Words that were not allowed in our vocabulary made up a list that changed and shifted and seemed somehow ambiguous. Anything disrespectful or prideful was quickly suppressed and marked as ungodly and even blasphemous. The usage of “ok” might be seen as objectionable if given in a solemn or what might be construed as flippant manner. But now these two words rang out in bare rooms and empty walls, signaling hostility and confusion.
He had given me the rewards voucher months before, instructing me to use it on whatever gave me pleasure or was needed. Every so often he would bring the subject into conversation and question me, wondering what had become of the certificate. Each time I would pause and ask him what it was to be used for and he would respond that it was up to me. It held its position tucked neatly away in the side pocket of a diaper bag until holidays approached and an idea shuffled through my mind.
Gifts had been forbidden in our household until a few years prior when Osama questioned the validity of this unspoken rule and finally convinced him to supply the funds for holiday presents. It was always a stretch and we knew to pick and choose wisely; practical, inexpensive and exchangeable. A modest sum of money was secured and then doled out to each member of the household. But recently everything had changed and with the older boys away at University things had returned to a veto on the exchange of gifts.
A chuckle came from his mouth but was indistinguishable as levity, anger or mere frustration. Our vehicle swerved between cars recklessly and gained speed only to come to a quick and abrupt pause when necessary. The box in question sat precariously on a lap in the front seat, shuffling from side to side. The mall entrance could be seen in the back window and now a day of shopping, food and frivolity seemed reckless and arrogant. A foolish view of reality and a blip into the real world had marred my judgement and remnants of lunch were taken home instead of dumped prior to exiting the boundaries between home and mall.
In an attempt to pacify his anger I explained that I had used my money from tutoring for a day of holiday gift shopping and purchased pizza with the voucher. I looked at the box that sat on the kitchen counter and with it came the realization that once again I had failed to understand him. He insisted on seeing the voucher although he knew it had already been used. The usual rules would have been followed and no words of our trip to the mall, food or fun would have been mentioned. But this time somehow I clicked back into the real world and having been pushed to have fun, I did so.
A firm stance was not a sign of defiance on my part but imperative to keep legs from giving way. He held the drill in one hand securing nails for curtain fasteners, waving it intermittently to emphasize each syllable. YOU ARE A LIAR A THIEF A calm demeanor overtook him when grabbing hooks and drill bits from the children’s hands. When fury timed out he spoke of taking them to dinner, offering numerous choices including favorite American restaurants that were most often seen as unfavorable. He gently pinched cheeks, smiled and inquired as to their choice of eateries. The creaky borrowed ladder shook and waved upon a return to the diatribe that started upon entrance to the villa. His tirade peaked and waned, eventually subsiding after piles of endless fury had been depleted. Each child looked wary of his words but also knew their role in this ongoing escalation. The project was complete and he insisted on taking at least two children out for dinner.