My kids were growing. I was glad about that. And so was their ability to talk and read bedtime stories all by themselves. It was a good thing. I loved that too. Which Dad would not? Hadley, Dick and Tammy were turning into smart and cheerful kids. I must confess it was fun watching them run around, toss things about, scream, laugh and sometimes cry with their childish voices. And nothing could stop me from feeling joy and returning home from work with boxes of cookies and cups of ice cream for them. It felt really nice to hear them show me their appreciation.
“Thank you, Dad,” Hadley would say with a smile that showed how it meant the whole world to her.
“Thanks, Dad,” Dick would say, and giggle and grin in a way that made me feel I was the best Dad in the world.
“Thanks, Dad, I like the cookies and the ice cream,” Tammy would remark most sweetly, and in a manner that made me run my right fingers through his hair. He made me proud of him. Not only him, but Hadley his sister and Dick his younger brother. Not even my non-existent companion that loved to come talk to me could dispute that my kids were warming up to me. My companion? The Voice. It came talking to me as usual, when I was all alone at the workshop, hard at work, and unleashing my skills on some wood that was on its way to becoming a couch in the end.
No doubt, those kids are doing well.
“Thank you,” I responded, my work now interrupted. “But next time call them my kids,” I pointed out to make a point. “They are my children. Understand that.”
How? Asked the Voice in derisive sort of way, and in a manner that seemed to suggest that I did not know what I was talking about.
“Do I owe you any explanations?” I retorted, my tone very sarcastic. The Voice had always been irritating to me each time it came around and I was nothing but hell bent on being as nasty as I could to make it go away. “What’s with me that will make you get the hell out of here? Tell me and I will do away with it a million times over.”
They are your children?
“Show me some respect by ceasing to ask me that question, okay. Like I said, I owe you no explanations. And if I were you I would go kill myself.”
I wouldn’t be lying to myself if I were you. Those words rattled me a bit, which I shrugged off in a flash. A bit angry, I replied.
“You’re the one lying to yourself for many years now and living with this grand illusion that you somehow belong to me or any of the other bunch of crap you talk about.”
Are you sure?
“That’s what it is!”
I wouldn’t be deceiving myself if I were you.
“Then it’s time for you to get the fuck out of here.”
Time is coming for you to see the truth.
“I demand that you leave my presence.”
And I demand that you stop trying to stay away from me, Jan.
“Why all these claims of me? It makes no sense. I can’t even see you. Let me tell you how love works. It’s so clear that you’ve got no fucking idea. You can’t love a person you can’t see. So your persistence will never pay off. Though you believe my life right now is all in winter and I’m freezing cold and shivering to death, but you know what? You can’t be summer that I will need to be warm. ”
I’m not convincing you to believe but to prepare you for what will be.
“What the hell will be?”
Us being together.
“There’s no us, okay? There’s just no us. Don’t you hear how out of your mind you sound? And that’s even if you have a mind anyway. That I doubt. You’re some invisible human somewhere bringing my life all sorts of trouble and….
I bring you love and the only future that you have. The voice spoke with absolute conviction that I found astounding.
I’m not invisible.
“You’re. That’s what you’re!”
You think I am invisible, Jan, only in the delusion that makes up your world right now.
“You always make no sense.”
That’s where you’re right, Jan. And that is temporary. That is like a vapour about to disappear because the sun is getting ready to throw its weight around and warm things up, if you know what I mean.
“I don’t. I’ve never known any of the shit you talk about.”
Don’t worry, love. You will. I’m waiting for you.
Those were the words the voice said to me before it departed just as Wack stepped into the workshop. I was convinced it had more to say were it not for Wack’s sudden presence. Did I want to hear more from the voice? I would bet with my life that I did not. I was happy that Wack arrived to make the voice go away. And for a while I wondered why it never liked to speak with me in the presence of anyone else. None of my business, I thought. Why would I? When it was just an on-and-off being or a voice or just some distant human that wouldn’t learn to mind her own business.
I could see Wack in different ways as he walked in, after having gone to have his lunch, rolling his tongue from side to side as a sign of how very much he had enjoyed the food he had gone to eat. I could see Wack the successful carpenter, a buddy of mine. Those I liked, but I disliked seeing him one other way. And that was that he was already a rival who had somehow invaded my home, though not out of his own making, I was convinced, and had continued to be more popular with my kids than me, each time he came visiting. This was why I would not say I was absolutely pleased with my children’s conduct at home whenever Wack visited. To me, something must be going on. I planned to do something. Where I did plan to do it was at home. The thing I planned to do was never going to be in Stefi’s presence. I needed a lot of luck to be able to execute my plan. Stefi loved to go shopping with all of our kids, and it happened that she went shopping one Sunday afternoon without Tammy because Tammy just did not want to go shopping with his Mom that day.
“Go get in the car, Tammy, we’re going shopping,” Stefi had said on her way out with Dick and Hadley.
“I want to stay with Dad,” Tammy said to Stefi in a little obstinate manner that I loved because I had plans.
“Don’t you wanna come with Dick and Hadley and Mom?” Stefi pressed. “It’s fun out there. You gonna see a lot of beautiful things in the stores.”
“I don’t want to go shopping,” Tammy replied once again to my delight. Stefi took a look at me. We had not spoken to each other in two weeks. My need to have more children and her rejection of that was responsible. She still did not fancy talking to me and I did not even want her to. All I needed was for her to get the hell out of the house. And that was what she did with Hadley and Dick, but not after taking one more look at me like there was no doubt she was going to run the risk of leaving Tammy all by himself with a pride of hungry lions.
“Bye, Mom,” Tammy had said to Stefi who left in a manner that was nothing but a beacon of reluctance.
I got ready with my plan, my question, once Stefi was gone and I was home alone with my son. I went to the fridge, took out and placed some cookies in a plate, poured some milk into a glass and brought them to Tammy. He smiled and took them from me.
“Thanks, Dad,” he said and bean to chew his cookies and sip from his glass of milk. I had got him seated on a couch in the living room and had gone on to switch on the TV. I flipped through other channels to get to his favourite, the Cartoon Network. Tammy’s face lit up the moment he started seeing The Flitstones characters in an episode. He soon laughed as he ate his cookies and drank his milk. And I asked him a question that had been in my mind and had been like a hot molten lava inside the bowel of a mountain and that had waited so long for an eruption to spill it out. I asked Tammy whom I was to him and whom the other man that loved to come visiting was to him. The other man? I had referred to Wack. My son looked me in the eye, innocently, and said what gave me the shock of my life.
“Real Dad comes and goes and the other one is always around,” Tammy said to me.
“Who told you that?” I asked alarmed.
“Mom,” Tammy replied, his eyes glued to the TV and a smile on his face, as he brimmed with no idea of how his responses had got me hurting. I tried to be strong, though all I felt like was like a tonne of bricks had hit me from every imaginable angle.
“Did your Mom tell Dick and Hadley the same thing?”
“Yes,” Tammy answered.
“Who’s the real Dad?” I asked Tammy who went on to respond with all his attention still glued to the TV.
“The one that comes and goes,” he had said. I felt like exploding in anger, I felt like crying at that point, but I managed to get myself together, though I could not help but wallow momentarily in disbelief, shock and pain.
“And who’s the other Dad?” I further asked Tammy.
“You,” my son said to me.
I heard those words clearly. Tammy could not have made them up. I understood what I heard. And nothing would convince me nothing was going on somehow and somewhere. And going forward, a time to rest was no luxury I could afford.