Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Again he found himself fiddling with the thoughts that rattled in his mind. He tried hard to adjust them in order to make sense of the madness that he felt.
What did he know? All he could feel was the dead sense of loneliness. Life was less complicated before he reached the age of retirement.
There was a time when he understood life. A time when he understood the role he played in life. It was simple then. He worked; he made money to spend it on things he loved, on the people he loved. He had control. Yet, like a gentle breeze reshaping the horizon of a desert, so too did the days leading to this moment gently reshape his horizon.
The voice of his P.A. woke him from his daydream.
‘More tea sir?’
‘No thank-you – anymore and I’ll be spending my whole day in the latrines.’
‘very well sir.’
She took his half empty cup and left. She awkwardly moved in her uniform. He wandered what she might be thinking – did she ever feel detached? Did she ever feel the temporaries in life? He watched her curiously, this lady whom had been serving him for the past twenty years. Never did she miss a day from work, never did she make a mistake, never did she tire. Is she aware that over time, she will be replaced by someone younger, quicker, more efficient. He felt like a technology that had just become obsolete.

Mrs Quicks was like a ball of energy, gallantly shifting cups of tea in between board meetings with clients and scheduling meeting and events that the board director must attend. She was never ever in one place for more than a second. You would catch a glimpse of her like a comet, zooming towards another room, continuously orbiting within the building in a circular motion. She was methodical and liked life to be predictable. She felt the need to move, was it to keep up with youth?
At the age of fifty-three, she was not old, but no longer did she feel young. She saw time not as a collection of passing moments, but rather as another piece added onto the last. Each second is built upon the last, what we do now is the foundation for our future. She believed in foundations and progress. She loathed those who dreamt and questioned life. What was there to question?
He stepped away from his desk to close his office door. The sight of Mrs Quicks gallivanting around the other room no longer intrigued him, instead it started to turn into a distraction. Behind him was a glass double door. It slid open to lead out to the patio. The sunlight shone unashamedly through the laced curtains to fill the space of the room. The room was large and vacuous. The walls now hold invisible boundaries that were once filled with an array of framed credentials and awards. Directly above his desk hung a picture of his family: his wife Janelle and their daughter, Eve. On his desk lay a phone, a laptop, his mobile, and some folders. Most of his personal belongings had already been collected and removed. All that remained in the room were memories of better days. He felt weary. He looked at his hands; they looked frail and weak. Long skeletal fingers protruded outwards and naturally curling, as if it was slowly freezing itself into a shape of a claw. Outside he could hear his wife and daughter laughing.
‘Sir, Mr Avery has arrived. He is waiting at the door’.
Mrs Quicks voice boomed out of the intercom to fill the barren room.
He hesitated for a moment. Then, reached over the desk and pressed the switch on the phone
‘I’ll be out to see him in a few minutes’ he glanced up to look at the photo ‘can you lead Mr Avery to the meeting room…and Mrs Quicks, could you arrange for some tea and biscuits to be delivered and the files – prepare the files’.
He walked around his desk to his chair. He let his entire body fall into the chair. Sat motionless for a few seconds then rattled his fingers and the desk and slowly swiveled around to face the balcony.
Outside, he could still hear the laughter of his beloved. Why has Avery arrived now? The hand over is not to take place for another hour or so – Has my time come to an end so quickly, so unceremoniously?
He stepped out onto the balcony and watched them. Like two leaves being blown across the yard, he watched as his wife and daughter danced from one corner of the yard to the other. His eyes were piercing into them, hoping to find comfort, hoping to find a new identity: a reason.
His wife was elegant and beautiful. She had long brown hair that ensnared your trance without you even knowing. And big round eyes that drew you in as if it was inviting you to look into her soul. She was unpredictable, carefree and seemed to hold an abundance of joy. She didn’t need direction, she didn’t want to hold power or command. She had a sense of permanence with her life. He often wondered why it was he that she chose. He felt completely opposite to her. He needed to be focused on his work, focused on holding onto control. He was too acquainted to living by reason. The thought that one day he would wake up with no direction, no reason to get out of bed frightened him.
Janelle looked at Eve with reminiscent eyes. She felt a longing that held both joy and pain. Eve reflected her youth, her past, an essence of her very self. Where had this ‘self’ gone? Somewhere between love and wisdom she discovered motherhood. But, in the process of doing so, she felt as though she had lost something. She did not ask be a mother, it just so happened that she was blessed with motherhood. Unexpected yes, but never unwanted. Yet, looking into the eyes of her own child she could see all the hopes and dreams of an entire lifetime dancing freely. These hopes and dreams are the reason why Janelle felt vulnerable. To lose Eve was her worst nightmare, and it was a nightmare she could never detach from her own life.

Life was such a peculiar experience. It seems to solely exist on the purpose of joining the beginning of one life at the expense of ending another.

Today was marked as a special day. It was my father’s last day at work. I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about. Over the past few weeks, Dad had been highly stressed and was extremely sensitive when we stashed all his awards and credentials into a box last week. I didn’t want to go today, but mum insisted we be there for him. Be there for him? Christ, it’s not like his about to go into major life changing surgery or anything. He should be pleased that he is retiring, more time to do things you have always wanted to do.
Mum and I arrived early to help him carry his last belongings out of the office. There was a time when the only thing my father represented to me was an authority to abide by. In my teenage years, as it was for most sons and daughters, that perspective would change to became the very authority which we would fight against. Now, I see him for the man he is – a hard worker, a loving husband and a dear father.
My mother and I sat on the lawn that was overlooked by his office. We were chatting and laughing at the stories of mum’s past adventures. She was such an amazing woman, How did she fall in love with my dad is the eighth wonder of this world. Mum always described their relationship like the union between heaven and earth, which was a nice way to see it. Too romantic and idealistic for me and even though the conversation with my mum was fascinating, I couldn’t help but secretly wish for the moment to progress quicker. His work place was so boring - Come on dad, hurry up and get your things, I’m starving.

As I looked towards his office, he emerged out and stood staring back at us from the balcony. All of a sudden, I started to notice his age. He was a tall, wiry man with pale soft skin with freckles. He had hideous curly blonde locks that only a wife and daughter could love and his nose was sharp and pointed. His lips were tight and slender. Yet, these features no longer stood out. It is as if the aging of the human body was like a fading painting. What was once bold, striking and dynamic would become depthless, colorless and the distinction that it once held disappeared like vapor; just like the period when his authority started fade as I discovered boys, make up and sneaking out of the house.

I turned to tell my mother that he was standing outside his office, but she had already seen him. It was if they were both talking to each other – words so fragile that it could only be uttered by glances between the speakers. A gentle breeze past and shook the branches of the trees that
made the horizon. During that split second, the breeze had reshaped the horizon.

I turned to look back at him.
No longer did I want the time to pass quickly. Instead, I wanted to freeze time, to bottle each moment so that I could revisit it. I wanted things to become permanent. I didn’t want the horizon to change.


sis said...

I like this piece - I think it has potential. The mother and daughter needs a bit more depth and the piece still requires more drafting for better cohesion but shows your short-storytelling skills. Of course, what do I know?

Chris Quach said...

Thanks sis - I hear ya with regards to the mother and daughter sections. I was playing around with the idea of one moment being perceived by three different people. I intended the narrative to be “jumpy” but maybe that doesn’t help the reader follow the narrative.

In regards to the mum and daughter sections, I completely agree. Thinking about it now, it would have been more effective if equal parts were given to the female characters in the story. It may have added to the cohesion of the story.

Food for thought with the next “Blank Canvas” pieces :-)