Jacko and I have been friends since forever. He is four years older than me and he never lets me forget that. Not that he is unkind- Jacko is very generous. I remember when I was little and mummy and daddy had one of their fights, he would let me sleep in his room. Sometimes, he would even let me hold his arm, all night long. I remember asking Jacko why mummy and daddy had so many fights. I asked with tear filled eyes if they didn’t love each other anymore. Jacko just hugged me tight and pat my head. But I didn’t get my answer. So I asked him again. Only this time, Jacko said, “Jen, forget about it” and pushed me out of the room. That was before he slammed the door in my face and gave me the scratch on my cheek. But I still didn’t get my answer. And every time I asked him again, he would only get more irritated.
Soon, I was asking him so much and he was getting irritated so often that it became a game for me. I would swing at his room’s threshold and sing teasingly, “Oh Jackkkooo! You know why mummy and daddy fight, Jacko? You know, Jacko, don’t you?” And then I would run across the landing, to my room and close the door just in time to block his outstretched arm and bloodshot eyes. And I did it every time I found him alone and anywhere I thought I could escape. And I would sing like it was his secret I had learnt, like he was guilty of something and I could infinitely tease him for it. But still, Jacko never said a word. Mum and dad kept fighting, I kept asking, Jacko kept chasing and though I didn’t know it then, he also kept crying himself to sleep, every single night.
For seven years I have lived in the same house, only going out to school or playing in the field across the road. My family and I have never been on vacation. Jacko says he went to a beach once with mum and dad. He said it wasn’t much fun because he was so small he kept getting pulled in with the wave so mum made him sit far up on the sand. He said he didn’t like making “those ruddy sandcastles” because it was “too sissy” for him. So all he did was cry or sleep or eat and eventually they came back home. That is why I don’t feel bad I have never been on vacation, because Jacko didn’t like it and well, I don’t mind being at home. But Amelia says I’m pretty stupid that I don’t want to go on vacation. And Jacko says Amelia is stupid because she does. So I think everyone is stupid, whether they go on vacation or not. And I think I’m right because when I told Jacko what I thought he said I was stupid (remember I haven’t been on vacation?)So I guess he thinks I’m right.
Anyways, Amelia showed me her pictures from India today. She said she had to “ed-u-ca-te” me on needing to go on vacation. And for the first time in my life, I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to go to India. So I decided I would ask daddy to take us to India. And I did just that.
“Daddy, can we go on vacation?” My father, Mr. Jackson, was the kind of man who never pays his full attention to anything. And at this moment, he found it extremely convenient to pay none at all.
“Daddy please can we go on vacation?”
“Huh, what was that Jen?” but his eyes never left his paper.
“Daddy, you heard me. I want to go on vacation- with you and mommy and Jacko.”
“Jen dear, you know how mommy doesn’t like vacation…”
Mommy didn’t not like vacation, she only never wanted to go because of Jacko and anyway, we were never going anywhere.
“But daddy, I have never ever been on vacation!” Now my father could take an argument alright, but he just couldn’t take it with his morning paper. So he put his paper down and glared at his little girl and said, in the softest possible tone a pissed man can manage, “Jenny, we are not going on vacation because your mommy doesn’t like it and Jacko doesn’t like it and I ruddy well cant go around taking my family on vacation when they, don’t like it. Understand?” I had just opened my little mouth to say that I could persuade mommy and Jacko to like it when daddy couldn’t take it anymore and cut in, in a tone a little less artistic that a well-practiced trill, “Jenny, WE ARE NOT GOING ON VACATION. Get that? We are NOT going on any darn vacation. At least not until mommy becomes a doll, Jacko passes his ruddy school and I win the lottery!”
Grunting and chuckling at what he thought was a ‘diplomatic’ conduct of the situation, daddy hid behind his paper once again and forgot he had a little daughter who wanted to go on vacation.
As for me, I am no Matilda so I left the matter until later and, like the Dormant Volcanoes Miss Cathy told us about, waited for a better chance.
Thankfully in today’s world, I don’t need to go on a freedom struggle to overthrow any colonizer anymore. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to fight for freedom anymore!…
It’s Wednesday night, and I’m going to school with my mom, dad and sister, and a packed bag in the trunk. I’m excited- partly because it is windy, partly because my school looks great at night and mostly, because of the adventure awaiting…
I am thinking about all the freedom I would have, all the space and all the time to do all I want! It’s going to be a great time… I pick up the bag and submit attendance, and load the bag in the trunk of the bus… The bus leaving for Solan… For Adventure Camp…
The minutes are mounting as we are waiting for all the children to collect… I am dreaming sweet dreams….
And then the bus starts and my sister rushes up to get a seat for her friends and herself…. I am already loving the space! I am romanticizing with the thought of having the entire bed to myself… getting an extra helping of pasta next morning…. reading into the night for as long as I like! SWEEEEET FREEDOM!
For a second, I jolt out of the pleasures, for farewell, which I do only too willingly. There is a whole procession of emotional mothers, softing fathers, and ecstatic siblings, all playing dumb-charade with their kids, across the thick-glass windows, some obviously out-doing the rest! I specifically stop mom from delivering what we call the “Caution Speech” and tell my sis to have fun… Then instead of saying the plain old Goodbye, I remember how she loved acting in the ‘Macbeth’ play and mime, “Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair”.
I am one of the best, and the “coolest” family-members present, and all the girls are looking at my sister and me ‘talk’, with starry-eyes! And finally, they are gone…. And as I sit in the car, the wind is cooler, and sweeter….
And here comes the trouble. It’s Saturday today. And dad has gone to… bring her back. Oh, these sweet days of boundless fun, of boundless freedom!