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Emil's thoughts drifted from the conversation. He could care less about properly closing a screen door, something about not slamming it, not kicking it, not sliding it haphazardly, but with enough gentle force to please his incessant mother. She was always dinning and brimming to his ears about a full supply of maxims to follow, like how you should take proper dosages properly, sanitize frequently, liquidize himself periodically - stuff a boy his age could care less about. Instead, he was thinking about friends and going out and escaping his mother, perhaps out maybe the window, the backdoor if it wasn't broken already.
He flopped on the cool tatami mats - something spiritual and calming, she called it, helps us focus on our chakra - and watched for patterns on the walls, spotting something that looked a little like a lopsided giraffe, something like that, under the underscore of his mother ranting. He listened to it for a moment, noting the cacophony, the panicked way her words squeezed together, exasperated and exaggerated first, stumbled and mumbled the next, and then lost focus. He lay disheveled, legs sprawled, eyes blinking, chest rising in and out, in sync, with the whir of the fan. He thought about his mother's conversation, about the screen door and the wide, gaping hole he had kicked in earlier - the main aggressor in his mother's temper - and wondered if he should fix it, before a pest of some sort came in and mother would start her high frequent cackling.
Laying on his stomach, he stuck his finger though the hole, wiggling it around, stretching the fabric even farther, to the point where his whole hand could fit. In the distance, he could hear his mother louder and louder. She was cackling now, he was sure of it, at that pest again, that loser of a dad. He didn't remember much about his father - didn't care much about him either - didn't care about some guy who abandoned his family and gave up. Didn't care whether he felt lonely or vacant. It was selfish. And now he's here, for days now, begging for forgiveness, that selfish, pathetic loser, thinking it was so damn easy to come back, to be apart of the family.
He felt a sharp nip on his hand and winced back in pain. Something pricked his skin - a mosquito. He cursed as it flew towards the wall, across the dusty wood, the old fan. He hated pests like that, pests that bit you, sucked you dry, coming in to your lives when you never want them, leaving just the same. The mosquito hovered near the whirring fan.
Where were you when I cracked my ribs? Where were you to pay the bills? Where were you on my birthday, on Father's Day? I was seven, you loser, you dead beat, how was I supposed to explain that my dad wasn't around? That he didn't die, that he wasn't whisked away by fate, that one day he just got up and left? No call, no message, just packed up a suitcase and abandoned his family? Just like that.
It flickered its wings, settling on the wall. Emil grabbed the quickest thing he could find, a stray sandal, and aimed.
And now you're here again, he thought. Back from whatever condition that predisposed you to abandon your only son. I don't care that you were sick, sick from whatever war you came from, I don't care, I don't care. Just die already.
He breathed and then swatted, a quick, fluid motion. He killed it quickly, effortlessly, face devoid of any emotion.
Mom waited for you. Mom waited for you every day that month you left. She looked out the windows for even the slightest glimpse, the slightest sight of you. She left your stuff where they were, where they were supposed to be, inside the house, inside her room, pressed and clean in the closet. And she still loves you, even though you abandoned her, gave up, left every you knew behind.
Its mutilated bits smeared on the peeling wall, his mother's voice vibrating through the flimsy surface.
She'll take you back, even with all the mosquito bites, even with all the scars you left her. They've figured out what's wrong - that all the stuff you see was from the war - and now that you're better, now that you're here, now that you might die soon, she'll take you back.
He glanced at the bite, red and fresh and swelling, and then at the mosquito, who was living just few moments earlier. Who now was a splat on the wall.
Death, he thought, can be just like that. Quick. Fast. Easy. With a flick of a hand, a swat, a smear. Gone. He could be gone in the blink of an eye and nobody would care, nobody would notice, too busy with their own lives, their own worries, their own faults. Nobody would care if you were gone or not, only those close to you, only for a little while - the mosquito bites and it'll itch, but it'll be gone, in a flash, in a moment passed by.
He stood up, wobbling on the uneven floor, eyes bright and unblinking.
Not gonna die like that, he thought, not going to die like a mosquito, sad and miserable and bitter. His father left, but at least he came. At least he cared. At least he tried. At least he had the chance knowing who his father was, knowing who the man he could be again.
He headed outside.
And for the first time, he closed the screen door properly.