Father’s day is approaching… and as you know, I have this special thing for Fathers, since my own father isn’t here anymore. So, in spite of my crazy schedule, I wrote a little personal essay last night for him… — Azarin
My father and I took a photograph a long time ago, but someone has cut him off the picture. What remains is the sight of a frightened girl – me — sitting on a frightened horse. And the rest is only a fantasy. But if I close my eyes, I might recall the missing pieces and I might create that moment again as a whole.
We’re surrounded by green waves of the Caspian Sea. The level of the water reaches the animal’s thighs and my feet. An arm (my father’s) holds the harness tight and I’m leaned forward, smiling. Nothing seems genuine, yet so revealing. My face divulges an unseen sense of adventure unlike my usual shyness. If I think hard, I might remember my father and the way he stood in the picture, pushing his chest forward and pulling in his stomach. He’s looking sideways at the camera, with a frown and a vague smile on his lips. Even naked, he looks like a military man, someone proud of something unthinkable, with the attitude of a hero. Maybe he’s proud of his daughter (this scared five year old girl with long hair and big belly) riding a horse, going so far in the sea where other kids – those who run on the beach or make falling sand castles — have never been.
My father liked to brag, mostly about his children. He never lied, just exaggerated. He made people stare back at us with admiration, and his pride made us ashamed of our own achievements.
But somehow, now, his flaws don’t bother me anymore.
I’m sure in his mind my memory is betraying me, since if I could ask him, as he remembers he was only trying to control the situation and the horse. He’s going to claim that this glow, this intensity, what I took as his pride, is nothing but the analgesic shock of a horrific possibility in his mind. That he’s afraid of the horse’s reaction to the flash of the camera. Any moment, the animal could escape to the shores or worst toward the depth of the biggest lake of the world. He’ll tell us about the horse’s apparent fear and discontentment of being dragged into this picture. That this temporary moment of a father and daughter’s happiness had no value to a horse, so the animal was ready to express its rebellion against this liquid nature which in the collective memory of all the horses of history had never been kind to a creature of this size. And the look on the horse’s eyes is the look of terror, as it feels the holes opening up under its legs, and the animal’s imagination creates this horrifying picture of a horse drowning, twirled and swooped with the current, and this thought adds a new layer of anxiety in the animal’s mind, each time the waves break over its nostrils.
If only my father could be here to tell us the truth, but he isn’t and cannot be here, unless I start believing in talking ghosts, so I’m finally free to change him, to recreate him way beyond his reality. He isn’t here anymore to contradict me, to tell me how wrong I am for having even considered the possibility of him posing with arrogance in front of a camera. If I believe him, or if I believe myself, this picture has captured a single moment of an undeserving achievement; when a little girl (who didn’t know how to swim) is at the mercy of a man who couldn’t save her from the monstrous horse-eating-waves of the Caspian.
And as he’s gone, for years now, I’m able to close my eyes and if I pay more attention, I’d notice – so clearly — that my left arm is entangled in his, almost like an embrace. We rarely hugged, but on that day, despite of our usual conventions and customs, we did.
If the picture wasn’t cut out, I could see Father’s expression, so I could remember that moment the way we wanted it to be remembered; like something simple, ordinary, something that could have happened on any day of our lives, as if we lived always – always – in this same state, holding to each other, saving one another. Like the image of a little girl and his loving father on vacation, having a good time.
But now, all I can do is to imagine, and to invent this new other, this new reminiscence, just because he isn’t here to tell me who he really was and how – really how – we used to be.