The Waiting

A father was anxiously pacing in his living room. He was waiting for someone very dear to him. A calm afternoon spread across the town. The father missed his afternoon nap just to greet his son; he was returning from abroad after a very long time. He looked at the clock. It was almost time. “Oh, what’s taking him so long ?” he muttered. He started worrying as his thoughts wandered across all the possibilities. His weak heart panicked by the thought something unfortunate might have happened. ‘What if an accident...?’ he thought and immediately shook it away, the uneasy feeling. He prayed, ‘God, keep him safe.’

As if someone was listening to him, the doorbell chimed. Its echoes hadn’t even died before the father raced and pulled the door open.

“Hahaha! Hehehe! My son!”

“Hey, dad. How’ve you been?”

"Oh, come here, you little rascal! What took you so long?"

The father almost squeezed his son to the point where he couldn’t breathe. “Come on in, I’ll put on some coffee,” he said, letting his son go. “When did your flight land?” he asked, turning away, walking into the kitchen, picking up the pot.

There was no answer.

“Son?” he asked.

Dead quiet. The calm of the afternoon now seemed menacing. The father turned around and what stared back at him was nothing but an empty living room.

He looked at the clock on the wall. “Oh, silly me,” he chuckled, tapping his forehead. “There’s still time.” He put the pot back on the counter and returned to be anxiously pacing.

Another minute passed. The father looked at the clock. “Oh, what’s taking him so long?” he muttered to himself.

The doorbell rang. He dashed and opened the door.

“Hey, dad! How are you?”

“Oh, you have no idea,” the father replied, taking his son into his arms. “I am excited to the point I start imagining you.” He let go of his son.

“I can understand that,” said the son.

The father reached for the luggage.

“I—I got that,” the son intervened.

“Come on in, I’ll put on some tea.”

"Yeah, that would be wonderful. Thanks, dad!" The son pushed the luggage into a corner and sat at the table. “You missed your nap?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s okay. I couldn’t sleep anyway.”

The father brought two steaming cups of tea and put them on the table. He then slid into a chair, picked a cup, and took a sip. “Come on, son,” he said. “Drink it before it gets cold.”

But there was no one at the other end. The father’s face fell. “Son?” he asked, looking around. He turned to look at the clock in the living room. His gaze fell upon the luggage in the corner. “Oh!” he took a breath of relief, and then he heard a flush.

The father looked at the bathroom as his son came out. “Where did you run off to?” he asked, a little angry this time.

“I just went to the bathroom. What’s the matter?” his son inquired.

“The matter? I haven’t seen my son in years. I’m sorry if I just want to sit with him, have a tea and TALK!”

“Okay, okay,” the son replied, raising his hands in surrender. “Let’s sit and have some tea, shall we?”

“Thank you.”

The poor father couldn't have his one wish fulfilled because fate had decided otherwise.

A nurse walked in. “Mr D’Souza, it’s time for your medication,” she said.

The father, an old man in a uniform with a number printed on it, looked back. He sat on his bed, his elbows, mid-air as if he rested them on an imaginary table. “NOT NOW!” he barked. “I’M ABOUT TO HAVE A TEA WITH MY SON! HE HAS JUST ARRIVED!”

“Mr D’Souza,” the nurse replied with pity in her voice. “There is no one there.”

“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU GOING ON ABOUT? HE’S RIGHT HERE. CAN’T YOU SEE?” He pointed towards the opposite end of an empty cell. His face fell for the third time. “Where did he go?” he muttered to himself. Then he looked up at the blank yellow wall and chuckled. “Oh, silly me. There’s still time,” he said and then went on walking back and forth in his cell as if he was pacing in a living room.

The nurse sighed. It was evident from her face that she didn’t want to do what she had to do now. She closed her eyes, gathered courage, and called for help.

A big, tall man appeared in the corridor. He was so big that he blocked almost all of the light. The father looked outside as the calm afternoon transformed into a silent evening and then a grim night. He kept screaming and screaming as the big man dragged him out of his cell, through the corridor, and out the door at the far end.

I stared at the empty bed as my father’s screams faded away.

The big man had taken him to the shock therapy room. They will keep him there until late. Two guys would drag him on a wheelchair and put him in his bed at about midnight. Tomorrow, he would wake up, and he would start waiting again. He would wait for me to come home after four years. I had graduated; I was finally coming home.

The day was busy. When I rolled out in the traffic, the only thing that kept me driving was a thought. ‘I would see my dad after four years. He would be waiting for me right now, missing his afternoon nap. I would ring the doorbell, and within seconds, he would be on the door.’

I was so excited that I couldn't wait to get home. I couldn’t notice when the busy afternoon turned into a chaotic evening and then a deafening night.

I never saw the end of the darkness, but then I did. I saw my father sleeping. He looked so at peace that I watched him for hours before he woke up. I greeted him with a smile, the biggest one. He didn’t see me; he couldn't.

It wasn't painful, not as much as seeing him every day, waiting for me, pacing in this dark cell, talking to himself and to me.

The first time he called out to me—I got so happy, so excited that it hurt my already dead self the next second when I realized that he was talking to the wall next to me.

My pain didn’t end there. I knew that the only way I could finally meet my father was after his...death. The thought hurt me like a fiery spear perforating my heart.

I was waiting as much as he was. I was waiting for the end of our sufferings. I was waiting...