The fourth one

inside I feel love and hate for him. my father. on the one hand I admire him a lot because it is only thanks to him that I have a successful career. he never showed he liked what I did. now. today. he does. but when I was a little boy. when I told him: -look dad. look what I’ve done!- he never told me it was good. he began by telling me that I could do better than that. and ended up tearing up my work. and saying -you don’t do such things. you are better than that. this sucks- and I think of all those parents that tell their children that everything they do is amazing. even when they are mediocre. I am grateful for that. he taught me to accept criticism. he taught me to criticize my work. sternly. I can always do better than that.

but for the rest... he made my life turn to shit.

he has never been in love with my mother. maybe we have been an accident too. they used to sleep in separate rooms. alcohol. work. my father always came back home very late at night. and always drunk. I deduced how our evening would be from how he rang the doorbell as he came back from work. a torture. always a torture. if he rang the doorbell only once… that was bad. I opened the door. it was always me who did it. my mother never opened. I looked at him. in the entrance there was a ceiling lamp that showed people against the light. like a silhouette. I saw him motionless. his cut-out shadow. and if in the instant between my opening the door and his coming in he stopped and stared at me. silently. I knew that it would go wrong. really wrong. -I won’t sleep tonight-. I thought. conversely, his ringing the doorbell and beating on the door with his knuckles meant tranquillity.

my father was a patriarch. the predominant figure in the family. the leader of the pack. the male. my mother was submissive. my mother could not talk. she could not argue. answer in kind. when my father raised his voice the three of us started with terror. my father was short. fat with moustache. my mother was small. her sweet look turned downwards. my father did nothing at home. my mother should always get everything ready. my brother and I. did nothing. either. when the notice 10 pm appeared on the display of the VCR it was time to go to bed. at 10 pm the show began. every night. my mother still wearing her kitchen apron. sitting at the table. bent. silent. resigned. and my father blah-blah. without stopping. in a low voice. a constant murmuring. sometimes I heard my mother fall. my father raise his voice. and land a strong punch on the table. and everytime. my brother and I. started. with fear. there weren’t screams. nor broken dishes. it was a constant psychological violence. I could never understand what he said. blah-blah. only him. my mother silent. my brother and I awake. listening without understanding. we felt that if we fell asleep chaos would erupt. we were afraid that they might divorce. at that time divorce was a tragedy. the worst thing that could ever happen. I thought that divorce meant ending up homeless. my mother didn’t work. and when we talked about these things at school. just hinting at them. everybody immediately said that divorce was bad. so we all fell silent. and I didn’t sleep at night. and the day after my head was full of things. I was tired. and things went wrong even at school. sometimes my father woke us up. late at night he brought us to the kitchen. he was drunk and said: -my dear kids… this country... I love you...- bullshits about love. he embraced us. -daddy I feel sleepy- I said -don’t answer when I talk to you!- he thundered. this is really annoying. people that get drunk and become sentimental. I wanted everything to fall into place. or that they discuss as rarely as possible. as long as the situation didn’t get worse. I wanted it to stay the same. so did my mother. I think. she didn’t think about divorcing. she thought she would spend her whole life with my father. that things would go on like that until her death. then one night. we were watching a movie. my mother was doing the washing up in the kitchen. we heard a dish fall down and went to the kitchen. we found her reclined on the worktop. a strange smile on her face. she didn’t react. -mummy are you ok?- she didn’t answer. she was staggering. we called a friend. the ambulance came and took her away. and that evening my father understood that they’d better break up, for everybody’s sake. and this was the best thing that could happen to us. I knew it since the first night. the first night he didn’t come back home I was surprised at the tranquillity. the calmness. the peace. and that night I could sleep. and even the night after.

my mother never told me a word. not even after the divorce. I never knew what he used to tell her. all those nights. in the kitchen.