Sometimes I think there is a side of me that refuses to acknowledge parts of myself that are similar to my father. Choosing instead, to recognize Third Sis’ similarities to him. In recognizing my strength and resilience, it takes me but a second to acknowledge that I have acquired those from my mother.
She is truthfully, as difficult an individual as he is, yet I cut her so much slack so frequently as I carefully edit and rearrange the words I would use to describe her. I know I am guilty of this and I think that both of them would be very sad to read my writings, but in my childish anger and gripe, admittedly even now, I have only one question to ask: how could you have possibly expected me to turn out differently?
This afternoon I walked the busy streets of downtown Palo Alto. Earlier today, I tried completing my readings for tomorrow, but the words glossed over my mind every damn time. Distracted by the ache in my heart, annoyed at how little it takes to gnaw open old wounds. One thing always leads to that specific single one, damn it.
I walked aimlessly, dropping by the bookstore at one point and busying myself at the cards section, remembering that I used to mail sweet nothings to my best friend – no, scratch that; former-deskmate-slash-old-friend – only to maintain an ocean of silence between us now. Then I left the sanctuary of written words and glossy blank cards and ended up in the grocery store. I also had Indian food for lunch, sitting outside right by the corner, trying but failing to enjoy the good weather.
At one point while still aimlessly walking, I realized that I do this often. Whenever I feel intensely upset, I would wish to disappear from wherever it is that I call home at that given moment. Because there is only so far that I am able to go, six out of ten times I can be found wandering in random public places, inconspicuously existing while deliberately minding my own business. Another face in the nameless crowd. Even in those years in Philly, I did this often. I used to walk end-to-end from Old City to University City with Center City between them; two hours of walking. When I am upset, I go deep inside myself; sometimes lost in a vacuum, other times spilling blood in the form of words on this space and everywhere else.
He does this too.
Sometimes I think there is a part of me that refuses to acknowledge the free spirit in me, choosing instead to deny and suppress by drawing attention to Third Sis, whose flamboyance and artistic expressions speak for themselves. My outward plainness gives nothing away and conveniently, my choice of creative expression is one that is done in silence and isolation. It is funny; any creativity that I possess, I claim them for myself. I give no credit nor acknowledgment to the person who used to write the texts of my Malay-language public speaking and poetry competitions. I let myself forget of a time when he used to sketch and draw during his leisure time, because he is himself, a paradox; an engineer who speaks in numbers and an artist who expresses through written words and hand-drawn images. Whenever he is sad, he does what I do now.
Both of us, we disappear deep inside the forest of our minds, away from reality. Our defense mechanism and choice of retaliation are ironically similar: in silence, through words, and by ourselves. We disappear.
These days when I think of him, I feel sad. I don’t even know why. We text message often. I hear about him from my siblings. I keep tabs of what he’s up to, if his health is improving (it’s not) and if he’s keeping himself busy lest he drives everyone else crazy. Today I remember him as I usually do, but this time around I proceeded to break my own heart in the process. There are still parts of me that refuses to acknowledge the thin sinew of where he ends and thus, where I begin.
I edit her so carefully, only to erase him completely.
Some people call this daddy issues, what I have. I don’t know. I don’t want to put a term to this, whatever it is, because our tie goes deeper and is more knotted than I can even begin to explain. I don’t like the term complicated either because what living, breathing thing isn’t? The dynamics of a family is complex and highly specific; there is no need for universal understanding and common acceptance. I just know that I can and will attest that there is no resentment, only a lot of love. There is an endless trail of regret, but it is overlain with compassion and understanding and forgiveness. We sincerely try.
But I don’t think I can show him my writings.
I think he would be very sad to find out about the things I write about. I don’t want him to be anymore sad; he’s got a lifetime’s worth of sorrow to wade through as it is. But in my childish anger and gripe, admittedly even now, I have only one question to ask: how could you have possibly expected me to turn out differently, when it was you who had cut me wide open? Today I realized with a clarity that instantly stopped me in my aimless tracks, that there is still a side of me that refuses to acknowledge that I am my father’s daughter; more similar than we are different.
In breaking his heart, I broke mine in the process.