My father always used to say that it’s impossible to be respected in this world until we stop demanding others to respect us. I remember him sitting me down at nine years old and explaining that there is not a single person in the world who is automatically entitled to your respect, that his fatherhood did not automatically entitle him to mine, and that everybody you met had to earn it. It was easy for him to say: my father was one of the most respected people in the city. So much so, in fact, that his funeral was attended by hundreds of people, most of whom I’d never met: my father the geneticist, the most likable man in the neighbourhood. He was on the verge of a ground-breaking discovery when he died. and since then, it’s been forgotten. Nobody even knows what it was he was working on, not even my mother, who knew everything.
As a child, I remember him wanting to use me as a subject, conduct science experiments: nothing dangerous, of course. As a kid I would have loved to participate, eager to spend time with my father, help him discover new things, but my mother never let me, she claimed it was dangerous, so he never did it. Sometimes I look through his laboratory, the only room in my mother’s house which nobody ever goes inside: the cold metal table, the test tubes sprawled across the notebooks upon notebooks of research. As a child, I always wondered how he knew so much, where he got that endless bound of knowledge in his brilliant head. My sister is a lot like him, in that way: driven and accomplished. Me, I’m just the dipshit son with nothing to show for myself. Not that my father would have agreed, of course. So aggravatingly optimistic, he was, and while I admired him, I’ve now come to realise that the man could be wrong, just like the rest of us.
A gift-wrapped box, purple, sits on the kitchen table. Next to it, a vase of flowers, a gift from one of my mother’s patients. Outside, it’s raining, slamming the windowsills so loudly it sounds pitiful. It rains a lot, and storms even more. I’ve always loved storms; see, they remind me of myself. Nobody is at Mom’s house, besides me, but I’ve got to get going. My mother’s house always gets me nostalgic: the dusty television in the basement I used to watch with my mates, the blood stains in the carpet of my old room, the family photograph on the wall by the front door, taken back when everything was perfect. I am ten years old, in the photograph; my sister, an infant. My mother keeps it up, the last family photo we have before my father died. I’m often told I look like him, and my sister, too. We all have the same dark hair, pale eyes, that smile that just curves up at the corner of our mouths. My mother sometimes tells me that when she looks at me, she thinks she’s looking at him.
Two days ago, I got out of prison. After twenty months behind bars, it’s good to be home. I burgled an outdoor, again. In a week, it’s my birthday. I’ll be nineteen.
My raincoat hangs from the hook by the door. I pull it on, take one last look at my childhood house, and shut the door. Fresh air makes me feel relaxed; it’s calming, in a way. There are piles of dirt dripping off the side of my car, my father’s old car, a red 1964 Aston Martin. There’s a big, jagged scratch down the side, from the time I drove into oncoming traffic and rolled the car down a ditch into a wooden fence. Mom always tells me to get it painted over, but I refuse. I got the window fixed, at least, shattered by the force. My mother worries too much. A drawing from my nine-year-old sister is hanging from my passenger seat visor, a drawing of her and I, holding hands. My tea has gotten cold in the cup holder, but I’ll drink it any road up, and after it’s gone, I’ll make another thermos to sit out and get cold. It’s quiet, except for the sound of rain pattering against my windows. The silence is torture, having to sit and be alone with my own thoughts. They’re drowned out by the rain and the mumble of my old, staticky radio. I begin to drive, one quick glance out the window as the house leaves my sight.
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