Though it had taken quite some time to convince my stern Father, my Aunt managed to cajole him into saying “yes” that we could spend a night at her new house. My Aunt, her 6-year-old daughter, my sisters and I. So, we set off on this wonderfully simple journey in her new car on an evening during mid-April. Despite our minds bustling with excitement like a fairground during the summer, the ride was fairly quiet; I suppose we were reserving all of our energy for the night. The longest conversation in the course of the ride was between my older sister and my Aunt, and lasted around a couple of minutes. My Aunt kept on mentioning how grateful she was that my Father had entrusted her with his daughters and how his trust was the greatest gift that she had received since the birth of her daughter. And I could see her perspective on this, I suppose, because I recalled a time when my sister was practically begging him whether she could spend a night with her cousin and our Father- sharing the same kind of adamance as my sister- blatantly kept refusing. My sister even cried herself to sleep that night and her pillow became so damp that it reminded me of the towels in public washrooms after they had been used by dozens of people. But, now that I think about my Father and his habits, it wasn’t a matter of trust with him- in fact, it never was. It was more so the fear of letting go.
The new house looked rather congested from the outside, but both my sisters and I were surprised at how much space there was inside. When exploring the various rooms of the house, I kept on thinking of my grand-mother: she always had a fear of places that held no resemblance to how it looked like from the outside because it reminded her of her past lovers; and how they had all deceived her with their faultlessly polite looks. Though I shouldn’t have, I chuckled to myself. I envisioned how perhaps if my grand-mother were to come, my sisters and I would’ve needed to physically force her into the house, and if we had failed at that, we might’ve needed to return back to our own house, which my Father probably would’ve silently rejoiced in.
My Aunt’s new house was nothing like her previous house. Though amongst all the variety of differences, the biggest difference was that finally my Aunt could claim the place to be her own. The house hadn’t been decorated completely yet, but already I could see traces of her in the various corners of the house: how the bed was slightly angular in its position; how the curtains were tucked away at the bottom; and the residue from her rose-scented perfume in every room. The house held a sort of charming disarray about itself, which contradicted my Aunt’s ‘well-put together’ appearance but created a perfect reflection of how chaotic her mind could be at times- though she never liked to admit that aspect of her personality. As I walked from room to room, I could still smell the fresh paint and feel the haste with which it was smeared across the walls for she had missed a few places wherein the previous hideous shade of yellow was still visible. I was going to hold my hand up to feel the roughness, but I think my Aunt must’ve noticed because she hurriedly stepped into the room- similar to how she perhaps painted the room- and said:
“It’s not finished yet! I still have to do a few more layers.” I could sense the underlying mortification in her voice and gave me a look that said she would like for me to go to another room.
For dinner that night my Aunt had prepared a couple of different dishes; one being her renowned, and much-loved, Red prawn curry. All of us sat around the different items in a circle on a brightly-coloured bedsheet spread across the floor as the dining table hadn’t been arranged yet. Following tradition, my Aunt took everyone’s plates, laid them out in a straight line and served a pile of steaming white rice and in the centre of the mound placed a spoonful of the curry, topped with a big piece of prawn and handed the plates down one by one as we waited like a line of hungry school children at the cafeteria, but only this time the food was worth the wait. As my plate was served, I couldn’t help but notice that my plate had almost double the portion of rice and prawns. Instantly, I tried to recall any recent grand favours I may have carried out for my Aunt and this generosity was her token of gratitude; however, when I failed to retrieve any such memory, I took into account the possibility that maybe it was just out of pure love. No one less seemed to have spotted this partiality and so I didn’t reserve any other thoughts either.
It wasn’t until much later into our dinner that I had managed to grasp at any idea behind why I was given the extra amount.
As I had made my way through the pile of rice and was almost at the bottom of the pile, the tips of my fingers seemed to have grazed across something uneven on the surface of the plate. Initially, I didn’t ruminate over it much, but when my fingers ran along further, I discovered that the crack took up a significant amount of surface than previously anticipated. It was almost like a root of tree, or even the edge of a map of a country, and appeared to be stained yellow by overuse. Again, my Aunt noticed me peering into the chasm on the plate and had a gaze that took me rather by surprise. I was waiting for her to say something like “I was going to throw that plate away” or, “I forgot to switch it”, but it wasn’t until we were alone- just her and I- in the kitchen that she said anything to me.
“I don’t like this habit of yours.” I stopped wiping my plate mid-way and looked up at her, expectedly surprised.
“I’m sorry, Aunt. Is it the way I eat? Or, the way I am wiping this plate right now?”
“No.” Her tone was noticeably sterner than I thought it could be. “It is the way you cannot let go of things easily. Like your Father.”
When I was around five or six, I had a phase where I refused to go to sleep in fear that a one-eyed monster would break through the crack on my wall whilst I was asleep and engulf me in one go. I would throw violent tantrums and even argued- with the limited understanding of an infant- that I would only sleep on the couch or, if my Father was present in the room. I must have been rather aggravating for I remember my Mother giving up and exiting my room with a long, tired sigh, leaving me alone with my Father, who then gently grabbed me by my arms and looked straight at me with an unwavering stare, which only softened as my screams slowly faded away. My Father then brought me a little closer and placed his hand on my shoulders before simply telling me to let go of my childish attitudes. I suppose, those were rather a harsh choice of words for a small child, but he said them to me with such a tender tone and such kindness that I remember going straight to bed that night. I was still living with that fear and didn’t manage to outgrow it until a year later, but I had learned not to react too much- or at least when my reactions weren’t due.
“Are you listening? I hate the way you cannot let go.”
“I saw you look at my walls with disgust; you think you could do better?”
“Your walls? Disgust? Aunt, I don’t understand how you would like me to react right now.”
“Don’t anger me even more now! Just learn to let go, okay? Don’t hold onto trivial details like that smudge on my wall or, the crack on my plate. I can do whatever I want and however I want to.”
“Aunt, I never said anything to you. I think your house is marvellous; even the way you have painted it.”
“Stop! Just stop! Just let go already, okay?”
“Let go of what?”
“Agh! You are so frustrating! Just like your Father you are- can never let go of small things.”
“What would you like me to let go? I’ll happily do it for you- just tell me what it is, Aunt.”
I must have really aggravated her by that point for I remember my Aunt giving up and exiting the kitchen with a long, tired sigh, only to return with a bucket of fresh paint and dumping it straight onto my head.