I couldn’t believe I slept through it.
On second thoughts, maybe I could.
It was not like I could have done anything about it.
Prison didn’t exactly give you the best insights to answering questions like “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”
This wasn’t even one of the usual interviews. This one was special, a very hefty salary was at stake and I had a good possibility of getting the job. My family needed the money. He needed the money. My mother was sick and he needed to pay for her treatments. He needed the money because he had spent all of his on my education.
I would be out in a few hours. Forgive me if I wasn’t exactly looking forward to that.
I could almost see him cringe with embarrassment, then the hurried signature and the look of disapproval and disbelief on his face as he looked towards my cell.
I waited for what seemed a long time and then I waited some more. As I sat there with my back against the cold wall with all kinds of thoughts racing across my mind, I saw him. All the bravado of a few minutes ago, all of it - right down to the very last bit - seemed to slip away as I braced myself.
There was no embarrassment, nor was there was any disapproval; there was only the look of a defeated man. Defeated by the hand fate had dealt him, defeated by his inability to do anything about it, but most of all defeated by his son’s betrayal, his refusal to lend him a hand. Shoulders hunched down, he looked like a man who had lost faith, his only hope snatched away from him.
And so, there he was, signing on the register, making sure that his wife wasn’t deprived of her chances to live because he had wanted to educate his son.
A few minutes later, with a half-hearted warning about the hazards of drinking and driving, I was out of there.
Glimpses of last night flashed by as I trudged along beside him, not being able to look him in the face, my eyes fixed to the ground.
I had hardened myself; finally gathered the guts to go after my dreams. I would not go for the interview, I decided. I could not strangle my dreams with my very own hands; I had to give it a shot. Life was not fair, but I had to make the most of it while I still had the chance.
So there I was, deliriously happy, sitting on a stool at the bar, drinking away to glory. Proud that I had finally decided to stand up for myself, finally decided to loosen the noose around my neck.
And so I kept sitting on that stool all night. I had nowhere else to be, tomorrow was going to be a new start. Or so I thought.
We walked out of there. All the way, he never said a word, never even looked at me. As we turned a corner, I realised he had not brought me home.
“I thought you would like to meet your mother first.”
That’s all he said, as I looked on at the shiny glass doors of the hospital, never for one second letting an outsider know of the misery within.
The ICU, that’s where she was; she did not look towards the door as we entered- she had stopped doing that since the last few times I had come to visit. She just lay there, that’s all she did nowadays, the heart monitor beeping at regular intervals to remind us that we still had a chance, that she still had a chance.
We stood there and looked at her, willing her to open her eyes, willing for a miracle.
“You are going to go for the next interview aren’t you, Son?”
The door closed silently behind us, as we walked out of her room.
My dream job could wait, my mother wouldn’t.
It wasn’t even a choice that I had to make. Life had never given me choices, and like everything else, this too was not my decision to make.