There were certain blanks in my life I hoped to fill one day.
For some reason, I can’t remember certain things no matter how hard I try. Whenever I am home and looking through Father’s old photo albums, I would squint and screw up my eyes, hoping that perhaps by doing so, I can see beyond the black and white foreground. Hoping that if I stare hard enough, I can spot something familiar in the background.
But most times, I ended up with a bad headache from too much squinting.
There were also certain questions which I am burning to ask my parents, but refrained. Because it inevitably ended up with an uncomfortable silence over the next few days when an innocent question snowballed into a relentless stream of vitriol resulting from, I suspect, a whole host of unresolved animosity between Mother and certain relatives.
So I would keep quiet and try to catch Father in a pensive mood for my questions. Never in the company of the other. Never in a direct way, but in by-the-way kind of questions slipped into casual conversations, punctuated with current observations to deflect suspicions; much like a young girl trying to assess her father’s take on her current crush.
A good way, I have found out was to look at the old photo albums; the one containing pictures of my parents’ courtship when she and he were on a swing staring lovingly into each other’s eyes. Or the one with him looking smart in a narrow dark tie, white long-sleeved shirt and pleated pants; and she in her dress that clinched at her tiny waist before bellowing into a spherical skirt like a bubble umbrella.
I remember that dress. It was maroon with bold pictures of ladies dancing the salsa all around the edge of the skirt just above the hem. I remember that dress because when I was around 12, she altered the dress for a custom-fit and I wore it for my birthday.
So whenever I come across any old photo, the backstory of which I am itching to ask, I would mentally bookmark the page and the few pages on either side. When Father is alone at home, I would take my portable scanner and scan the photos in the old albums. Then, I would casually ask Father who the people in the photographs were or what the occasion was; as if to write a caption to each photo I’d scanned. I usually start with a nondescript photo of them in a group before treading slowly to the object of my lustful curiosity – the one with just Him and Her.