- Ash Srinivas
New to Know Better
There are so many things that could’ve been different.
If we were different, I guess. If he were different. And maybe if I weren’t so much like him. People say as you grow you become a “new person,” yet those same people preach that you’ll always be yourself, just going through changes.
I think I'd still love him the same somehow if I were a new person and if we met when tomorrow was yesterday and before he was my father. I don't think my view of him would change. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I can't picture another way to see him. Because I've known him my whole life.
Maybe we could be closer, if I were older and he were younger and we met on a golf course near a country club and it was one of the occasions where he was golfing alone. I could walk up to him and ask him to teach me to play, and maybe if I were older and he were younger, he would. He'd tell me how to hold the club and swing like some dads teach their sons to catch baseballs.
And maybe then I'd say that I didn't have anything else to do and he’d offer to buy me a beer. And I would ask him about the latest cricket match and follow it up by asking why he does anything and everything he does, and this time he’d give me a straight answer. Maybe.
Maybe then, I'd know him better. If we were new.
And maybe, things would have been different if my parents liked each other just a little bit more, and maybe if he liked his job a little bit less, he wouldn’t have been oceans away when I was younger and newer to the world. He could have made me different. I don’t know how I feel about that.
Sometimes I dream about my middle school plays, where I’m glancing out of the curtain or turning off my headset just to get a glance of the crowd. And sometimes, I see him there. Clapping for me even though I was dressed in blacks off stage, applauding the actors myself. Then I wake up and remember that there was no smiling figure of my father in the audience at all, and instead it was just me and a dark sea full of strangers. (I’m grateful to my mother, who clapped in his place, who came to opening night and closing night, because it felt too much like she was attending for two.)
But I've spent years wishing, hoping, praying that my father would be around to come to my shows.
I've always wondered what it would be like to get a hug from him after opening night. To leave the cast and crew party early and go to dinner with him and have him ask me about the show, all the work, all those deep questions about functionality and backstage life that I'd answer with matching enthusiasm and excitement.
I would tell him about the light design and the heaviness of the brick wall set piece, and he’d laugh as I'd show him the scratches on my hands from moving the heavy furniture and the blisters from accidentally touching hot lights. He would tell me his favorite moments of the show, his favorite actors, his critiques of the play’s writing. What he learned. If he saw me scurrying across the stage during a blackout.
Maybe then, he could have known me better.
He could know me better.
And if he were here instead of there, maybe I could have walked up to him in the middle of the day and mundanely asked him for help with a math problem from a homework I forgot to do, and he would point out the mistake I made, and without prompting explain the way he was taught to do it, then follow that up by the history of math in its entirety and I’d sit there and listen. Because if I did, I would understand him better.
Sometimes I want to call him up at night and scream and try to be angry, to demand why he was never there during the years I needed it most, but I realized a long time ago that it really was nobody’s fault. I've come to the conclusion that some things are just meant to be unfair.
I think I'm a lot more like him than I think. I think we’re alike in multitudes of ways I don't know because I don't know him well enough. Which is a strange feeling, a strange thing to feel for your father. But my father talks a lot, so it shouldn’t be that way, right?
My father talks for lifetimes, and he talks about everything, from the largest things to the smallest things, from important to irrelevant, from multiverse theories to the little girl who won “America’s Got Talent.” He’ll talk through the whole world but not about himself. Sometimes, I feel like I'm similar.
Sometimes I wish I could've met my father outside of my own existence, and sometimes I wish I met my father when I was older and he was younger.
Maybe, then, we’d know each other better. I wonder if he would like me more if I were a new person.