My father. Chinese. Middle-aged. A white-collar man. He kept his library in the basement of the big house we used to live in. There, on wood worn by years of care, stood books like giants whose titles revealed nothing to the younger me. Below them were drawers filled almost to the brim with miniature army soldiers in army green. Even now, I can feel the painted texture of their plastic on my fingers.
My father. A father. A husband. A man. He has two scars, one on his left shoulder and one in the middle of his chest. When I asked him where they came from, he told me that he had gotten them from wounds during his time in the army. Misfired bullets that had grazed the skin. Next to the books in his library he kept an assortment of strange souvenirs. I remember one of them very clearly: a jar filled to the brim with some off-colour fluid. And within it, a creature with a bulbous head. When I asked him what it was, he told me that it was an alien. Even now, I can see the creature’s two black eyes staring back at me from inside the murky waters.
“I bought it from a shop in America,” my father said. Which wasn’t surprising as, back then, his job necessitated periodic travel to the States. His trips were never consistent, though. Sometimes he would only be gone over the weekend. Sometimes he would leave for weeks. What was his job back then? I don’t remember. Each time I try to recall, the answer is blocked off by a black-white haze not dissimilar to the kind you get when your TV can’t seem to fetch the local signal.
Beneath the drawers where his army soldiers slept were another set of drawers that were permanently locked shut. Once, he opened them for me. And the first thing he showed me was a revolver. At first, I thought it was just a toy. But then he grabbed a cardboard packet and, inside, shiny gold bullets were all lined up in neat rows. “Don’t tell anyone that your Daddy keeps real guns,” he said. “It’s against the law.” The me of then didn’t bother to ask him why they were there.
We moved away in late 2007. The first thing I noticed once we had unpacked all the furniture was that the alien wasn’t there. When I questioned my father, he simply told me that he had sold it away at our pre-move garage sale. But I didn’t remember seeing it on display. Strangely enough, I couldn’t even remember what the alien looked like anymore. So shrugging any thoughts of it aside, I returned to my ordinary life. That night, the stars shone especially bright.
My father. Chinese. Middle-aged. A white-collar man.
Originally posted on Symbal Magazine 30th January 2017