Where was I the first day his madness started? I had sneaked out to a party with some of my more rowdy schoolmates, it was Fash’s birthday. I had a lot of fun, drank a little alcohol and came back home through the fence and the window. He was in the sitting room watching BBC World News. He was addicted to the channel.
“Baby,” I heard him call.
“Sir,” I bawled back from my room.
I struggled a few moments to quickly divest myself of my party clothes and wear some nighties before I showed myself to my father.
“I’m here, daddy,” I was breathless behind his chair.
“Come and see this thing,” his eyes were firmly hinged to the screen on which many children seemed to be suffocating to death in something that looked like a big, multipurpose coffin.
“Jesus,” I said under my breath. It was a chillingly horrifying scene.
“Illegal immigrants,” he said by way of explanation.
I was beginning to have a dizzy spell just standing there. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the news, but I had to grip Dad’s chair for support.
“Won’t you sit?” he tapped my regular perch on the arm of the chair.
I had been a little scared to come too near him in case he could smell the alcohol on my breath, but I quietly obliged him and threw my face a little out of his way.
“There’s something wrong with the world,” I said. I knew it was the kind of remark he’d value hearing from a daughter like me – haha.
“Let me just tell you the real problem,” he said, shifting a little to face me.
He must have caught a whiff of something strong on me because he scrunched up his nose and asked me blandly if I’d been drinking.
I nodded slowly.
“Did you go out?”
I nodded slowly again.
I had begun to stand up and stand away from his anger when he pulled me a little roughly and I bounced straight into him. I didn’t know if Dad was trying to discipline me with spanking like he used to all those many years ago, but that would have surprised me less than what actually happened. He drew me and held me and I heard him sobbing in my arms.
“Daddy,” I reached a tentative hand to his shoulder. I didn’t know what to do.
“There’s something wrong with this world, my baby,” he said through the choking in his voice.
The news had moved on from the dying children on a ship sailing the Mediterranean, but I feared that my father was crying more for them than for me. I underestimated his madness.
Daddy wanted to know everything. Did I have a boyfriend? Did I love anyone? Was there something I liked to do besides school? I sighed. I was going to give him a backhanded scolding for not scolding me as was his fatherly duty, but I remembered the children on the news, the ones Daddy called me to see, the ones he couldn’t reach, and I decided to tell him all. Right there on my father’s laps, I began to find a friend in an older man.
I had underestimated my madness too.