I was right about my Dad, he lies there, his jaw swollen and dried blood on his lips. Again. If it weren’t for the bags he brings home on a good day, I wouldn’t bother with him. Just like he never bothered with me. I appreciate he’s lost a lot too, I understand why he might be hurting. He’s been thrown around, dropped and stamped on as many times as me. Eventually, the glass had to break. But that’s not the point. He is supposed to be here for me, and here I am, cleaning the blood from his face. I wouldn’t mind, but he never even tried, he gave up so easily. If only he could give up his time as quickly. Still, I look after him, though he doesn’t realise, though he never hears my call when I leave for school, though he never feels my lips touch his cheek. Still, I care. I can’t explain it, the strange duty I feel to help a man who made the wrong choice. Who took my life in his own hands and squeezed the smiles from it.
I am better than him. I have to believe it; I have to keep him safe to show that. I have to prove to myself that I am capable of caring. I can’t let myself fall to his level, so I have to keep climbing back up the staircase of kisses and ‘Goodbye’s. Maybe that’s why, or maybe I’m just stubborn. Maybe I can’t let old traditions die, for fear of losing another piece of home.
His breathing is slow, his slumber is deep. A bottle in his hand betrays his wasteful ways. Damn. I get ancient soup and half a portion of rice, and he’s out there, spending the only decent cash we have on bottles of ‘cheap’ vodka. Either that or stealing it. And we wonder why immigrants get a bad name.
I consider going to the kitchen, but decide to leave it until after school. There’s no time now anyway, the last watercolours of sunrise have faded. I grab my bag from by the door and unhook the latch, slipping into my school shoes - which are holding up surprisingly well. I step outside and taste the air, tinged lightly with smoke and alcohol, it’s not refreshing or inviting, but it’s no colder than inside. I take a step and feel a piece of glass in the base of my foot. Damn. Now the shoes match the rest of my clothes. I extract the glass carefully to do as little damage to the shoe as possible, after all, my foot heals for free, and a new pair of shoes is expensive. And so another morning begins, like any other, with a bag on my shoulder, a flute in my hand and the taste of nothing in my mouth.