‘Hello, old friend,’ I murmured as I stepped onto the track. ‘It’s been a year since I last saw you and it feels so good to be here again.’
The wind whistled all around me in reply as I entered my rhythm and began my run around the park. I always start off at the zero mark. I like to know how far I run and how fast I do it. It helps me get that sense of achievement when I cross the markers one by one.
At first, I imagined that after I resumed running again, I’d begin my post with ‘I nearly died today,’ but surprisingly, I managed to finish 3km before I slowed down to complete 5km, my target for tonight. ‘That’s not so bad,’ I thought to myself, as I began dancing a little in the quiet of the night.
The Gossip played in my ears while I watched the people that passed me by. I didn’t recognize a single one of them. The scenery too, had changed. Some of the beautiful trees were cut down, to make way for a new road and I missed that cloister of greenery.
Running around the park gave me flashbacks – the first upward hill where a friend knocked into me because a frog jumped into our path; the playground where I sat on the swings under the stars; the dark benches where I was accosted by a bunch of guys; the wall where the little girl jumped from; another bench near the end where I stood to sing…
‘How far I’ve come,’ I mused to myself.
Lightning began to flash across the sky as I walked the final round to cool down. It was a perfect ending to the perfect start.
‘Hello Nachan,’ a deep gravelly voice said to me over the crackling phone line.
‘Daddy?’ I asked. I was surprised.
‘Yes, how are you?’
‘I’m fine. Is everything ok? How are you?’ The last time I spoke to him, he told me about his heart attack and new venture to start a farm. He rarely called me and in a way, I wondered if something bad had happened.
‘Oh, things are good. I just wanted to tell you that I finally sold off my company so… there’s nothing left back home for me to return to.’ He said.
‘You mean… you sold off everything back here? There’s no reason to come back?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Unless it’s to visit you and Michan, of course,’ he chuckled.
My father. There are so many unsaid things, so many bridges to cross that sometimes, the silence is more comfortable. The less we talk, the less likely we are to begin an argument. I miss him though. I miss his cheeky jokes, his love and concern… I miss having a father I can run to.
The last comforting hug we shared was when I was 14. I had a terrible quarrel with a friend and he found me sobbing on my bed.
‘Nachan, are you okay?’ he came over to sit by my side. I didn’t reply.
‘You quarreled with your friend? You want to talk about it?’ he asked. I shook my head.
‘Okay,’ he replied. Then he reached over and held me in his arms while I cried. Our only hugs since then were to say goodbye. Over the years, I’ve gone through far more painful experiences but he was not there. He too, went through massive challenges in life but never once picked up the phone to call me. I wasn’t there for him either.
‘Let’s catch up for dinner soon,’ I said.
‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘Just let me know when.’
He hung up and as I replaced the phone in its cradle, I sat there for a while. Quiet.
My father. He used to be my hero but I don’t think I ever told him that.
‘The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye… until we meet again.’
– Jimi Hendrix
We sat there talking over lunch – like we used to – Macho Man and I. Since my move, I’d only caught up with him twice and although I don’t often admit it, I missed his company. In a mad world, he was one of the few who seemed to have similar viewpoints as I did, although we wisely didn’t always share them.
Since I’d moved away though, it felt as though the laughter came more easily, our thoughts about our journeys more honest.
‘Next Thursday again?’ I asked.
‘Definitely,’ he answered.
Does saying goodbye make the hellos sweeter? And if so, do we need the distance to feel closer?
It’s a bittersweet thought.