Here is another piece of the puzzle. Enjoy!
Clean Air 2
Spending nights at a laboratory, alone, is never a good idea. Watching the bodies float beside one another, all I could imagine is the water balloons I used to throw at my father’s window. For days, he’d lock himself in the sunroom. As his desk becomes more and more cluttered, his forehead becomes more and more wrinkled. My mother rarely bothered him. Rather than tidying up the mess he had become, she would go to her own study to sow. Sewing, in actuality, is not a common activity for women but my mother had always been that way. It dawned on me that she is misplaced in time. She did things differently. Each day she plastered on so much make up on to turn her skin a shade of grey. It was as if she longed to emulate women during the black and white film era.
The way she spoke was also similar to those women. She barely articulated her words in order to maintain this pout. Her voice constantly settled on a high, and far from natural, register. Perhaps, that’s why I always craved to see the woman in anger. My mother would forget all of her inhibitions and scream in her natural voice. She would stop behaving like those women did and tell both my father and I off with curse words. Of course, her fit of rage meant that my father craved to diagnose her with bipolar disorder. But sooner or later, it seemed, she learned ways to conceal her true self with the help of shadows and a screen.
Some days, he would spill his coffee or some sort and be forced to go to the kitchen to clean up. Other days, I would have to somehow scare him away from his little hole. Throughout the years, water balloons have become my weapon of choice. I spent the summer after college at home, my mother had died along with my grandparents and aunt. My father was in the kitchen. I prayed that he was not fixing his secret drinking for himself. I stood up trying to get a good view of the memory filled room. Funny how mundane objects and spaces gain significance through time.
He had vanished. My father, an old man at that point, was kinetically challenged. Falling had become his mortal nemesis following a sudden tumble at the laboratory a few days after my mother died. I told him over and over again that he should rest, but he took it upon himself to finish this project before his final exit.
I walk towards the house, pushing any thoughts of his alcoholism aside. My father had begun drinking after he fell. Alcohol was the only cure to his pain, the only source of his comfort, and the only method for him to smile. I, on the other hand, was a let me down, the source of his disappointment and a constant reminder of his late wife. Today, I often wander if it were the right thing to do to spend that summer at home. Perhaps, my presence caused more havoc than good.
My childhood home is located and designed peculiarly. During daytime, some rooms would be brighter than the gardens, however others were pitch black. My father could not have gone too far, especially with his recently broken walker. You would think that a man as modern as he was would select a much more innovative aid, but no, he chose an old walker we found at my uncle’s place. Said it reminded him of his own father, who used a walker for twenty years before his death. Said that hopefully he’d be able to live as long and that, perhaps, the walker was a magic doorway to that fallacy.
Walking through the house, alternating between dark and light, I felt like a child. My father and I were playing hide and seek. Before I went to the second floor, I saw the backdoor swinging. He must have been outside. I emerged from the old home to the fresh air. Before I could take in the intrusive sunlight I felt a pang on my shoulder and water dripping all over me. Laughter ensued. It was my father, with a bucket full of water balloons placed on his walker. His laughter had always been contagious, and that’s probably the reason why I missed it so much.
We spent the entire afternoon under the sun. Water balloons flew here and there, whipping various parts of the garden. If mother were alive, she would smile at the doorway before warning us from tripping, like she used to when I was young. My father and I had not shared this moment or anything similar in the past decade.
And there we were with grins on our faces and brightness; oh the brightness that I saw on his face had been forgotten at that point in my life. It was the brightness that I saw whenever he saw my mother in the morning or he announced a new finding in his lab. It was the brightness that soon faded as I, myself, became much more skeptical about life and the world we lived in.
Life is designed with parallels in mind. His brightness, my outlook on life, their marriage, my knowledge, and the house, itself, developed parallel to one another. Simultaneously, each aspect of our family changed and mended itself according to our needs. At certain moments, some of those parts of life was found irreparable and, unfortunately, the most important are usually irreplaceable, as well.
Sitting here in the laboratory, watching these huge water balloons containing bodies, only reinforces my ideas about life. To avoid degradation of the brain, each body is given a dream. In the Yume Ngimpi, they live in a world that is parallel to one another. Basically it is the same world, but there are, of course, possible differences. Not all infected would allow their bodies to enter this domain. Some died en route to the lab; others are so brain damaged that only their flesh could be mended. The remaining few is left on this floor. A good 1387 arrived, only 860 successfully entered the world and now, only one has impressed.
*Rights to the photos above are owned by the writer