Sunday, June 12, 2016

I had to do something, to take your mind off the sight of that broken limb

Finally he says, “Your mother, she used to string them together, to make a long necklace. She would stare at the inner layer of each shell, and tip it over this way and that to capture the light, saying it reminded her, somehow, of a rainbow. Remember?”
I cannot help but look away, as a sudden shiver goes through my spine. My father draws closer to me, and without taking no for an answer, he tightens my jacket around me and zips it up, to ward off the cold. 
“There,” he says. “The sun is gone. Time to go home.”
On the way back he is quiet; reflecting, perhaps, on one more thing he wants to say. Then, opening the door, he comes up with, “Remember, Ben, how I taught you to use the tape recorder? I mean, to record your voice?”
And I say, “When was that?”
And he says, “Why, when you broke your foot.” 
And I cry, “What? When did I ever break my foot?”
“You forgot,” he says, glancing at me, now with a hint of worry in his eyes. “Memory is such a fragile thing. I learned that when your mother—”
His voice trails off; then he finds it again. “You had just turned twelve,” he says, “which is when you broke your foot, climbing that branch; the one that used to lean there,” he points, “right over the balcony. It was a bit flimsy—remember?”
The image in my mind is a bit hazy at first; but then it starts clearing, and I can see, I can just see three eggs in a nest, just a little bit out of my reach.
“I had to saw the thing off,” he says, “so it would not be so tempting to climb it again.”
“Oh,” I say then. “I think I remember. Yes, I do.”
“You used to stand by the railing, looking bored, sad even, staring out there at the tree, gauging the distance to that nest over there; a distance which could no longer be bridged, with the branch cut off. My heart ached for you. So I had to do something, to take your mind off the sight of that broken limb.”

Ben in The White Piano

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