Each time I came home, father warned me about the floor tiles. Which seems a little stupid considering it was I who had supervised the workers when they broke down the original grey ones and replaced them with the sunshiney-yellow ones.
“Be careful of those tiles,” he warned, as he monitored my bathroom visits.
The tiles in the bathroom he contended were enough to turn the simple act of bathing into a suicide mission.
“One of these days, while I am bathing, I am going to slip on these tiles, lose my balance, hit my head against the edge of the cabinet, haemorrhage and die.”
Mother had been dead for years. Brother was away in the army and I was moving to another city. The floor tiles were part of the house redecoration project that I took up before leaving home. The green walls, the yellow tiles and the minibar seemed like a small price to pay for abandoning my seventy-year-old father.
A year had gone by since this and even though his prediction hadn’t come true until now, he expressed his distress during our weekly phone calls.
“Oh, I almost slipped on those stupid tiles the other day…”
I loved my father. But I knew that if he died because of my yellow tiles, he will haunt me forever. He was that kind of father.
On my next trip back home, I bought bathroom mats. I picked them up from a supermarket that I spotted on my way to the airport. They were not the prettiest ones, but one had to make do. They were a bright pink and had images of a teen pop-star I didn’t recognise. On reaching home I placed the mats on the bathroom floor and marched on it.
“Look Paa, no slipping.”
“She looks like you.”
“That girl on the mat looks like you.”
I was at work when the neighbour called. I immediately knew what it was about.
“I am sorry, but your Paa is in the hospital. He is in a coma. The milkman hadn’t seen him for two days. So we broke open the door and found him unconscious.”
“In the bathroom?”
“Where was he unconscious?”
“In the living room. He had been watching TV.”
I was relieved.
I was back in his house. Paa was still in the hospital, not yet conscious. The doctors offered me no consolation.
“Will he be okay?”
“We can’t say.”
“Why did this happen?”
“We don’t know.”
“How much longer?”
“Nothing can be said.”
The house had an interrupted feel about it. There was a half-full glass of scotch on the side table and a half done crossword puzzle. I put down my bag and went inside the bathroom. The popstar mats were gone. And just then, I slipped and fell down on my buttocks. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Radhika Venkatarayan’s work has appeared in Out of Print Magazine, Blip Magazine, Muse India and One Forty Fiction.
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