I am sat on the stairs. The carpet adorning the steps below me is of a dark green colour, punctuated by amber diamonds, heavy in contrast to the lime green of the walls. Upon these walls there are many framed images; wedding photos of eight years past. Photos of a bride and groom, of bridesmaids and family, and friends. There is no photo of me. I am the singular image of myself, sat upon the dark green stairs in the lime green hallway.
In my hands is a camera. I am pointing the camera at a man at the bottom of the stairs. He is lying on his side on the dark green carpet, between the radiator and the distinctly unglamorous shoe cabinet. I do not keep my shoes in there. The man is asleep. He is wearing shorts which appear uncomfortably twisted by the contorted position of his rest. His polo shirt rises above and below his stomach as he breathes, exposing a frank corpulence he would try and hide desperately, was he awake. But he is not awake. The man is asleep, passed out, intoxicated from alcohol, at the bottom of the stairs, in the lime green hallway. The man is my father.
I am filming him as I sit on the stairs. My hands are shaking slightly, either from anger or tiredness. I watch as his snoring moves the volume level pixels on my camera up and down, up and down. Sometimes he stops breathing for a while, as though holding his breath, aware that he is being watched, trying to immerse himself in the quiet shadows. But here in the hallway lies his mass. I can see him and hear him plainly. I haven’t had need to adjust the lighting as he must have turned it on as he got home. I realise that I don’t know if the door is locked, and then decide that it would not matter: his head is barricading the door from intruders; his frame much too tall for the distance between the door and the stairs to lie straight. His neck is craned along the bottom edges of the door. It looks dreadfully uncomfortable. Had I come home from work much later, to get inside, I would have needed to break his neck. I continue to film him.
I have already filmed myself throwing paper balls at him, and a shoe. I have already filmed myself giving him a small kick; saying loudly that the house was burning down; being robbed; being over-run by crazed mongooses. I have already stood and laughed hard enough to make my sides ache and tears run down my cheeks. But now, I am sitting on the stairs and the laughter has ended. I am overcome with a feeling that I do not understand. The feeling is one of pity and of hatred. But then perhaps it is neither of these- perhaps it is a mixture of love and anger. Or perhaps it is not these feelings either. Perhaps it is so much at one time that all there can be to describe it is nothing. Perhaps I feel nothing, and perhaps I feel something. I continue to film him.
The man asleep in the hallway is a contradiction in himself, enough to justify the unidentifiable palpitations that began in my heart as I sit here on the stairs, and spread quickly through my veins. Here is the man that ignores me for weeks at a time, and then embraces me one day, wondering why I would recline from such an unexpected and sinister action, born from weeks of ignorance. Here is the man whose anger at such tiny instances reaches terrifying heights; who preaches the benefits of weight loss, and then has six crumpets and peanut butter for breakfast; who shows no love for his family, but surrounds himself with expensive ‘bargains’ which saves him a great deal of money, and makes him spend a great deal as well. My father, a man of raging anger and peanut butter. A man with material wealth and nothing more. A desperately sad existence in the facade of happiness. Passed out in the hallway. I continue to film him.
As I sit on the stairs, I feel confused about my feelings towards this man. There must be love, for there would be no pity without empathy. But there is also distance and judgement and anger. There is no photo of me in the hallway; I do not keep my shoes in the cupboard. Each day I grow more separate from him, sat in my room, writing lists of what is wrong with me, and musing on a life without memory. And here he lies, unconscious and vulnerable. The man responsible for my feelings of guilt and loneliness and utter desperation. But also the man who loves me and keeps the picture of him that I drew as a child in his wallet.
I turn off my camera. I try to rouse him to get him to bed, and fail, his weight much too overpowering for my weak frame. Instead I cover him with a blanket and go to bed myself. I lie awake in bed for hours, wondering how else my nights would play out… had I come home from work much later, to get inside, I would have needed to break his neck…