It didn't come as a surprise. I knew that after my 14-year old cousin, Hansel gave me a photograph of my father's alleged other woman which he have found in his bag that my father asked him to wash a few days ago, my father would do everything to get rid of the kid.
On easter sunday, my mother and I found my father doing his early morning tirade again, a ritual he had religiously been doing since the day my other cousin (also by Mama), Lael arrived from Bicol to stay with us. Hansel followed suit a few months later. My father had to go home with Hansel that morning ahead of us from the church (where he perfectly plays the role of a lay minister almost every sunday by the way). And just probably after having barely taken off his minister's robe, he was picking on the poor boy once again. I heard him accusing Hansel of being sluggish (among others) for not having been able to clean the front garden when he know too well that the boy also came with us to hear mass.
That very afternoon, Auntie Babes, Hansel's mother, picked him up. I knew he had been crying in the bathroom and I felt by the way he looked at me that he would've wanted me to say something, that he would've wanted me and Mama to do something for him to stay. I knew when he arrived at home a few years back, he had in his heart his grand dreams, he had high hopes for himself and the family he had left behind, and I knew that he was a very smart young man to realize in only a few days that the road to where he wanted to go was not smooth, and that the biggest challenge he had to endure at that point was my father. But he never stopped. I can't imagine myself being in the same position he and Lael were in and I don't think I can last a day being mistreated by someone, let alone my own relative, just because I need something from them. I'm sure if they only had the chance to be sent to school by someone else, they wouldn't even consider having to stay with my ferocious father.
Our efforts of changing my father's attitude towards my cousins proved to be frail. For years, my mother and I, and even my sister when she was still here, would be in endless arguments with him about it but he never changed one bit. His reason was that he was trying to discipline them, but for me it was more of an abuse than mere discipline. Melody, my father's immediate niece stayed with us for quite sometime until she graduated in college but she never got that kind of attitude from any of us. She had whatever me and my sister had. She slept in the same bedroom with us, she used the same closet we did, she used the same towel and bathroom soap we used and she sexually abused me. But my father never thought she needed any discipline. For almost three years, she would go to my bed and kiss me and fondle my genitals in the dead of the night up to the day I have been able to have the courage to ask her to stop. I was just about thirteen when she started doing that and she was more than five years older than me.I know my father knows about it. I know he heard me openly arguing with Melody about it one night but he never did anything. I was never able to look at Melody without disdain until the day she left.
Hansel and Lael were the most gentle people our house has ever seen and I think I would never understand in this lifetime how can my father despise them so much. From day one, he never treated them as a family, he constantly reminds them where they should stand. He looked down at them like parasites that I can't stand having dinner with them watching my father separate the food that they are only allowed to touch as my mother looked helpless over her domineering husband. None of the boys' personal belongings were ever inside the house, including their pillows and their toothbrushes after my father threw them outside the house on the night Hansel arrived. Since then, a dilapidated steel cabinet and an old refrigerator served as their closet at the back of the house beside the dirty kitchen where they have found solace during those times they weren't allowed to watch TV in the living room where they sleep. Lael takes the wooden long chair as his bed and Hansel, who is at 5'7", on a folding bed that could barely contain his body.
In spite of everything, I never heard them complain. When they have the chance they would come to me and tell me stories about their everyday lives with big smiles on their faces which pains me more to know that they were coping really well while as just like my mother, I stand weak to help them out of their bitter situation.
As Auntie Babes and Hansel walked away, my mother looked powerless all the more but I can see that she was relieved to know that he would no longer have to suffer living with my father. We both know that it would be best for him and I know she would still continue supporting Hansel's education, a promise she made since Hansel's father, my mother's youngest brother, died when he was barely 4-months old.
And now in only a matter of weeks, Lael would be graduating and would also be leaving. My father may think he was triumphant in kicking Hansel out of the house but he never realized that he has only given us more reasons to believe that it is already futile to keep this family together. He only had me convinced that he will never be able to stay away from his mistress, whether he admits her existence or not. And he had only affirmed me that there is just no point in keeping something from being broken when it is no longer whole to begin with.
Hansel and Lael's 'closet'