Sounds from both rooms met at the doorway and each tried to fight for listening room. Finally, he said to his younger neighbor;
‘Timi reduce the volume of your song, you are being a nuisance’.
The look on Timi’s face said ‘why should I have to reduce mine?’, but he knew better than to say that. He knew that uttering those words would put finality to their relationship; an abyss he wasn’t ready to dive into. He reminded himself he owed rent for a long time.
He dimmed Nina simeone’s voice as she crooned about being ‘just a soul whose intentions are good’. He wished he could sing as high as his pitch range could carry. That was all ever wanted to let the world know, that he was a soul burdened with things he didn’t have to carry.
Timi wondered what the day will bring. It was a day of dread and he was running late for school. He squirmed at the thought of his unpreparedness and he marveled at how much he hated reading biology. As soon as he turned to the bathroom, the older neighbor asked him to boil water; a daily request that came with as much vile. Even though tempers brewed to a boiling point before it spilled; both parties lived as civil as they could, living as circumstance afforded them.
Unfortunately, the kettle started to whistle almost as soon as Timi set it to boil. Water spilled onto the burner, putting out the flame; leaving the cooker to let out gas. The smell of butane called the older neighbor’s attention.
‘Timi! Timi!’ he screamed
Timi ran down with his towel wrapped around his torso; the call of his name reminding him he set something to boil. He barely entered the kitchen when a large hand greeted his face. The force of the hand made him stumble forward, almost hitting the gas. He didn’t realize what happened until a second later. He felt his face get warm as it registered that he had been struck.
‘What did I tell you about this?’ The older neighbor asked pointing to the gas cooker.
‘Are you so daft you can’t calculate when it might be ready to boil? Or you are too deaf ……”
He stopped listening. He was still too stunned to speak and he wondered how he was to answer the question ‘why are you so forgetful?’ He clenched his jaw as he rolled his hands into fists. He drew in a deep breath and said,
‘I’m sorry. I’m very sorry.’
‘Always sorry; how does that fix anything? I don’t know where you were gotten from. Incapable of doing anything, a complete waste of space, useless, just useless …..’
Those words rang in Timi’s head. It came to his mind each time he looked in the mirror. The words were more brutal than the assault he had taken to the face.
‘If I am a useless, it speaks more about you than me’. He said quietly
Regardless of how it was said, it carried enough weight. So much that it stopped his neighbor’s rant for a second. The older neighbor flipped the word over in his mind and he looked like the word was novel to him. He looked around for what he could use to hurt the boy. His fists were enough, and he moved to put them to good use.
Timi grew up in the shadow of a memory; the image of his mother moving out of the house on a sunny afternoon when he arrived from school. He wondered why she was in a hurry since her explanation for leaving was a visit to grandpa. He watched her from a distance as she packed frantically. It looked like something rehearsed; a performance that shows after tireless preparation.
She smiled each time their eyes met as she stuffed clothes in the bag. He had grown to love those eyes. In them he found the wisdom his teachers always praised. Those eyes that shone with every good grade he garnered, comforted him when he wet the bed because of the fights she had with his father. But the lids that covered those eyes changed. He once thought of her eyes when his teacher showed his class the picture of a chameleon. It was a kaleidoscope of colors and with each movement of the picture, the color of the over grown lizard changed too. He wondered if this was a trait shared by humans as well.
The first time he walked in on his father beating her, he cried for days. The image of the slaps he metered on her felt like they grazed his face. He wondered what she was guilty of and imagined that love came with mercy. He was filled with trepidation each time he saw him anywhere; he imagined he might be on the receiving end soon. But during their fights, he noticed she always called him a word, one that ignited him each time it was said- bastard.
He wondered why she will allow him get mad again, knowing what his rage came with. It took a while to realize, that though she was being hit, his father spent more time nursing wounds. But it didn’t stop him from wanting to save her; he hated the shrill that came with her tears, the silence that anger left in its wake.
He watched her pick up her bags, kiss his forehead and zoom off, leaving in her wake a failed relationship between father and son, bringing us to the last straw between both men. The bastard and the bastard’s son. The moment the bad blood brewed to a boiling point. Timi dreaded this day but knew he would be prepared when it came. His father threw the first punch which he dodged.
Enraged by his miss, he swung his fists at his face but Timi had been working on his movements. Youth was on his side as he moved swiftly and cracked his dad’s nose with a hard blow, following with quick jabs at his neck and jaw. The man staggered; stunned at the strength of his son’s blow.
He had never lost a fight and he wondered when he lost his strength. He stumbled to a wall for support. Before he could find his feet, Timi closing the space between, deliver a blow to his stomach with his knee. As he fell to the ground he punched his father’s face repeatedly, all the time screaming bastard. He hit him till hands bled; hit him till he couldn’t tell between his blood and his father’s. Only when his father stopped moving did he stop hitting, pulling away slowly. He caught his breath, looking at this hands and what he had done. He slumped to the ground crying, wondering how he brought the house down on his neighbor.