I would say it was around seven in the morning that I saw Stefi begin to rouse, as Jammy, Hadley and Dick were on their own beds, all in the same bedroom, and still asleep. I waited for Stefi to fully emerge from the mists of sleep. And why did I have to do that? I needed to do one thing. I had to do it. Not doing it meant not shedding off a load that had weighed on my mind so much that I could not get to sleep. I knew it was time for me to prepare to go to work to get to work, but I did not mind putting that off until I did what I most wanted to do. And that was to ask Stefi a question I had in mind.
“Good morning, Jan,” Stefi said to me after she had yawned and sat up on the bed.
“Good morning,” I replied, still in a lying position, and not looking at her. I was not in a good mood, which my voice betrayed, and I felt that Stefi had felt it. Then I turned to face her. She took a look at me in the silence that ensued after I had responded to her greeting.
“Why are you looking like somebody so dear to you has suddenly died?” She said to me. Her voice was low, as she did not want our kids to wake up.
“Is that how I look?” I asked, not feeling amazed that I must have looked terrible.
“Exactly,” Stefi responded. “You need to look at yourself in a mirror. I can get you one.”
“I don’t need to,” I said and sat up on the bed just like Stefi. I was looking her in the eye now.
“It’s so early in the morning to start, Jan,” Stefi said to me. “Don’t even start now. Stop looking at me like I am one big reason for your problems you need to eliminate. You can do better by making me feel safe in here.”
“You’re safe, Stefi.”
“What’s the matter with you? You look horrible, Jan. And it does not look like you had any sleep last night.”
“And that’s the point,” I quickly said, feeling that Stefi had provided me the right platform to get off the question that had plagued my mind all night. “I did not sleep,” I spoke again. “I could not. In as much as I tried.”
“Why?” Then I spoke my mind
“You heard Jammy, Hadley and Dick yesterday. You heard them say they saw Dad when I was right there in the living room with them. I am talking about when they returned from shopping with you.” Stefi was patient in listening to me. It was quite unlike her. I had expected her to cut in as some point to interrupt me in anger, but she did not. She really listened as I continued. “Did that not sound strange to you? I am saying it because it did sound strange to me. How could they have said that they saw Dad when I’m the only Dad they have? Does that not mean anything to you?”
“No it means nothing to me,” Stefi spoke at last. Her voice was going to rise in anger, but she had to mange to keep it low. I sensed she must have found me a bit disgusting because she got up from the bed in a flash, like a hive of bees had stung her buttocks, and with a frown on her face so pronounced that it was a perfect portrait of subdued anger. She was headed for the door when she suddenly stopped, turned and took a look at me.
“Why are you looking at me like I had gone crazy?” I asked Stefi.
“That’s exactly what you look like,” Stefi replied in anger, still keeping her voice down. “You know what, Jan?”
“I think you’ve gone crazy. You amaze me with all the nonsense you bring up in this house.”
“Oh now we don’t have a home but a house?”
“I don’t care what you call it. The other time it was babies. More babies. You can’t do without making more babies.”
“We still need to make more babies.”
“Now you’ve turned your crazy focus on the kids to start reading silly meaning into harmless things they say innocently.”
“Are you saying nothing happened, Stefi?”
“Oh yeah something happened. Something you need to be concerned about. It is that you have a problem. Don’t you get it?
“You’re losing your fucking mind.”
“I don’t think I am,” I said and got up from the bed and began to walk to where Stefi stood.
“When did you last see a clinical psychologist?”
“Oh…. I see. You used to say I needed to see a doctor to determine if I was capable of making children and now is a psychologist I need to see?”
“Both!” Stefi retorted. “You need help from both. Get some help, Jan and get the fuck out of my sight!” And Stefi was gone. I went back to bed, laid down and tossed from side to side. My mind could not find rest. I realized I had to do what I had to do. I had to get up and prepare to go to work, weary and disturbed. And how could I say I was a happy man?
“Hey, Jan, I thought you were not gonna come today,” Wack said to me the moment I walked into our workshop. He had a look of surprise on his face, and a smile too. The time was ten minutes after ten in the morning when I arrived. I was exhausted and felt so tired like I had spent all night lifting tonnes of bricks. I looked at Wack and yawned, not knowing exactly what to say to him. I could see he had been so busy working on the number of chairs and tables and desks that needed to be made. “The orders are pouring in, Jan,” Wack said afterwards. “And there is no way I can do this all alone. “Thanks goodness you’re here,” he went ahead to say in an elated tone.
“I know we have lots of work to do here and I’m here to get to work,” I said to Wack, yawned a little and began to wear my work overall. There was silence while I was doing this. I also noticed that Wack was looking at me in silence. It was only when I had finished wearing my overall and had picked up a hammer that he spoke again.
“You can go home if you feel you are not fit to work today,” he said to me. “I can manage on my own.”
“I am fine,” I lied. I lied because I did not want to give Wack any impression that something was bothering me. My lie did not fly. Wack had already summed up his impression of me with that look he took at me. I yawned again.
“No,” Wack said. “You can’t convince me that everything is fine. That way you yawn tells me all I need to know.”
“I am fine,” I said again, in defence of my lie.
“No you’re not,” Wack spoke further and interrupted more words I wanted to speak.
“You don’t look like you had any sleep like night. You don’t need to lie to me. It’s all on your face and body language. I said I can manage very well without you. So you can go back home and get some rest, Jan.”
“I can manage,” I responded. And that was how I began to get to when I had to admit that there was something wrong with me. Wack and I went on working in silence. I was polishing a table while he chiselled a piece of wood. Even though Wack concentrated on his job, I could not help but feel he somehow still had an eye on me. There was no further conversation between us until I yawned again.
“Are you sure you can manage?” Wack asked me.
“Yes I can,” I said. “I will be fine.”
“Jan, you’re not in good shape at all. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, wack. There’s nothing really wrong.” Wack left the wood he was working on and came closer to me.
“The more you lie to me, Jan, the more I feel maybe you’ve got yourself in some kind of trouble,” he said.
“I’m not lying.”
“Sure you’re. I don’t need to have psychic powers to feel that.”
“Okay, Wack, I have an issue,” I finally admitted, dropped the hammer in my right hand on the ground and was ready to bare my mind to Wack. “I could not sleep last night because I was being haunted. I think something is wrong somewhere in my home.”
“Not the baby issues this time, I guess,” Wack said.
“So why are you so worked up this time?” Then I told Wack what it was, the same thing I had told Stefi earlier in the day in our bedroom. And what was Wack’s response? It was one I never expected. I did not see it coming. I had thought Wack would see things my way. I had thought he would understand and maybe suggest some ideas on what I needed to do. What did I really get from Wack? He was not the man to pitch his tent with me. He chose to toe the line that Stefi did. He began by laughing at me in manner that was a tall tale that he had thought that I had gone crazy.
“These are innocent kids, Jan. Your kids. Kids say stuff. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t. Most of the time they don’t. You’re married and I’m not, and you should be the one enlightening me on things like this and not the other way.”
“Are you sure of what you’re saying?”
“A hundred percent! You simply think too much and make room for your mind to put all sorts of disturbing thoughts in your head. What does it matter if kids say they saw Dad when they went shopping with their mom? Come on, Jan, kids will always say things. And be prepared to have a long miserable life if you want to keep reading meaning into all they say.”
“Yes. And all I need you to do right now is to go home, relax and try to get some sleep and come back tomorrow refreshed and ready to work as much as I know you can.”
“That’s fine,” I agreed and began to remove my work overall. I was soon walking to my car when I heard Wack speak further.
“You will be just fine, Jan,” he said to me. “And I will come around to see how you’re doing.”
“You’re really coming?”
“You bet! Haven’t I been coming around?” Wack said with a big smile on his face I thought there was something cynical in it I could not make out. It was possibly my mind going wild once again. Who could tell? Definitely not me. Maybe I needed to see a psychologist like Stefi had said. No, I did not think that was for me, just like I did not think I had to see a doctor before I could father a child. Nonsense, I thought at the idea of going to see a clinical psychologist. There was no way I wanted to believe I could have any psychological disorder of the mind. Psychological disorder of the mind for who? Jan? Absolute nonsense, I concluded.
I drove all the way home, giving myself a promise not to be worried about however my kids would choose to act next or whatever wired things they might say again. But only time could tell that I could not, for what happened next proved to be more than I could bear. It was all getting increasingly hard for anyone to convince me that somehow, something somewhere was not truly amiss in my home.
I’m waiting for you, were the words I heard later on as I drove home. I did not need to be told who had said it. It was once again the Voice. And I was in no mood for any conversation with a voice with no real human behind it.
“Shut up,” I yelled in response. “Shut up and go away! Leave me alone! Get off! Leave me alone forever! I don’t want you and I don’t need you and I don’t love you!” The Voice spoke to me no further. And wishing it would never come to me again, I drove the remaining distance that separated me from my home, or rather my house. Should I have called my house a home? No, I did not think so because there were more things about to occur right in there. Things I found troubling.