It was Oscar Wilde that once wrote, ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his’. I’m not sure I quite agree with you Oscar but I’m hardly going to argue with one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century. Mainly because you’re a very intelligent man but most importantly – you’re dead. It got me thinking however, that even a hundred years after Oscar’s quote the average woman is still concerned her reflection might someday resemble that of her mothers. I can’t sympathise with you women as I know I won’t be turning into my mother – simply because, well, I’m missing one uterus. What I am concerned about however is that I’ve already inherited many of my fathers attributes and am scared witless I will one day inherit his insanity, which he mildly calls his midlife crisis. My father is nearly 60 years old.
Male bonding between father and son is a rather peculiar topic to even contemplate. They don’t happen that often and they’re never as intimate, or as personal, as the briefest of conversations between, say, a mother and daughter. With my own father, our moments together would begin with a few minutes of silence and then he’d initiate examples of how other ‘successful’ members of the family are doing so well for themselves. The most important thing for a man, he says, is to proclaim his own legacy. To continue what he has been given, nurture it, and spawn it with an even greater legacy. The bonding period really becomes an opportunity for my father to tell me his thoughts that he’s been withholding for weeks – months even. Knowing full on conversations would not work, men have subtle, yet very tactful ways of approaching their own kind. Isn’t it a shame they don’t apply this approach when talking to women?
The toilet seat in my parent’s house had split across the side. It seemed the whole raising and dropping the seat in the bathroom has its disadvantages. Anyhow, with the seat now broken I was instructed to purchase a new one to match the pearl-white basin of the toilet itself. I was confused why I was assigned for this job without any consultation but word came from my mother and like Oscar, I couldn’t really argue with that. I returned to their home that evening with a new seat from B&Q and began unscrewing the attachments from the old one. Creeping up like a mosquito, my father came from behind me and started to unscrew the bolt of the seat on the other side. Moments went by until he asked if I had found a boyfriend yet. Now of all the questions in the world to ask your son, why this and why now? I returned a look that expressed my sheer bewilderment. ‘What on earth makes you think I’m looking for a boyfriend?’ I asked. ‘Well’, he began, ‘you’re growing your hair longer then you’ve ever had and you keep buying new shoes. Who do you wear them for? Certainly not for a girl. You don’t even like girls anymore’. His ageing brown eyes complimented his soft reply and they both came with pure curiosity. Perhaps telling my father the definition of a bachelor confused him. This reminded me of my favourite college tutor who said if curiosity killed the cat, then assumption most certainly murdered the dog. In my case, this dog was massacred.
I didn’t want to disappoint my father so I replied, ‘Well, since I’ve been going to the gym, I’ve grown quite fond of this gym partner whom I love working out with. And you’re right dad, he is a guy’. The face that responded was priceless. It was a Kodak moment with doves flying above him and fireworks exploding in the background. But he focused his eyes on me and said ‘Before God imposes his wrath on to you I will ensure you burn hideously, until you lose your voice from screaming so loud. You’ll be begging for Hell before I’m done with you’. And you know what, he wasn’t kidding either. My father could easily pass off being Satan’s right hand man.
The questions about my made-up boyfriend kept coming and this made the unpleasant job of fixing the toilet seat even more unpleasant. ‘What’s this guys’ name?’ he asked. ‘Steve… and he’s black’ I said. ‘You’re a disgrace you know that?’ he said. ‘What’s wrong with me being gay dad? Don’t you want me to be happy? I really love him’ I replied. I could have been wrong but even with a toilet basin between us, I could sense my father experiencing a cardiac arrest. To save him, I confessed I was only joking and that Steve never really existed. This was followed by a heavy slap across my temple. Twice.
‘Mocking your father? Do you take me for a fool?’. I wasn’t sure if this was a rhetorical question – but I chose to stay quiet for a while. ‘Young man, you need to follow in my footsteps. Look at me, I’ve survived through a war, supported my family in London as well as my extended one back home, raised two children, created a small business and today, I’m a success. Being lethargic achieves nothing; you need a strong backbone and an iron fist to survive what life throws at you. I would like to mention at this point that only last week did my father cry his eyes out at the ending of a Meg Ryan movie and has never made a single cup of tea in his entire life, but as a good son, I didn’t want to deflate his ego. Not now anyway. I was scared what might come from the explosion.
I wondered if I was ever going to finish my assigned task when an Angelic figure appeared at the door, complete with two cups of tea and some snacks.
‘What are you two talking about? I could hear you both from downstairs’ she said.
‘Your son nearly convinced me he was a homosexual’.
‘Oh he’s my son is he? Have you forgotten what you did to me over twenty-five years ago on our wedding night? Or did I magically impregnate myself with no assistant whatsoever. I suppose that makes me Mary and the man next to you Jesus?’. It was now my father’s turn to squirm and I enjoyed every minute of it.
A halo magically appeared above my mother’s head and she winked at me, knowing Beelzebub here was giving me a hard time. I’ve always loved my mother and perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I saw her as my reflection when I turned fifty. So, as soon as I finished my task in the water closet, I took my tea to their study, turned on the computer and browsed on Ebay. My search?
Zed has been a short story writer and poet for the past six years. He first began writing for his university newspaper as an agony uncle and after taking a course in film and media, worked as a film critic between 2004 and 2006. His volunteer work in numerous theatre productions encouraged him to explore plays and fiction and wrote his first short story in 2006, which was published an American publication targeted for the South-Asian community. Currently, he’s working on a personal project of adapating Dante’s Inferno for television. Zed is 26 and lives in Essex, England.