We returned back home quite soon after, however, it seemed quite late into the evening already as farthest away I could scarcely make out a bloody shadow sinking deep into the western sky, as we entered into the drive. The rest of the universe looked dark and a subtle gloom off the south made the shadows looked exceedingly long in all that was dark. All the stars waited above the dust. Maybe a little wave of breeze will take the humidity away and provide just that well sought after breath.
“Is Della going to be surprised at my affiliation with the club?”
Take it from me, she has already been surprised. Lest you receive double affiliation.”
Well, no chance of that, at least today. We entered almost together through the door, and we find uncle Fills sitting with Della. Both of them sitting on either end of the sofa, and hands tightly clamped between their cross legs, as if it wasn’t too hot already.
“Hello jack, I came by to say congratulations to you.” Fills uncrossed his legs and put his hands on his knees. It didn’t look as if he was going to get up. I practically stepped backwards. Peter looked as if a stone had been dropped on his head. He found it difficult to utter hello to Fills – “hello Fills” - with such unease as if forced to disclose a great deal of pain to the nurse but not sure of the right person. I personally find it very fascinating to watch Peter whenever he is at unease with people. His manners change to resemble a stubborn child, his eyes narrows, and his hands go into his pockets. Any further unease and his lips get pursed up. Last time, it was about the cancellation of his important business meeting flight at the airport. I am pleased to admit it to myself that it has never happened to him in my company. It would be interesting to watch Fills’ reaction.
“Hello Fills, thank you.” I went over to shake hand with him – my first ever handshake with him. Peter sat on the opposite chair holding something in his pockets on both sides, and looked at Della, apparently disregarding the hand shake business. I twisted the dining chair on its leg and sat next to Peter.
“Oh, Fills came to the hospital to see Della. I told him about our Jack and he wanted to personally congratulate him, which is nice. I thought Jack would like that.” She smiled at me. Fills lived with us in a different town, until Peter came into our lives. I think Della and him lived like a couple. He is of different sort. Fills just is not the type to play sport with me, or anyone. He worked a great deal, and studied his work in the nights. I learnt very little about him during our time together. He is the complete opposite of Peter in terms of personality. Spending time with Fills is like getting off the dining table feeling distinctly hungry, or wishing you had rather gone supper less altogether.
His social interaction is minimal, physical movements calculatedly stiff, and playful activity zero. He only mixes with people of much older age then himself, holding serious nightly sessions talking listlessly over legal issues, moving only to lift their glass, or a bulky ream of papers to pour whatever plastered wisdom over its contents in an earnest desire to untangle the complexity with a limited chance of success I should imagine, and certainly never to be daunted by the longest phrase whichever way possible to paraphrase its meanings in different scenarios. In the end, concluding nothing useful even at the bottom of a bottle, shortly before dawn breaks. The most they get to is sentence correction. Discussion about serious matter is only a cover for getting blind smashed. I know through overheard whispers he consumes comparatively high volume of alcohol giving him a flushed and untidy look. In my view, the greatest error in Fills’ composition is his inability to laugh or as much as offer a smile. He is someone, with good education, however lacking in intellectually artistic taste. I would put it to a sloppy arrogance. Given half the opportunity, he would even forget his education, be misguided by the weakness of his inner man, and return to be a tactlessly dull and useless person, which sooner or later shall prevail.
He doesn’t tell jokes. He is mainly quiet. I have hardly ever heard him speak outside his work circumference, outside of which by habit he treats others as unwanted objects whence he slowly turns his eyes sideways over playing his imperfect disapproval. He talks through people. This makes him unapproachable. I think, he burns himself with a quiet jealousy of a fetish out of his capacity. Only if he could learn to be frank, which might bring a little improvement in the way he greets people and commences his probing.
“Thank you for visiting us uncle Fills. I appreciate your thoughtful gesture.” I spoke in my turn, mainly to break the oppressive silence, as I wished his visit to be as short as his smile. Fills never attempted to smile. He proceeded in a way that a new warden addresses a long timer inmate.
“I am sorry about this hastily arranged visit. I didn’t have a chance today to buy anything. I shall arrange to send you a gift tomorrow. What would you like?” Fills spoke in his ambitious grandeur and waited for my response. I didn’t feel interested enough to receive anything from him. We had had by any comparison an absolutely cheerful day, and I didn’t want it to end into a dull and boring gift haggling night. I looked at Peter, and it seemed he hadn’t recovered from the blow of encountering Fills. I am not sure if Peter had ever met him before. Wait, I think they knew one another before Peter met Della, the second time round.
“A box of chocolates would be fine of course. Wouldn’t you like that Jack?” Della put a statement instead of a question and scratched her head as she spoke.
“Well, that is a snack. I hear you are on to sports. I was thinking of telephoning the tennis club for your annual membership that includes coaching. It is quite famous for its coaching and supervision. How is that for an end of school present?” In the way he raised his bushy eyebrows before the end of the recitation! Fills cannot make a surprise announcement. He spoke in an authoritative way as if reducing a prisoner’s sentence. I thought he placed a little too much pressure on ‘supervision’. Fills plays a haughty salesman with a spectacular betrayal of his nerves. I just caught a glimpse of discontent in his dry eyes when he brushed his look past me.
The atmosphere in the room still felt hung and stuffy and very hot. I wanted to open all the windows, and breath out of them, but Peter’s presence kept me bound to my place. At least I wanted to play a game of ping pong with Peter to celebrate the end of our joyful day with some sweat, which didn’t seem likely as I felt my energy draining away, and my chair somehow increasingly gaining in size making me look terribly diminished. I could just disappear into my room, but I also must be courageous to face the swarm of hatred. What Peter said this afternoon about mental agility.
I saw a week smile for the first time on Peter’s face as he looked motionlessly towards Fills. I thought Peter was refusing to breathe, as well as foregoing the least of any antique politeness to the visitor who had just put an offer. Why the offer does not hold any value despite being of the same value as the one in the morning, I cannot tell. Della looked bemused. What satisfaction will it give me to accidentally smash such a present in the chance of it being an object.
Causing hurt as a mean of retaliation is best left to the sodden wretch. In thinking like this, I was smitten with a nervous prostration that caused a slight shiver around my chest contracting my shoulders. Hopefully just in my mind, otherwise who shivers in searing heat. Luckily the house is quite roomy with extremely high ceiling preventing the build-up of that daunting oppression in a time like this.
“It is a thoughtful gesture uncle Fills, but Peter has already taken care of that. Della is right, just chocolates would be fine.” I noticed his smile returning back to him as he cast a look of condescension to the air where Peter sat.
Oh, you are thinking ahead of me Peter. He placed an emphasis on ‘are’ in an interrogative tone. It wouldn’t go down well with Peter. Peter responds to interrogations with a deathly silence followed by an explosion. I eagerly wait for the next chapter in the unfolding drama. Would it not be rather convenient for all to leave me with Peter to have some fun to end our excellent day, when an evening can seem too short and the breaking of dawn still million miles away. They might want to play this drama some other time, out of my face I should hope. No wait, Peter is a precious gift and I wouldn’t have him suffer any drama with Fills. Actually it is Fills who need to be monitored for few adjustments for he is totally lacking in empathy, for one.
“Well, I knew it would be good for him. Coaching that is. Scruples, honour and a true statesmanship are convictions perhaps based on doctrine rather than micro supervision.” Peter let out his breath after posing a rhetorical question. I think Peter can read my mind.
“Well, let’s have some drinks to that.” Della tried to smooth things over and still failed to bring a cheer into the atmosphere that there hung like some depression on a man who feels a glow of no one’s eyes and the glee of no one’s mind. The receding heat off my face gave way to chill when I recalled the time I spent with Fills; a comparatively unhappy and most boring were the times when I longed to bypass the dull boredom the struggle of which was like trying to avoid the heavy rain under the overhang of a withered hedge. I was plainly ignored or taunted by sneering gestures at every possibility if ever our paths crossed. And I ignored everyone even more so. Late in the evenings, a chilled air felt through my bones at the time of returning home when the heart ceases to feel pain but just sends a deadened sensation to the rest of the body. I am the person just to be stared at like an object that takes up more than its allotted space. Gut reaction told me that everyone else were returning back home in the receipt of caring looks, where someone waited upon them, that someone, even just one.
There were those whose modest means provided no obstacle in taking a great pride in taking the utmost care and the handful expenditure of resources in making their children appear cared and wanted and perhaps loved. They helped with their homework in whatever subject they were able to, basked at their grades, subtly bragged about their wit, and went to great lengths about making loving gestures in public. Above all, they did not scold them in front of others. They did not look down on them.
The forsaken ones left to find solace in redemption tried harder to somewhat fit in, only to make clumsy mistakes instead. Whosoever may like an irksome blundering miss-stepping goof. The endless foul ups harden your facial muscles that give away nothing. What is it like to feel a useless burden upon oneself and shamelessly put upon those that come into your contact. I unwillingly learnt to carry that burden, contemplating deliverance, and searching for recovery at every turn. The recovery points didn’t just turn me away gently but kicked, ever harder. There ought to be a solution to the worthless misery. Perhaps Learning is something not natural to me. Overacting, over-reacting, exaggerating facts, hiding the truth, not telling as it is, all became a routine state of being. The lonely road to perdition is just as taxing as the road to redemption.
Just now I dreaded his presence which can easily make me lose confidence or rather gives me an irritable nervousness, which must be shaken away with all the effort that I can muster up. It ought to be achieved. My chest rose and with it my chin.
“Well, the answer to good delivery lies in practice through coaching.” I spoke like reading out a newspaper headline. Fills’ eyes shot up for the first time at my face and as quickly turned away withholding every other possible reaction. I can see through though. It is him getting the surprise.
I just need to wash my face. Peter got up and went to his bedroom. His footsteps sounded heavier than usual. I was just about to follow in the same direction to take some finely tuned words of a gifted orator, for respite.
“Jack,” Peter shouted from his bedroom.