Bodies were scattered all over the bar. Some were hunched over wooden tables in the obscure corners of the room, speaking in hushed tones about something as important as it was dangerous. Others refused to act like anything significant had happened, choosing instead to conduct themselves in the same manner as they would any other day. The most interesting group was in the VIP section, dressed for celebration and drinking that dreadful, intoxicating and now extremely expensive drink, Hope.
The room had the hazy, dim look of any bar at the Growth Point. I’d started frequenting this place after my episode with my mother when I’d wanted to run away from her. At the time, I couldn’t understand how she could choose an old man for a husband when a younger, more capable one was desperately available. I still don’t get it, but that’s another story altogether.
“The usual,” I told the bartender. We’d become good friends these past months.
“Coming right up,” came the response.
I looked around at my brothers and sisters. If there was any remorse in anyone’s heart, they were doing a great job of hiding it. The VIP section was growing boisterous with each sip of that awful drink. I heard one person shout, “I hope he rots in hell!” This exclamation was immediately followed by an explosion of laughter and thunderous applause. Clearly, there was plenty of love lost for the old man. Only hate remained.
“Oh come on,” said someone from the corner table with the hunched-over bodies. “That is no way of speaking about the dead.”
“Who cares?!” defended one of the VIPs. “That man gave us hell. I lost everything. None of you here today can say he was a good man without batting an eyelash. So yes, to hell with him!”
“Hear, hear!” shouted the VIPs.
“I’m not saying he wasn’t terrible, we all know he was. But isn’t it part of our culture to honour the dead and remember them in a good light? Besides, he was a good dad, at least in the beginning.”
“Then he became the devil’s incarnate! There will be no tears from me, only laughter and celebration. Who’s with me?!”
Loud cheers erupted and rippled from the centre of the room - where the VIP section was - and bounced off the walls. Those that had ignored the events around them now looked with interest towards the little party that was going on right before them. For a brief moment, they seemed to be joining in the celebrations, but that didn’t last long. The party was over as quickly as it had started and the normal majority went back to the absent-minded swaying of people who were devoid of emotion. “Crazy thing that happened today, eh?” the bartender said, refilling my glass.
“I’m not sure crazy is the word,” I replied, taking a sip of my drink. The tastelessness of it was much appreciated. It had become a popular beverage when the price of Hope skyrocketed. Hope cost a minimum wage earner their entire salary for one glass. Hollow Coast, on the other hand, was more reasonably priced. Although tasteless, the drink literally made me feel hollow, pushing all the suffering to the peripheries of my consciousness, thus allowing me to drift through the tough times in a half-awake manner. As we had all come to realise, having no feelings was better than having crushed feelings. It’s not a great way to live, but it’s a sure-fire way to not die.
“So how do you feel about all this, then?” the bartender pressed.
“I’m not sure how I should feel. It’s true about the horrendous acts of the old dude, but it’s also true that he did some good. And I guess culturally, I’m more inclined to look at the good of the dead and leave the rest to the sahwira. I’m just really confused.” We fell silent for a moment, then I posed the question back to my bartender, “How do you feel?”
“Well, it’s really not important how I feel. It won’t change anything. Your mom already remarried, so the old man isn’t really significant at this point.”
“Huh,” was all I could manage. I finished my drink and elbowed my way out of the bar. The sunlight outside was blinding. People out here were also generally going about their business as if nothing significant had happened. It was as if there had been a huge agreement to carry out one final act of rebellion. To act as if the old man had never lived, as if he was just a bad dream, was perhaps the most defiant stunt my brothers and sisters had come up with. The scary part is, no one organised it. It just happened organically.
I wondered what Mother would make of this. She had loved him, and would no doubt know some secrets that we, as her children, could never begin to comprehend. Could she be happy about his passing? Was she saddened by the lack of celebration for his life? Her new husband had said some nice words about her ex - his big brother - but would that mean she would forget her ex’s abuse and say kind words too? I would have to wait to find out the answers to these questions.
6 September 2019