SIXTEEN — PART II
In the one year of boxing lessons that you took in a gym run by a former lightweight champion in Toronto you learnt that the first most common boxing injury is nose bleed. Ring doctors stop the bout if they suspect that the bleeding is caused by a nose fracture. That said, most bleeding is due to small skin tears inside the nose. Does this make it ok to punch a nose outside a ring? In a battle over the captivating face of Madonna, printed on a glossy paper? Leila’s physique was similar to that of Amir. The first few blows were promising. Amir walked backwards trying to dodge her kicks and punches. He was waiting for the right moment to strike back. He was not going to lose to a girl, even if it was Leila. The first blow landed on her left jaw. Girls are cultivated into investing too much in their beauty. They don’t like for their faces to get messed up. Perhaps that is why he unconsciously went for her face. Leila however could not care less. Besides, she was doing this one for your team. You both wanted that cover as much as you wanted to beat Amir. You had made a pact to each hold on to the cover every other week. The second strike landed on her nose. You have never been punched in the face before. But Leila took it so well, too well almost. It was as if she could not feel the blood running down her nose. Could she not smell it either?
Your ears began to fill with the sound of water the instant one of the girls screamed “blood.” The alarming sound of tumbling waves against a dock rang in your ears. Or was it the nicker of the red siren? It was the first time it happened. You saw water streaming in from the gap beneath the kitchen door and the marble floors. Carpets began to float slightly as the level of water rose higher. Then water poured in from the four corners of the ceiling, spilling into the house. Once mother stroked the kitchen door open, it was as if a damn collapsed. Water gushed in. The first object that flew up to the center of the room was the magazine that was now wide open. The children watched Madonna’s lips blowing a bold thick red kiss. Gradually all furniture rose from the ground, floating in the water.
Your father was the second person to arrive on the scene. He flapped his pectoral fins and stopped between Leila and Amir. More parents swam their way to the children. As it got crowded, Leila’s face got mushed. You watched her shutting her eyes tight. As she opened her mouth wide, a stream of bubbles fluffed out. She must have been shouting at Amir. Or was she crying? You could not tell. You could not hear. Under water, there were miles of distance between you and the rest of the party. You could see however, how all the fish suddenly turned their attention to Amir who was flapping timidly next to her. Father slowly glided over to him, with a decisive knot between his eyebrows. Like a giant ray fish his body laid shadow on Amir. Air bubbling out of father’s mouth, he drifted even closer. Amir discreetly flapped backwards. But father opened his big fish mouth wide and ate him in a flash; in one last sequence he swallowed him in his belly, regurgitated him, and then shot him out, through to the indoor patio. You shut your eyes and let your head back, trying to float upward to the surface of water, but you only fell deeper, free fall.
Seconds, minutes, or hours passed. The world lost a dimension. The show was over. The guests dispersed, descending back on the ground one by one, trying to forget the cruelty that they had participated in. Bystanders. The awkward feeling of collective guilt. Did they really feel bad for what they did? Or did the guilt and the pity that ensued made them feel morally intact? In any case no one was terribly surprised, or so it seemed. Natural law dictates natural violence. Acceptable aggressions. That was supposed to be the drama of the night. The party was supposed to move on, leaving him behind. Mother would let him jam himself in between large clay pots of jasmines on the second level platform in the patio. Rejected, embarrassed, and hiding from the guests who could see inside the glass box from the living room, he was to sob for a while. Then mother would plate him a gigantic dinner, with a separate bowl for desert, sneak them into the patio, and try to console him with hugs, kisses, food, and care. That would have been an ordinary tragic night at the house. But that did not happen. The deafening sound of sirens, the grumping of the guests’ on the floor, and mother gnawing at your sweater, stealing you to the staircase spandrel is what you can recall from the rest of that night.
Father was supposed to tape the ceiling of the indoor patio the day before. Mother had mentioned that it is unsafe to have so many people over, especially when children are around who have no sense of safety. He never listened. Or perhaps the house had blocked his ears to mother’s speech. Bodies were pushing against one another, hands and elbows pierced flesh. The mass of bodies under the staircase got more congested as the house was shaking.
Events are those moments in life from which there is no point of return. Those momentums that expose the irreversibility of life. That day, under the staircase, bodies jam-packed was one such moment, when you heard the cataclysmic sound of the skylight above the glasshouse, collapse and shatter into the floor. It was only after the siren went silent that mother’s cry echoed in the house, spiraled upward the staircase, and flew out from the open window of the second floor. It was that moment when the hole appeared in your stomach. The image of Amir, squatting tangentially to the clay pots, crying and holding his head. You hope that image haunts father for eternity. You hope that it never leaves his conscience even when he is gone. Especially now that he is gone.