I am walking through a tunnel of white walls and shiny floors. Passing by dull green numbered doors, until I see the picture of a lady with a skirt, then right after it twenty two, the one I am looking for. I push the door open. My father lies on the bed, covered by spotless white cotton sheets. He holds my brother’s hand. My mother sits in an armchair in front of them.
I remember the day that my brother and father were going to the London Car Exhibition. I think that that was in 1970 …
This is the third year in a row that are they making this outing by themselves. They are getting ready and talking about how to get to the exhibition. ‘We are going to see the Ferrari first, right Dad?’ Marc asks.
All I want is to fit in. Marc is only three years older than me but he has become my dad’s best friend. I don’t know what to do anymore, even my clothes suit a boy better than me, but anything will do. I ask my father: ‘Dad, Dad!. May I come too? Please?’ He looks at me, looks back to Marc and then, after a few seconds that last forever, he says: ‘Okay, my dear.’
Forty years after that day, he has been operated on for cancer of the colon. I am a complete woman, feeling that no matter what he says to me today, it is going to be okay.
My face presses against his sweating cheeks, my heart is beating so fast that I can only think about leaving, but something strange and bigger than the room holds me softly by the wrists and keeps me there.
Suddenly, I feel hot.
I look for a place to sit but all the chairs are full, so I stand in front of his bed . Everyone is looking at me and I don’t have a clue what to say next.
The three of us sitting silently in the car.
I am feeling dark and damp inside myself under my pants. It is almost night and the highway is full of cars, people coming and going. Where to, I wonder.
My mother knew, I am sure, she saw me leaving the house and she didn’t say a word. And then the embarrassment … Oh God! Why I cant be like my brother? Why I was born a girl…?
My fair skin is on fire, my cheeks and chin, my knees, even my hands are sweating. From here I can only see their backs. Them sitting in front, and me alone.
Alone again, on my own , facing them like a prisoner before execution. And then, I see my father’s right hand moving slowly to reach for mine. A spark of electricity travels through my body. His blue eyes look deep into my soul. His mouth opens. I can see the movement, but can’t hear a thing.
After few seconds I hear him say :‘I know how you felt the night we went to the motor show in London. I know that I couldn’t give you the reassurance you needed. You see, Anna!’ He takes an urgent inhalation. ‘You were eleven, your periods had started, something separated me from you and took me closer to Marc … Anna, my dear…’
If I could open the window and jump I would have done it already.
My mother is there, wearing her leopard skin dress and stilettos, probably dreaming about lighting her next cigarette. She hasn’t said a word since I arrived and I suppose that she will not do so until I leave.
I look at my father and I see an old man that I can’t recognize. His black hair has changed to a silver-blue colour. I see into his eyes for the first time in my life. I see a deep ocean of greens. The summit of an enormous wave and the few drops that escape from it.
‘I love you Anna, just the way you are.’
He said it! My ears can hear him, my head can understand the meaning of the words but my body cannot react at all …
How I have needed to hear those words.
I still trying to swallow when I hear his voice again, ‘I am very proud of you and I will be happy if you are with your life. I am your father until the day I die.’
That day at the show I knew that I was never going to be my father’s son. Today, I know that I can forgive him and myself.
Half an hour later, I am walking down the corridor again. This time I am not looking for a green door but a crystal clear one. I see the reflection of myself and the smile on my face.