The Broken String
Chris was staring over the newspapers at his wife Nimani. She was still at the dining table clearing the breakfast things. Chris was relaxing in a chair because he was told he must not exert or stress. So he read the political gibberish in the newspapers in a bid to not be ‘stressed’.
Nimani was covering up the breakfast for their son Danny who was sleeping late, as usual.
“I made Danny’s favourite today – pol roti with scrambled eggs and butter. He should have it hot.” Nimani wistfully looked upstairs but knew that Danny would not sight the breakfast table till about noon. Occupational hazard of being a creative genius. At 40, he was still treated like a child and his mother enjoyed it while his father kept up his silence.
Chris was watching Nimani as she bent over the table, and tossed her hair over her shoulder. He remembered that movement when they were first courting. It also reminded him of someone else.
Someone who would toss her hair and laugh at Chris. She was someone who opened Chris’ eyes to what it was like to really connect with someone. She was smart, intellectual and did not blindly accept anything that Chris said though he was a much sought after finance expert. She didn’t care. She was blunt and honest. And yet…
Chris went back to his newspaper. No point thinking about that now. That was over 40 years ago. Long before Nimani was in the picture. Nimani was fresh out of school and he was of an age where marriage was required. She was attractive and pleasant and he thought she would make a good mother. Their 8 year age gap didn’t matter because their functions weren’t based on intellectual compatibility.
“Young couple commits suicide for forbidden love affair” was staring at Chris as he scanned the papers. He paused.
She had been great company. They loved the same music – blues, rock and roll – food and politics. They would argue, fight and then make up and laugh again. It was great, but…
“Granny!” shrieked Lisa as she ran from outside followed by Chris and Nimani’s eldest – Michelle. Michelle and Lisa would spend the day at her parents’ while Michelle’s husband Travis worked.
Chris smiled fondly at his 6 year old granddaughter. She was a bubble of energy and was always jumping around.
“Go wake up Uncle Danny. He’s in his room” said Chris with a mischievous grin.
“Ok Grandpy! Uncle Dannyyyyy” Lisa sang as she ran upstairs and banged on Danny’s room door. Chris could hear a muffled voice curse and ask who it was.
“Uncle Dannyyy! Wakey wakey! Come and play with me!” sang Lisa totally unperturbed by his unwelcome response.
After a few minutes, a grumpy Danny opened the door and allowed his niece to jump into his arms.
“You rascal. I was sleeping. Why did you disturb me?” Danny asked.
Lisa was grinning away as she said,
“But Grandpy told me to wake you. And you should play with meee”.
Danny muttered something and came downstairs. His long hair was tousled and messy. He was still in his boxer pajamas and slowly put Lisa down and went into the kitchen where Nimani was.
“Mama, what’s for brekky?”
“Ah you’re finally up. There’s your favourite – pol roti with scrambled eggs and butter. Must be cold now, here, I’ll warm it up and give you” she said.
Danny just stood there yawning while Nimani quickly heated up the food and laid it out along with a cup of coffee.
“How was last night’s event?” Chris asked his son.
“It was good Dadda. Lots of people enjoyed the music and stayed till late dancing.”
“Ah what was this event?” Michelle walking in from the next room asked.
“It was a cocktail party for HNB Privilege customers” Danny responded. He finished eating and went into the kitchen with his plate. He put the plate into the sink and washed his hands. He left the plate thinking he will wash it later.
He walked back into the dining room, had his coffee and decided to head upstairs to wash and see to his daily ablutions.
Nimani had set up a craft corner in one of the rooms where she was teaching Lisa how to paint and make bracelets.
Chris finished with the paper and walked to his study where he had some consultation work to do. Though he was over 70 now, he was still working as it kept his mind alert and it was better than focusing on his ill health.
He heard Danny come clattering out of his room and set up his acoustic guitar and amp in the hall. Danny would practice a few hours a day when he was not sleeping. Danny also liked to paint and experiment with food but his music was his life. Now social media also ate quite a bit of his time.
Danny, like most people today, would spend a few hours a day scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. He had his own channel but did not upload clips as often as he should. He instead spent time reading political posts or checking out women. Today was no different.
Except that Danny noticed a particular profile. Which had a picture of two wine glasses. Which was not the usual. He looked at the picture and stopped. He scrolled through the comments. He paused again.
Danny got up suddenly and went inside his room, slamming the door.
Chris was just walking out when he heard the door slam. He knew Danny’s door slams enough to know that this one was not a friendly one.
He started walking up the stairs in concern when he heard Danny on the phone. He seemed to be talking to someone but Chris could not decipher what he was saying. As he moved up the steps slowly he could hear Danny’s angry tone get louder.
It sounded like he was telling someone off.
“You know, you have been painting a very different picture to everyone. You have been implying things that aren’t true! I never liked you. You were just a fling!”
Chris froze on the stairs. His mind immediately ran back to something he had said 40 years ago. When he had delivered such words to her.
“Well I don’t care about you. You were never anything. I will keep my distance and you just keep yours”.
Danny slammed his phone down on the ground and Chris heard him slam the bathroom door. Chris still stood in shock. He knew Danny had a temper. He knew his son had some reason to shirk from relationships. Yet he never knew his son’s words would be déjà vu. Would be reverberating his own past.
The clock in the hallway was ticking in the silence that followed.
Chris slowly walked down the stairs and sat down in his chair. He remembered very clearly how he had not been willing to marry her. He felt he wasn’t cut out for marriage. Of course that was clearly not true.
Yet she had wanted it. And he, he being the coward he was, had told her the very same words his son had just uttered to someone. That she was nothing. That she was just a hook up.
He closed his eyes and held his face in his hands.
He heard Danny’s room door open and slam shut. Danny went to his guitar and started playing the Godfather theme – Speak Softly Love. He kept playing it and suddenly there was a loud twang followed by Danny swearing.
A string had broken. Snapped.
Chris looked up and stared at the clock in front of him. The hands were moving into 1pm. Slowly, steadily. So close, yet apart. And the seconds kept ticking…