was Michael on the phone. He sounded very cheerful and happy. To hear his son’s pleasant voice after years, Tim was unable to hold his tears. He sat on his reading chair with his head in his hands, facing the floor. After putting down the phone, Nadia walked to Tim and held his left shoulder and gently moved her right hand on his head. It was enough for Tim to burst out into tears. He cried a lot. He was crying like a baby. While sobbing, the only words he could gather to say, ‘Thank you. Thank you so much.’

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