There are sons who know their fathers out of pure instinct. I know only mine through myths devised by widows and spinsters in both sides of the family. When I was a kid, the only thing I could remember about him was that he tried to teach me Arabic whenever he came home every year from his work in the Middle East. Even this is probably my own invention, because he would claim years later that he never really learned the language.
I am already turning twenty two in a few days and I am surprised how little anything has to do with that man who gave me half of my first chromosome. In fact, I would never have chosen to write about him, if we had not met each other again last week, after almost three years. But I thought maybe I can give a semblance of order to my thoughts about what happened if I write about it.
It was my younger brother’s birthday and, out of a rare fit of a sense of familial duty, I came home. I did not know he would also be home, in his usual neatly ironed white shirt and starched khakis. He was standing in the kitchen nursing a glass of what looked like brandy, convincing my mom to serve liquor to the younger men folk. (Since they decided to quit living together, my father promptly renounced all Mormon values, while my mom still clung to her religion, only because it was like an old doll which she cannot bear to throw away.)
I quietly went back to the living room before they could see me lurking at the kitchen door. I was struck about how, while I listened to my dad talk in his measured tones, I suddenly recognised my own drawl in his voice, my own habits in the way he downed the brandy in his glass in one go, even the irreverence of his lit cigarette in my mother’s otherwise sacred house. He hardly looked older while I am aware that I do not look as young as I really am.
My only consolation that night came only when I let my sister take a picture of me and my dad. When she showed me the photo in her camera before I went home to my apartment, I was satisfied with what I saw: my dad and I looked equally bored. The difference was that he totally looked the part, while I had a fake smile plastered on my face.