Adnan is watching his mother work. She has been in and out of the nursery four times already, putting away laundry, picking up toys, making beds. The twins are still at the park with his father, so this is her free time. Her free time to work.
Adnan is stretched on the couch, watching and not watching the television. He has the remote in one hand and changes channels every few minutes. Sunday mornings are no longer interesting for him. He used to spend them with his father and older brother, maybe at the park for a game of soccer with other fathers and sons, maybe at a movie or just walking through the neighborhood. He loved seeing how many people spoke to his father as they walked, smiling and complimenting him on his fine sons.
He goes to the kitchen and takes another helping of the eggs his mother has left on the stove. He tops the eggs with ketchup and thinks of how much his brother hated that, how he always said eggs with ketchup was disgusting, was something Americans ate. Adnan smears the ketchup over the eggs with his fork then heads back into the living room.
He misses his time with his father. Since his brother left, his father spends his time with the twins, doesn’t ask Adnan to join them, doesn’t talk to Adnan at all. Talking is uncomfortable now. Every time he says anything to his father, it feels as if all the air in the room flattens and the clocks stop ticking. His father never answers, just looks straight ahead and changes the subject, asking for more tea or if there was any mail.
Adnan’s mother never pushes, but he can see that she notices. In the evenings they are all sitting together with the TV on. She sits in her tall chair working slowly on the cross-stitch tapestry she has been making for as long as he can remember. When Adnan speaks, she looks at her husband, hopeful, then ducks her head and takes up her needle.
She doesn’t cry over Nasir, her older son. At least Adnan has never seen her cry. he knows how she loved his brother, how proud she was to have such a tall, handsome son, how proud of his grades and his soccer skill. He knows she must miss him, must mourn the loss. But she keeps all of that to herself.
He watches her as she heads back to the kitchen to do the morning’s dishes. He wants her to talk to him, wants her to tell him where Nasir has gone, why no one would tell him anything when he woke up that morning a year ago to find his brother’s closet empty and his bed made. He wants her to tell him why his father has stopped seeing him, why he only sees the twins now, why the Sunday morning walks have stopped.
He goes to help with the dishes, but his mother swats him away. ”I am fine, darling. You relax. Do you have homework?”
“What will he do when I leave?” Adnan asks. ”Will he pretend I never existed, the way he does with Nasir?”
His mother flinches as if he has slapped her. ”Adnan –”
He is sorry to have plunged them into this conversation without planning for it, sorry that it makes her sad, but he doesn’t back away. “Why does he blame me? Why am I punished for whatever Nasir did?”
“Your father misses your brother as much as I do, as much as you do.” She dries her hands on a dish towel and turns to him. ”I know this is hard. One day he will explain.”
Adnan shakes his head and looks away. He stares at the cracked plaster over the window, wishing he hadn’t said anything. But it’s a year since Nasir left. How much longer is he supposed to wait for his father to remember that he loves him? How much longer will he stay in this house where every day he feels more like a stranger? And where would he go if he left?
“One day I’ll be gone, too,” he says, walking out of the kitchen, taking his jacket and stepping out into the crisp November morning. He will go to the park, watch his father spin the twins on the merry-go-round, toss them in the air and laugh. And he will try to ignore the tightening of his heart when he hears the old men compliment his father on his fine sons.