Lying under the stars on the hard stone bench in the deserted park, I remained awake and alert. I refused to fall asleep. I had heard stories of how a skilful thief could stealthily cut a hole in your bag and rob you blind, even if you were clutching your bag in your sleep. You would sleep soundly through his attack only to discover, at the first flush of daylight, that you had lost everything. With that thought running through my mind, I regretted leaving the cocooned haven of my home, but just as quickly, I recalled why I was out there in the first place.
All these years, my parents had never voiced an outright objection to my ambition of playing the guitar for a living. However last night, my father conveyed to me with a grim finality, that I was to forget my dreams of becoming a musician. He and my mother had decided that should concentrate on my studies so that I could become a doctor or an engineer. I was not to loiter my time away on my useless guitar. When I protested against this unreasonable demand, my father delivered his ultimatum – that it was my studies that I had to devote my attention to and nothing else. After I got over my initial shock, I made up my mind to leave the house, with a haversack in one hand and guitar in the other.
Now as I recollected our resentful exchanges from earlier that night, my blood grew as cold as the chilly night air, and I began to shiver uncontrollably. My father and I had never had dispute before. Both of us were mild-mannered by nature. It was then that l realised that had not fully registered a particular memory from the argument that I had just had with him – his awkwardness as he was revealing his rigid plans for my future. The cues were subtle, but they were there – from his strained voice to how he could not quite look me in the eye. It seemed as he was afraid of something, and now I comprehended what it was.
He knew that I would hate him for saying what he had said, but he had no choice. After all, I was the eldest child in the family and my two younger siblings were more than twelve years my junior. I was aware of my responsibility to support the family once my father retired from his job. A guitarist would barely be able to support himself, what more the entire family?
My father knew how much I loved music. After all, it was he who had sent me for drum and guitar lessons. He wanted me to be cultured, to show an appreciation for the finer things in life, which he had never had the good fortune of being exposed to when he was young. Being a man of few words, he must have found it excruciatingly difficult to tell me to forget my music. The ultimatum that he had issued was more a plea of understanding than an unfair limitation. I chided myself for forgetting all the sacrifices which my parents had made for me – how they slogged and toiled at work just to provide me with luxuries like music lessons. I had been too self-centred and hasty. I looked at my watch. It was 5.05 a.m. I had been out the entire night. Strapping on my haversack and my guitar, I made my way home.
My mother was huddled on the couch, her shoulders heaving from her uncontrollable sobbing. My father was standing next to her looking too distraught to be of any help. When they heard me enter the room, they looked at me without the slightest hint of accusation, tears of relief flowing down their cheeks. My father hugged me tightly and cried out, “I am sorry. Son!”
Unable to hold back my guilt-ridden sorrow, I embraced my father and bawled, “No, Papa! I’m the one who should be sorry!”
Outside, the sun started peeping out from under her inky black star-studded blanket, full of promise of a brand new day.