You spend your whole life searching for one thing and when you finally have it, you can't grasp it. It's as elusive as ever. There are times when I think to myself, everything I've ever done, everything I will ever do, it's for him. And what has he ever done for me? I could be the owner of a five star hotel or an actor (I'm a lawyer actually) and still be searching for the answer to that question.
I was born Cleo Clarkson. Just Cleo. Not after Cleopatra. Not after a glamour magazine. Simply Cleo. If I'd had friends, I would probably have been called CC or Clee. If I'd had friends. All my life, he has kept me in the house, not allowing me to go out. It (restrict)ed me, (cage)d me, (trap)ped me. He gave me private tutors, the best that money could buy, for the first eighteen years of my life. After that, I was on my own.
I blamed him for my inability to function in society when I first left home. If he had let me socialise with others, if he had let me go out to parties, if he had let me go shopping. Things that 'normal' people did, everyday teenagers with everyday fathers. Due to him, I had to learn how to talk with people – strangers, teachers, friends – when the only listeners I have had for the greater part of my life were my brother and my tutors. I had to learn how to laugh with friends, gossip about guys and celebrities, shop without worrying about my father's disapproval.
I hated him for what he did to me.
In retrospect, I realise that hate means nothing in today's society. Indifference is stronger and more brutal. It's colder. It's crueller. Silence cuts deeper and deadlier than I hate you will ever scrape. I learnt that from my father. Like father, like daughter.
Lessons in life don't begin with Turn to page 64 and read or Write a sentence describing…. Life is about facing your problems, dealing with them and moving on. Because you don't get a second chance. All you get are new roads to travel and more options to solve your problems. In the end, it all comes down to you. You. And You.
Which is why I have always been a failure in his eyes. I didn't belong in his world; I love beauty too much for that. I feel human emotions. I feel hate, sorrow, joy, wonder and love. You ask me how I could love?
Forgiveness. For all its worth.
Martin Clark Clarkson the Seventh. Owner of a billion dollar empire founded on an oil boom and uranium. He was successful, I could not deny that. He had it all – a trophy wife, a son who was obviously heading in his father's footsteps (but Tristan was human), the lifestyle, the car, the dream mansion and then, me. I am the one reminder of his failure and his humanity. I am the one that mars his perfect life.
I am blind.
Colour is a luxury that people take for granted. You can't describe colours with words because they define the words, not the other way around. You can only name them. Red, green, blue, purple, yellow - they are exotic to me. Sometimes, if I try hard enough, I can feel the colours. Blue is soft and silky but sometimes it's angry and cold. Green is fresh and envious. Red is strong and fiery, with a touch of truth. That's what colours are to me.
People say that childhood is the time when you learn the most. Your parents can give you the world at your fingertips. I, however, had to look for it myself.
Mother was, in truth, nothing but a trophy wife. Yes, the idea of the social butterfly, the perfect host and haut monde is jaded to a point but I can find no other words to describe her. I think she was pale yellow. I don't believe she didn't love me; she just never acknowledged my birth. Father, on the other hand, knew because I was so degrading to his reputation. Whatever emotion he utilised in dealing with me, I felt when I was older when I watched him make a business contract. Ruthless and aloof.
He would speak to me to ask about my studies. It always felt blue, a dark, gray-blue like a quiet storm. He never bought me toys, or frivolities. Just books and even then, they were never novels. Maybe he thought that I wouldn't read, couldn't read. He never encouraged me. He never asked me for anything. He simply dictated my life like a script in a black and white movie.
I wonder why I am here, at his deathbed. He is dying, the great Martin Clarkson VII is finally dying. Death is like a rope. You pull it and the curtains open to reveal the final scene.
There is a white bed with light blue sheets in one corner. The patient is played by one Martin Clark Clarkson (the seventh of that name). A nurse comes onstage and administers his daily dosage of medicine and checks the red line of his life. I cannot see this but when I too come on, I smell the sterile blue and the red line can be heard in quick, slow, quick beats. It sounds like Morse code.
I turn to where he is and I can feel his gaze. I can sense the disappointment but strangely, also desperation; something I have never felt before from him. However, I don't dwell it. His disapproval is overpowering It has been a long time and I have come a long way. But I still hurt though I try not to show it. I try to become white but it's so hard. Tristan comes up behind me and takes me by the hand to another corner of the room.
He whispers, "The doctors say it's almost time."
I nod because I don't know what else to do. Do I cry? Do I laugh? Do I remain passive?
I turn at my father's voice. It sounds like a muted piano, scratchy from old age and disuse. Do I answer him? I ask myself.
"Tristan. Go outside. I want a moment alone with her. There are some things I have to say." His voice, however, is still overbearing and, well, patriarchal. I almost smile at that thought. Almost. Beside me, I can feel Tristan's surprise and curiosity. However, he doesn't say a word and walks out, quietly closing the door behind me.
"Cleo." He says again. "Sit here, on that chair."
He doesn't tell me where the chair is so I feel carefully with my feet, fingers and mind. He doesn't bother to tell me if I'm heading in the right direction. Finally my fingers brush against cheap plastic and I sit down. He begins to speak.
"Cleo, you know I'm dying. I don't have long." He pauses and I begin to hear a sense of fear creep into the silence. "There are some things that I have to do before I leave and amongst them, you."
I sound like a stray object that no one wants and it is his responsibility to dispose ofit accordingly.
He continues, "I haven't been the best father. I've neglected you, not loved you enough, not cherished you as you deserve."
Sarcastic thoughts flood my head. I tilt my head towards him, as if in doing so they will leak out onto his sheets.
"I wish I had taken better care of you when I could. Now I guess it's too late. But I hope," his voice falters slightly, "that you know I love you. I have always loved you, regardless of how I've shown it. I know. I know you are hesitant in doing it, but please, grant a dying man's wish."
When you love someone, you are willing to do anything for them. My mind goes back to my years by myself in the world, a world that he refused to teach me about. It travels back to my teenage years, the years spent in solitary darkness without a guiding father's hand. It continues back even further and I reach my childhood. His love does not colour my memories.
But still, he is my father and I love him. Don't I? I can feel his anxiety and suddenly I can see. His sickness has wasted him away and he is like a dried husk. Like him, I have shed my skin. But unlike him, I have emerged reborn. With wings. He however, is dying. He is dead.
Two letters echo around the room. I can't forgive you, I say to myself. My world is black and there are no colours. I can trick myself. But if I did that, I would unravel everything I had accomplished in the past ten years.
It's not that easy to forget loneliness. You can learn to live with it, invent an imaginary friend, write a script of a stranger's life, sing a song. You can learn to live with but you won't forget.
I have found myself by losing you, I say to him in my mind. If I forgive you, I will lose myself. You have always put yourself first. Maybe I am your daughter more than you would like to believe.
There is no cheap ticket to Heaven.