Prompt: You’re a person who can see all colors, living in a colorblind world.
His room looked untidy, but nothing was out of place. The sheets of paper lying on the floor belonged on the floor, the ones crumpled into balls of frustration were in the wastebasket. The books that he took to bed with him deserved to be there. Those on the shelf were unneeded, though were dusted fastidiously every other Sunday. There were no pictures of his mother or father. He had no brothers and sisters to have pictures of. There were some Polaroids of his friends pinned to the wall and photographs of the sky during sunset.
A glass jar sat on the desk. Its history was interesting—it held mayonnaise, and then cooking oil, soy beans, marbles, small notes from a girl and then finally money, and with it, his hope and escape plan.
The alarm clock on his bedside table meekly ticked away into that Friday morning. It was supposed to scream its metallic scream at exactly seven o’clock, but it remained silent for reasons we won’t be privy to.
Light streamed into the dark room sharply, audaciously. It dared flood through a tear in the black-out curtains. Darkness, ever the oppressor, felt violated and sought redemption in the room’s depths, where it vanquished the light once more. The young man himself was oblivious to the eternal battle. He was fast asleep, lying on a bed that he shared with his, and other people’s, homework. The light shone on his face, and like a child whose only knowledge of parental affection was the end of a rod, he regarded the ray of warm, loving brightness first with surprise, annoyance and then with distrust.
It can’t be morning already.
He peeked at his traitor alarm clock that innocently said eight o’clock, and screamed into his pillow before scrambling out of bed and out of his room.
This was how Friday, September 20, 2013, started for Mel. And, though he was to have many more bad days in his strange life, this was going to be the worst of them all.
That shit alarm clock. That piece of shit alarm clock. Batteries or maybe I didn’t set it or maybe it’s dying. Shit. Think of that later. Get ready. Eat breakfast. Get to school. No time for a shower.
His backpack was filling up with everything he’d need for the day—
Miguel’s Catcher in the Rye, Judith’s Harry Potter and the whatever, my Illustrado, wallet, watch, mobile, ID, MWF notebook and calculator. Good, good, good, all good. I’m hungry.
Hunger was remedied by a plate of hot food, and anxiety by a warm greeting. Mel got none of these that morning in their small kitchen. His mother was not around and his father merely grunted at him from his cup of instant coffee.
“No food?” Mel asked.
“Check the fridge.”
The only answer that Mel received was the crashing of a coffee cup against the kitchen sink. The man had a hair-trigger temper that he reserved only for his wife and son. We wish we could say that life turned him bitter because he was sacked from every law firm he worked for, or maybe because he rarely won cases. And perhaps we can open our minds to the idea that had he been a better lawyer, he would have been a better father. But Mel found it hard to imagine him as anything but manipulative, explosive, and cruel. To be a better anything, one had to be a better person in general, Mel decided, and so money and success wouldn’t change him much. Only, they would have a tyrant in place of a bully.
A piece of the broken mug teeter-tottered on the floor.
What the hell did I do now?
“Mama, mama, mama,” his father mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “I said check the fridge, is that not enough for you?” His voice was boiling with rage.
Where is this coming from? I have to get out of here. Don’t feed the monster, just go.
“Never mind,” Mel said as he grabbed his pack and walked briskly out of the kitchen, through the living room and out of the front door. He could feel the heat of his father’s anger on his back. It was like walking away from a bonfire.
The jeepney line shouldn’t be so bad now. Where’s Mama? I can call her later, but Dad has her phone, for sure. I have twenty minutes to get to school, if the jeepney’s going to take too long I can take a cab. I can charge extra for the homework. But then I won’t have enough for the weekend—
Muttering to himself this way, Mel walked to the loading shed where a single jeepney was waiting—it had room for only one more passenger. He thanked God under his breath, boarded and settled down between an old woman with a bucket of fish and a mother with a toddler on her lap. He thought that maybe today was going to be a good day, after all. Let’s not correct him.
The jeepney, like many others in the city, has seen better days. Its engine made a plethora of sounds as it started and drove away—fingernails on a chalkboard, cans rattling in a washing machine, whining, whirring, sputtering. It was made for fourteen passengers, but by some third world voodoo, Mel was sharing a ride with twenty-two people that morning. Thus overworked and overburdened, the jeepney made its way through the streets, going on for one mile before finally giving up and coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road.
“Get off,” the driver said, handing back everyone’s fares. “Engine died.” There was a little game of pass-the-message and a practical math quiz before everyone got off with their backpacks and books, buckets of fish, armfuls of children and manila folders. Mel’s watch said half past eight.
I should be handing out homework at the playground by now. I should be getting paid. English is Miguel’s first period, if I can’t give him his report before the bell rings, then I lose one hundred pesos. Oh, grandma what are you doing?
The old lady was small and thin, and her fish bucket was large and swung forward and backward as she slowly carried it across the street with both hands. The pitiful picture was completed by the traffic building up as cars stopped to let her pass.
Mel rushed back into traffic, took the bucket in one hand and the old lady’s elbow in the other and cursed under his breath.
Two dozen people in a jeep and no one stops to help. What the hell. Might as well get her onto another jeep. Can’t be late, though. I guess I’ll take a cab and bump up Miguel’s price to one-fifty. He’s a dick to ask for a five-page report anyway.
He helped the old lady up onto another jeepney and lifted her bucket after her, which was met with some grunts and frowns from the people seated closest to the door. Good people like you and Mel would call it a slight commotion. Pickpockets would call it an opportunity.
A shriek came from inside the jeepney and a blur of a man jumped out, knocking over the bucket and sending fish and fishy water splashing onto people’s shoes and Mel’s shirt.
“He got my wallet! He got my wallet!” a pudgy man shouted. He was still seated, looking at Mel who was standing outside the jeepney door. Let’s call him Pudge the Victim.
Yeah, okay! He went that way!
And before he could understand why he was doing it, Mel was running after a pickpocket at three-quarters past eight in the morning, with his shirt smelling like fish. He did not bother to look behind him to check if the victim joined the chase. He did not bother to look around him to look for officers of the law. He did the only thing he thought was right and urgent—to catch a bad man.
That guy better get off his ass and run after me. How else am I going to find him if I get his wallet back? Oh shit what if there’s a knife or a gun? Should I stop? No, I’m gaining on him! Just a little—bit—more—
Mel lunged at the pickpocket, stretching out his arm as far as he could to grab whatever he could. Mel’s hopeful hand caught the strap of the pickpocket’s backpack. Mel was on his stomach, on the ground, holding on to a backpack and effectively botching the thief’s escape. But did he? The pickpocket was thrown to the ground, too, but did not stay down and wriggled out of the backpack’s straps.
He ran away and lost himself in the crowd of morning commuters, leaving Mel with a backpack full of stolen wallets and cellphones.
Mel stayed on the ground, out of breath and very dizzy. Have you forgotten that he hasn’t had anything to eat since the day started? Of course, you haven’t.
The sound of a policeman’s whistle pierced through the hubbub of people who stopped to help Mel up or watch what was going on. Mel was just getting to his feet when two policemen were close enough to grab his shoulders and wrest the backpack from him. Behind them came Pudge the Victim.
“Wait! He’s not the thief, officer!” said Pudge. Voices in the crowd agreed with Pudge.
“Good job,” said the policeman who had a pockmarked face. His partner handed Pudge the thief’s backpack and said, “Take back your wallet.”
Mel was about to leave when he heard Pockmark say, “You can’t give him everything, Ramirez!”
“Why not?” asked Ramirez. He was younger, with a belly that was still somewhat flat but was starting to round out. In a few months, he would have Pockmark’s potbelly.
“He could grab something that doesn’t belong to him.”
“I’m just taking my wallet.”
“How do we know it’s really yours?” asked Pockmark.
“There’s an ID in it.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him to make sure he only takes his wallet,” said Ramirez.
“He could slip something into his pockets without you noticing,” said Pockmark. Their profession does strange things—the more time they spend protecting and serving their fellowmen, the more distrustful they grow of their wards and of each other. In the end, they question everything except orders.
The argument between the Pockmark and Ramirez was never settled because at that moment, an exasperated voice said, “There’s your wallet, sir!” It was Mel, the hero of the morning and who everyone had forgotten. He saw the wallet during the chase, as it was being stuffed in one fluid motion into the backpack. “It’s the one at the leftmost corner, next to the rosy cellphone.”
“What’s rosy?” asked Pudge.
“I meant, the one next to the high-shade cellphone. That’s your wallet,” Mel stammered and nervously pointed to a wallet that was, to him at least, the color of dark earth.
Ramirez did not wait for his partner to agree. He grabbed it and handed it to Pudge, who pulled out a card bearing his picture.
“Don’t know how you did that, but thank you,” he said to Mel, who was already trying to get away.
“Oi! Boy!” Pockmark called after him, “we need you for the report!” But Mel wasn’t interested in any report, unless he could sell it for one hundred-fifty pesos.
Two hundred. I’m charging him two for this. If I can get it to him on time. He’s probably nice and desperate by now. I hope they didn’t follow me, I’m so late. Suppose I can just say it was a lucky guess? A cab. I have to get a cab. It’ll cost me sixty but I’m already late.
A taxi is not merely a vehicle, it is an abode. It is where drivers eat, sleep, make plans, make love, argue politics, listen to a boxing match. It is a collection of smells and moods that can make one gag, but not enough to be rude and offer to roll down the windows. Mel got into one such cab, sat in the passenger seat, closed the door and gave his high school’s name with the plea to hurry, sir, hurry.
“Throw in an extra twenty. Traffic’s bad,” the driver said between mouthfuls of Spanish bread.
“You see I’m just a student, right?”
“Traffic’s the same for students.”
“It’s not even that far.”
“So walk. And you smell like fish.”
There is nothing more annoying to a commuter than a greedy cabbie. They can smell desperation, even when it does not come in the guise of fish. They can size a person up well enough to demand just the right amount. Each passenger will think that yes they can afford it, yes they badly need it, no this is not worth an argument and no they do not want to go back out and wait for another cab. It’s a crude form of manipulation.
This particular cabbie was wrong about Mel on two points—he could not afford twenty pesos and so it was worth an argument. It is one that Mel has had many times.
“We’ll go by the meter,” Mel said. He stayed still in the passenger seat and did not look at the driver. “Or your number’s going to the transit authority.”
The driver cursed loudly and stepped on the accelerator so suddenly that Mel’s head hit the backrest. He put on his seatbelt and hoped that traffic wasn’t as bad as the cabbie said. It wasn’t.
“That bread’s gone bad,” Mel said to the driver.
“That bread’s gone bad,” Mel repeated at a stoplight.
The driver looked at every side of the half-eaten bun of Spanish bread and gruffly said, “It looks fine to me.”
“Suit yourself,” and he watched as the driver bit a large piece—bruise-colored patches of mold and all.
“Did he leave?” asked the woman.
“Half an hour ago,” said her husband. “He didn’t see you.”
“I have to talk to him.”
“So you can conspire against me? Or to turn him against me?” he said in quiet anger and suspicion.
“No one is doing that, my darling.” A soothing, pleading tone. It was laced with fear, desperation and something else that could be mistaken for affection.
“Then he will keep taking his medicine, just like the doctor said, and you will stay out of it.”
She sighed and counted to ten. “Darling, you have to see—”
Darling didn’t see, or maybe it would have been seek, or seem. Darling darted towards her and grabbed a fistful of her hair.
Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch.
“—that there is no way I am paying for it,” Miguel said.
They were outside the classroom, talking in hushed voices and keeping an eye out for the English teacher. “Like I said, I write and you pay. If you’re suddenly too scared to hand in a good report, then don’t. But that will still be two hundred.”
Miguel put a friendly hand on Mel’s shoulder. “Hey, I know you put a lot of work into this. That’s the problem! She’s never going to believe I wrote this. There are words here I think you made up.”
“Surreptitiously. You’re joking.” Mel laughed despite his growing frustration at this wealthy idiot. “This is not my problem, Miguel. Wipe your ass with it, I don’t care. Just pay up.”
“Not two hundred.”
Son of a bitch is haggling. I can’t go below one-fifty.
“Do you even have a report to turn in?”
“Maybe. Mister Ravelo’s a friend of my mom,” he smiled smugly.
“One hundred. That’s the price you set, right? Be fair. Come on.”
“One-fifty. I had to take a cab so I could get this to you on time.”
Miguel hesitated and smiled, “Sure, man.”
After a heartbeat or two, the other boy reached into his back pocket and brought out a crumpled hundred-peso bill and some change. “Why do you smell like fish?”
Teenage boys know exactly what to do to end a disagreement with the least amount of drama—cool, insensitive, subtle. When girls have an argument, it usually ends with an emotional hug or a heartfelt speech, or it does not end at all, and just lives in their heads as grudges. Mel threw his head back and laughed, and Miguel chuckled with him. Mel gave a careless wave of his hand as Miguel retreated through the classroom’s back door. The money left a familiar smell in Mel’s palm, like stale cigarettes and weak coffee.
“Class, I know that today’s a Friday so I won’t be giving you homework later—”
Cheers. Sighs of relief. Weekend plans. Looks of appreciation. Teacher-worship.
“—but, but, but. I’m giving you a challenge.”
Moans. Feelings of betrayal. Adult word trickery.
“This is a list of famous people throughout history.” The tall young woman waved a single sheet of paper at the crowd of disappointed students. The noise died down after one word from her. They were not a rowdy bunch. “There are thirty-two names in this list, one for each of you. You will pass this around and write your name next to the historical figure of your choosing. Give it back to me before the class ends.” She handed it to the student in the front row, and proceeded with her lecture.
Her name was Miss Lu, and she taught history. She had pale skin, long black hair and almond eyes. The girls of the class would often stare at her, dreaming of applying the miracles of make up on her beautiful face, wondering if she knew what she had, listing the things they’d be or do if they themselves had it. Darken her eyebrows. Lighten her lips. They did this now as the solitary sheet of paper was being passed around.
“What’s the name for? I m—mean, what do we do with it—err—them?” asked Mel.
“It’s a surprise,” she smiled. Mel blushed and smiled back. He couldn’t help it.
If you tried to look for Mel, it would take you quite some time. Everyone had black hair. Everyone had white shirts or blouses. It would help if we told you that Miss Lu always seated the class by the time of their arrival—first ones in get the front row, the latecomers or people who just had the bad luck of coming in last, sat at the back. Mel was ten minutes late.
By the time the list got to Mel at the back row, there was only one name left.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Your challenge is to spend your weekend just like you always do,” Miss Lu said as she began packing up her things at the end of the class. She waved the paper again. “On Monday, you will tell the whole class about the things that you and your historical figure have in common. Graded recit, three minutes each on Monday and Wednesday.”
There was nervous laughter all around. “Miss Lu,” said a boy named Ben, “I picked Marie Antoinette.”
“She’s a she?”
“So I don’t wear dresses.”
Miss Lu laughed. “It can be different things like, maybe the principles that you share or even flaws. Just try, I won’t fail you for trying.”
A handful of other arguments like Ben’s were presented to and calmly won by Miss Lu, although she almost lost to someone who picked Adolf Hitler.
King said that his father regularly whipped him until he was fifteen.
Mel was in the organized chaos of his own room, taking account of his savings and reading for his history teacher’s challenge. He had done that every Friday for the past school year. He only saved and earned five hundred pesos this week, and he felt like he would have done better if he looked for a legitimate part-time job. Maybe next Saturday. Maybe tomorrow. For now, he merely sighed and wrote it off as a bad week.
The jar of cash sat on his desk. Six thousand pesos.
In high school, he became known for his public speaking ability and was part of the school’s debate team. King became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station for the Atlanta Journal in 1942 when he was 13.
The house was not quiet. From the living room, two male voices could be heard arguing about Noynoy Aquino’s presidential ineptitude or competence—this depended on whose voice was louder. Mel saw it in his mind’s eye—two bottles of beer on the table, beads of beer sweat dripping down to form rings of water on the dark wood—like painted with coffee—his father listening intently to his friend’s arguments, his hand on his knee, his smile wide and his mind already forming his rebuttal.
King’s role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.
Mel saw it in his mind’s eye—the pair of them reaching an impasse, his father still insisting his point while the visitor choosing to agree to disagree. The visitor asking a curious question, “How’s Mel?” to end the argument. His father giving a careless response. The visitor not letting it go, “Is he still seeing things?” setting off a fire in his father’s mind, which he barely suppresses by answering, “He has his medicine.”
King delivered a 17-minute speech, later known as “I Have a Dream,” to more than 200,000 protesters in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.
He heard a door open and shut. Mel saw it in his mind’s eye—a woman emerging from one of the bedrooms, heading towards the front door. A warm, friendly greeting of “Who’s that beautiful thing?” booming out of the visitor’s mouth. Mel’s mother not moving as their old friend walks towards her, seeing her bruised face. Him, asking what happened, eyes darting to Mel’s father, and back to the bruise. Her, saying that it’s a stain from the dyes used in the factory. Her, walking over to her husband, kissing him on the cheek and finally walking out into the garden.
Other famous quotes include “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There was a long silence after that, which Mel found to be less comforting than he expected. They could have been talking in hushed tones, a quiet, angry exchange that demanded the sacredness of male secrecy. Was his father being told off? Was the visitor being shown out? Could there be a threat of a police report? Perhaps—and this was Mel’s greatest hope—a reminder about Republic Act 9262 and its consequences.
Mel held his breath and strained his ears for any clue as to what was going on in the living room. It is always our thinking that all it takes for justice to be served is for injustice to be revealed. Mel was no different, and his hopes were met with boisterous laughter from the living room. Laughter.
The visitor left soon after that. His departure was the cue for a scene that he did not need his imagination for. He had seen it before. He had seen it many times.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Mel’s bedroom door wasn’t shut all the way, and carried sounds of the storm that was raging in the living room.
“I just wanted to go to the garden!”
“The garden at night?! The garden at night?! Get better at lying, fast.”
“I’m not lying!”
A heavy thud and a miserable plea.
“Please, stop it! I’m sorry!”
“And you thought to fool me? You wanted to show him your face, you lying bitch!”
“Why don’t you show everyone your face? Let’s show everyone your face and everything else!”
The sound of a dress tearing and more panicked appeals to stop.
“Get up! Get up!”
A sharp smack of a palm against a cheek.
“To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it,” which was in King’s speech before the US Congress, during—
“You want to get rid of me! Is that it?” followed by his mother screaming without words.
Mel took a deep breath and walked to his bedroom door, intent on closing it and then perhaps he could bury his head under heaps of pillows. He could always leave, run away, be anywhere else. He had enough money set aside for himself. But running away meant leaving, and leaving meant leaving his mother. No, not until he had enough saved for the both of them—she could not help, as his father always took her paycheck. For now, the best he could do was to be there.
To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.
We comfort ourselves with these little sacrifices, buying our good night’s sleep with the bare minimum. It’s like when you feel bad seeing a beggar on the street, and giving a five-peso coin will put him out of your mind. Or a boy providing the minimum amount of protection for his abused mother—namely, just to be around.
To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.
He shut the door, but did not lock it. He remained standing there, with his hand wrapped around the doorknob. The voices were muffled but still carried the same misery, the same violence. He could not hear his mother’s words as well as he could his father’s, but she only has two words in scenes like this.
“You scheming bitch, always looking down on me!”
“No, I’m not! Please, stop!”
To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.
“Leave her alone!” Mel shouted at the top of his voice. His voice was now a man’s. It made things happen. He was standing in the hallway, he was walking towards his parents, he was stopping between the two of them, he was shielding his mother, he was watching his father’s face contort with hatred, disbelief, and maybe even a faint trace of fear.
“Leave her alone,” Mel said in a quieter tone which was meant for his mother. He was looking at her now, hoping that she would understand that those three words were meant for her. That she would understand what she deserved, what she was capable of, what she no longer needed.
“That!” his father shouted, pointing at Mel but addressing the pathetic woman sobbing on the floor. “That is what you’re good at! Playing the victim! No one knows that you’re a whore, and when they do, no one will save you!” His lower lip was trembling and he was going to burst into tears. “You turned my son against me!”
Mel saw blood on his mother’s lip and a bruise on her cheek. A thought came to him, unbidden and inappropriate—how his mother’s bruise was made more magical by the tears that made it glisten. He has seen nothing like it. Not in the sky at twilight, when the sky faded from gentle pink to a dark, brooding blue. Not in the skin of the fruits in the market, the ones sprayed with water to keep them looking fresh.
He found himself smiling and remembered where he was, what was happening and whose face the bruise resided in.
What do Dr. King and I have in common? We both pretend to not see color.
“Come on, Ma. We’re going outside.”
“No, no. We are staying in here. The neighbors might see,” she said. It was her husband’s words, said with her weak and frightened voice.
“Then let them see.”
His father ran to the kitchen, headed for that thing which Mel knew was most helpful to him. It would keep them inside. It would shut his mother up. It would make the small man feel big again.
So before his father could find the knife, Mel scooped his mother up in his arms and ran outside. Through the living room, out the front door, past the garden and onto the street. He did not look back to check how far away his father was.
If he wants to stab me, let him stab me here, where people are watching.
Mel ran with his mother in his arms, all the way to the corner store where the usual collection of neighbors were gathered—three middle-aged women, two old men, the store owner, and, to Mel’s delight, one police officer. One of the old men saw Mel running towards them and called everyone’s attention.
He set his mother down with the women, who immediately called for water from the store owner and asked her what happened. His mother said nothing.
“Please, help us,” Mel implored the police officer. For the first time since picking his mother up from their living room floor, Mel looked back. His father was nowhere in sight. It ought to have relieved him, and yet it only concerned him.
The inside of the store was cool and was filled to the brim with a trademark grocery smell. The police officer had called his partner, and both were listening to Mel relay the events of the evening. His mother was sipping a bottle of water. She had not said a word to anyone.
“Where is your father now?” one of the women asked.
“I don’t know, back at the house, probably.”
“Well,” the police officer said, “we have to go and check on your dad, if that’s alright.”
“Do what you want, we’re not going back there.”
“No, you can stay here with your mom until we get back. Is there anyone you can call to come get you? Anywhere you can stay if this doesn’t go well?”
Mel thought of his savings, still in his room. He thought of a two bus tickets and a distant aunt that might be willing to help.
Laughter, again. This time not boisterous or reckless, but polite and controlled. It belonged to three men, walking from the street and into the corner store.
The policemen were gone for a full hour, making Mel think that maybe his father put up a fight. Mel was right, in a way.
His father walked into the corner store with the policemen trailing behind him. He was not in handcuffs. In his hands was a familiar folder, filled with hospital records. Then he knew what his father’s play was going to be.
Blood rushed to Mel’s head as he stood up like a shot, walking towards the policemen in long strides. He demanded why his father wasn’t being arrested. He forgot that he was merely a fifteen-year-old boy.
“Son, I want you to listen to me. Your meds are at home, you can take them there. Or if you want, I can bring them here,” his father said affectionately.
“He told you that I’m sick?”
“Schizophrenia is not a joke, young man. And we understand it must be hard for your family, too.”
“I’m not crazy, please. Just look at my mother. She’s bleeding, she has a bruise.”
“That’s not a bruise, sir. It’s a stain from the dark carpet dyes, she works in the Julu Factory near here. Got some on her face, is all.”
“Is that true, ma’am?”
No, it isn’t true. He’s given her stains before, he’s been giving her stains for fifteen years and I see them every damn day.
Mel’s mother nodded.
“But her lip! Look that’s blood!”
“No, that’s chocolate,” Mel’s father interjected.
This is a joke. No one’s going to believe that.
“Smell it, please. Or wipe it off, check the cut underneath!”
“Ma’am, do you mind telling us what that dark thing on your lip is?”
“Please, sirs, don’t listen to her, she’s just scared. Blood might look like chocolate to you, but it’s not, I promise. It might even taste the same, but it looks different, like it has roses in it. Please, sir.”
“Roses in blood, oh son,” his father was crying and sighing, the very picture of an exhausted parent caring for his mentally ill son.
“Well, given the kid’s medical history,” the officer said as he pointed towards the folder in Mel’s father’s hand, “and given that the missus contradicts his accusations, we’re going to have to ask you folks to go home and settle this amongst yourselves.”
“Mom, please tell them I’m not making this up. You don’t want to go back, do you mom?”
How do we know that we’ve won? When one of the judges smiles at you? When the host casts you a glance before announcing the winner? How do we know that we’ve lost? When your opponent smiles at you, kind of like the way Mel’s father was smiling at him—with pity and love, but mostly pity.
“You need your medicine, Mel.”
The teenage boy was a pitiful sight. His shoulders were shaking, tears were running down his face in torrents, and he was looking at his mother in disbelief.
“Your father loves you, and I love you. Let’s go home.”
The house was not quiet. There were sobs of a broken woman, snores of a triumphant man, and loudest of all was the absence of their disillusioned child and the empty jar on his desk. ☁