The phone rings as I'm heading into the shower. A righteous Tam sounding kid on the other end tells my mother that my father is dead. She tells him she will call him back and turns to me. "Venky died" is all she says. Bullet time kicks in, everything slows down.
Each thump in my chest reverberates metalically against my eardrums. I look at mum. She looks horrified. And sorrowful.
I look at my stepfather. He is motionless. He's looking carefully at me, gauging my reaction.
Mum is saying something but I cant hear her, the thumping is too loud.
And then it stops.
In the silence I hear my own voice, promising my father that I would stand for his dignity. I listen to myself. I look to see if I compromised on that promise. I dont see anything inconsistent. Nothing stands out like a sore thumb. Nothing needs to be washed with tears. Nothing needs to be bandaged with guilt.
All that remains to be managed is the physicality of things.
I call back. The righteous kid answers. I ask him how it happened. He starts giving me an explanation that doesnt answer my question. I ask him again. He gives me a longer explanation. I ask him if my father is dead or alive. He still doesnt answer my question and keeps explaining. He is trying to explain to me why he's qualified to talk to me about the morality of what I'm doing to my father.
All I want are the facts. I tell him to cut the bullshit. That snaps him awake. He tells me my father is alive and asleep. I tell my mother. She takes the phone and hangs up.
Later my stepfather calls and has a decent conversation with the kid and explains why its a bad idea to use melodrama when facts will do.
Nothing changes, everything transforms. In one phone call, I go from uncertainty, doubt and fear of guilt, to being certain, clear and guilt free.