He looked into her face, as she slept, a smile on her face. He was sure, he could see her dreams, of a beautiful world, of kings and queens, of talking fishes and flying horses,of evil witches and bad curses, of courageous heroes and great wars, of a blue sky and green earth, and of happy endings.
Secretly he wished, he could be the kid again, and listen to bed-time stories of fairies and everything that is beautiful, and believe, as his daughter now does, that every story, indeed has a happy ending. But, instead, he knew, he was facing the hardest decision of his life yet.
A poor immigrant in a poor country, not many jobs were available to him. And today, the job he knew to do well, was gone. His owner, moved on to the bigger city, to work for another master. Yes, he had to find some work, but he knew the other decision would be harder.
We had never planned for her, he said to himself. Cold logic kicked in. A child was never a good decision, for a poor man, in a country ravaged by war, looking to flee from home. But, the pregnancy happened. They ran away from the war. With no shelter, no money, he could just listen to the doctor in his new country say, that his wife may not survive child-birth. Later, he could just see her live the last moment of her life, as her child, his child lay crying next to her.
No, I never bargained for her, he thinks again, as he looks towards the angelic 4 year old face sleeping next to him, oblivious to his torture, in the dream world of happy endings.
He chided himself. For cold logic to have taken over his thoughts. She was his child. He had raised her. She had given him those fleeting moments of happiness, which was as hard to come by as a good meal in the last 4 years. He had seen happiness in her face. He had worked through long hard days, just by seeing her play all by herself from the corner of his eyes. He had felt the surge of happiness and excitement in her, when he threw her up in the air and caught her every evening. He, once again, had believed in happy endings, when he cooked up bed-time stories for her.
She needs me, he argues to himself. She is living in this protected, magical, beautiful world, that he had made for her. She is not ready, yet, to learn that the world is lot more crueler then she can ever imagine to be now. He has to stay with her, and ease her into the real world, slowly. It has to be him that has to do it.
The mental war of emotion and logic is leaving him, nothing but confused, as logic presents its case again, inside the courtroom of his thoughts. Happiness, you argue, emotion, but tell me how will you give her happiness. So far, you spent more money for tiny gifts for her, the nice frock, the rainbow ice-cream, the talking doll, then for your food. You have not eaten for two days, just so that she has some food. How do you reckon, emotion, that tomorrow, jobless and helpless, unwanted in this new country, you are going to keep her happy and content. How do you even think that you can shield her, as you have, from the cruelties of the world.
Moments such as these come, when logic feels right, but emotions and memories, which have no place in all that is logical, contradict. Decisions, however, need to be taken.
It was getting late, and in a split second, he decided. He had to let her go. It would be hard for her tomorrow, and the day-after, but maybe one day she will realize that father was correct. It was the only logical thing to do. He picked her up, and walked down the road, to the orphanage, that had been tempting him, for quite some time, and which had been his only thought, all evening, after he had lost his job.
He placed her gently, on the stairs, and turned back and left. He knew, that the one last look, he promised himself, when he made the decision, would be the worst thing to do. Fighting tears, he ran up the street, to collect all his belongings, and ran all the way to the railway station.
The train, was not to come till the morning. He laid his belongings down, and decided to sleep. As he closed his eyes, his thoughts only had place for the beautiful smile that he had seen on his daughter’s face as he finished the story earlier in the evening. He knew what he had to do.
He ran back to the street, to the orphanage, picked her up, shook her, woke her up, and in a shower of kisses, let her know, that they together will change the story. They deserved a happy ending, and he will find it for her and himself.
PS: The idea just came, when lazing on my bed, I thought about fairy tales and how every story was ‘ Long long time ago…..and they lived happily ever after”. Suddenly, this story( if I may call it), occurred to me, and I though I will write it. Obviously, there are a lot of borrowed instances, coming from a lifetime of watching movies. But, I wanted, somehow to highlight the turmoil inside the father’s head. I hope I could do it.
PPS: Why is it that work gets done only when deadlines knock on your door? I have a bad feeling about my PhD. The whole 4/5 years is a big exercise in self-motivation, but I need huge huge, XXL doses of it. Right now, the whole research excites me, I can spend hours thinking what I can do, but it does not count, till I do something.