August 5th 2015, 00:33
This day marks the twenty-first year I have spent breathing and doing the essentials and pointless stuff. And it’s also my first birthday. The first birthday I’m going to spend without my father. He’s already gone ahead.
I’d say that, before this point, I’ve done a good job at maintaining my composure for this long. But, to be honest, I didn’t have to put much effort to appear, well, unemotional since I was born with this kind of look.
I have a close friend who, from my perspective, hooks with a man pretty quickly. It’s no wonder. She’s pretty, cute and she certainly has strong sex appeal. This makes me think about my lack of any experience in things like real-life (and not fictional) romance. The answer was right here all along. My serious outer appearance, in constant contrast with the feelings within.
A very handy default mask for a shy introvert like me. A poker face which only wears off when I’m with the people I’m comfortable being surrounded by—family and friends. My default expression seems to be worlds apart from my easy-to-read reactions to stories and chatters made with awesome people.
I just noticed, however, that I’d been wearing this mask even when with my precious family and friends. The freaking convenient mask, at some point, pretty much became the face I show in front of people I supposedly did not feel shy being around. It’s the facade for all seasons.
But why was it that I sensed the need to hide? My smiles and laughs felt restrained. Small talks don’t really last long. My spoken responses. In. Broken. Sentences. Cutting the chase and avoiding too many follow-up questions.
Is it the damned mask sticking too closely to my honest-to-god face? Not really, no.
I think I unknowingly placed it somewhere else. Because, look, some shards of it just fell off.
I hadn’t felt this pained in a long while. The likely trigger was reading halfway through Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
He felt a choke in his chest. He dropped to his knees alongside the booth. His father was so close that Eddie could see the whiskers on his face and the frayed end of his cigar. He saw the baggy lines beneath his tired eyes, the bent nose, the bony knuckles and squared shoulders of a workingman. He looked at his own arms and realized, in his earthly body, he was now older than his father. He had outlived him in every way.
“I was angry with you, Dad. I hated you.”
I’m well aware that my father’s death wasn’t the only reason for the slump I am currently dealing with, but it was a huge blow to my spirit nonetheless. I thought of him when I read a certain part of the book I mentioned, rediscovering I’m still angry at myself. That I still haven’t really forgiven and am blaming myself for this loss. And I weeped and my heart ached.
I got into a serious argument with my father a few nights before the attack. We both slept with heavy feelings and didn’t warm up to each other after that. I refused to say sorry for snapping at him. And he wasn’t the type to break the awkward silence first. We simply went on, tending to our own business, and just like that he forever got away. And I never got to say sorry.
Perhaps I knew he was preparing to get away, as I tried to witness his last hour. Our last, hopeless hour with him. But, of course, I was also preparing myself even then.
This is my guilt that I shared to only a few people.
“It’s not your fault.” “It wasn’t because of you that he died.” “Don’t blame yourself too much.” “It couldn’t be helped.”
Truthfully, though, I and mom tried to get my father back to us, rushing him to the hospital by taking a ride on the taxi which happened to be parking in the neighborhood. It was a ride that took forever. Unfortunately it still couldn’t be helped. As expected, the same people said comforting words, but I guess even those haven’t plugged the hole in my chest.
I hated being asked again and again about what happened. I often locked myself up in my room, refusing to talk most of the time. And I hated myself for putting the entire burden on my mother. She’d recall and retell the events to concerned friends and relatives without breaking a sweat but breaking to tears every damn time.
I used the encouragement as an iron plaster all over my heart to prevent it from any external forces and to put the self-blame in deep slumber. A self-defense mechanism primarily against myself—so I could still exist pretending I’ve forgotten my self-hatred—and from others so they can’t pry too deep into my matters. My friends, siblings, and relatives could use their time for things better than my inner troubles.
Even so, many people reached out to me. I chose who to talk and open up to, and I still do. But I appreciated every hand that tried to pull me out of that darkness. Without everyone, I’d probably seen worse. I could’ve taken my own life.
A day before my birthday, the 4th, will still probably remind me of that eventful day and the days that followed. Moreover, the battle is not yet over. I still haven’t fully forgiven myself, but I’m getting there. My mother is still sad over my dad’s departure but she doesn’t cry that much anymore. We’re moving on.
And I’m sure that the mask on my heart has softened a bit. The tears I couldn’t shed floods well in my chest, weakening the plaster.