Marek listens to his father singing in the dark of night.
|Marek lay on his back in the upstairs hallway outside his bedroom. It was late. He knew he should have gone to bed. Technically, he had gone to bed at eleven but insomnia kept poking at him. Below him in the living room, he could hear the television playing something that was probably an old Western. His mother had already gone to bed but his father was still awake. Marek smiled to himself; the insomnia was probably hereditary.
Julien Alfweine cleared his throat and Marek blinked, wondering if someone else was there. His father coughed once, then started to sing in a low, clear voice, a soft song that clashed with the sounds of the Western on the TV. Marek closed his eyes, almost pained by the sound. He loved to sing, knew his mother loved to sing, too. Hearing his father singing after both of them had gone to sleep hinted that music was a deep, dark secret he wouldn’t share with anyone.
It took Marek a few moments to realize that his father was singing in another language. He would have naturally guessed German; his grandfather had been one of the German citizens who had fled the country just before the Second World War. But no, this wasn’t the harsh, familiar gutturals of German or even the looping cadence of the Finnish Amy’s family still spoke at home. It sounded like French. Julien’s voice rose as he followed the sweeping, soulful sounds of the song and Marek found tears starting to trickle down his cheeks, even though he had no idea what his father was saying. The beauty of it spoke to something deep down, a pain that transcended language and pierced the heart.
When he finished, Marek rolled over onto his stomach and wriggled down the top two stairs so he could peek through the railing to where his father sat in his armchair. Julien leaned forward over a card table strewn with small pieces of plastic and touched a bottle of glue to the end point of a piece in his hand before affixing it to another held in a vise. He was working on his airplane models again. It had been years since Marek had seen him work on anything visually artistic and the models were the closest he had gotten to pulling out a canvas and painting since Marek was maybe five or six years old. He had always wondered why his father had stopped painting.
Julien continued to hum the French song as he worked on the joints of plastic and glue, blowing gently until the glue dried and then moving on to the next piece methodically. Marek closed his eyes with a soft sigh, just listening to the sound of his father’s voice over the background buzz of the television. He didn’t know why his father hid the artistic parts of himself away from his son but Marek wished he could share them. Maybe someday.