“Mommy, I’m hungry!” This was me screaming at my mom during those days, before every night’s sleep. And mom would come, sit next to me, console me and promise that we would bake French croissants the next morning for breakfast and would describe how it was made, what it looked like and what it tasted like. I’d be imagining it in my dreams. The breakfast would be an indigestible quarter bowl of cold cereal fed to me with a hard smile on her face promising me that we would bake croissants the next day. I’d wake up each day to the fights of my mum and dad - mum would complain to him not to smoke, not because it was harmful but because it used to eat away our dinner and dad would reply that he was trying to get a job.
My dad was a good man; he sometimes used to sing -- in his Elvis Presley voice which I loved -- me to sleep. We had a radio on which my dad used to listen to jazz every night, I also loved it. But now the batteries didn’t work. So every night dad would stare at the sky without a blink. I used to try to do it too but could never do it for more than a minute. Dad acted strange sometimes. I knew he was trying. Even though I was 9, I knew mom didn’t have money. I couldn’t estimate the severity of what we were going through until one day.
We were playing hide and seek in an old factory when I saw an old man crying. When I got to him, I saw him chew his hands that nearly made him bleed. I was scared and wondered what my mom did when I wasn’t home. I ran home screaming for my mom. The door opened and a white guy just walked out of my home. Mum said he was a salesman. That salesman visited often for a few days after that. Mom made us chicken on the night before Christmas. We prayed before we ate, though I ate only a little. Mom saved it for Christmas breakfast. Eventually, we ate it for 3 straight days. I didn’t complain, it was better than cereal. Finally, one day I woke up to the news that dad got a job in a mine. Mom exulted and we went to the park as well. Later that night, dad came from work all dirty. We didn’t have water to bathe, so dad slept just like that.
Dad became sick later, used to cough a lot. It was precisely 2 months after that that mom with tears said that dad had gone to New York from work and would bring me a teddy. I never saw him again. After that I never went to school, mom took me frequently to work and we used to lift bricks and stones. I never liked it, but mom would tell me that we would bake an Italian pizza when we went back home - telling me how it was made, how it looked and how it tasted. I’d be lifting bricks all day, dying for the day to end and to bake pizza at home.