The city was known for it’s low crime rate. Prisons were said to have a lack of inmates. The city was known for it’s peace. But did I have it? It was not the first time that such a question had come across my mind- what happened twenty years back on that very day when everything in my life changed so drastically?
My father used to be the head of the local government, that is of course until his death on that day. My mother was blamed for it all, they called her crazy, they said she didn’t have a proper mental balance, she was sentenced for life and was always confined within the four walls of the Bijlmerbajes, without parole. I was raised by my paternal uncle, the current mayor of the city.
It was 22nd of July, my mom’s birthday although I seldom remember it, but this year it was different. The prison authorities informed me that she was suffering from acute liver disfunction and her chances of survival were bleak. Though it didn’t matter to me much, I mean why should it? She was the one who terrorized my father and ultimately killed him for no apparent reason. It felt strange, I didn’t remember much of it, most of them are elusive, leaving one distinct memory. I was just a kid back then, barely six years of age, and I remember this one so distinctively.
……….I was pushed hard against the wall. And soon after a hand came up to my throat and choked me hard. I felt myself fading. And then someone slapped me and forced me on the floor. What came next were a series of kicks, the remembrance of the memory made me feel the pain again. And then I heard a woman screaming and then a gun shot………
It was evening and the visiting hours for the inmates were over, I knew I shouldn’t just stand there and walk in, but something in me kept telling me otherwise. I didn’t really want to see my mother, but there was a part of me which thought that this was the last time that I could probably get answers from her. I just wanted to know why she did all those horrible things to my father and me.
Nonetheless, with great difficulty, I mustered up the courage and walked it. The building looked old, after all it was built during the colonial era, and there was something about the architecture that kept giving me strange vibes, like it’s trying to tell me something. There was a huge board in front of me and over that written in bold black letters is ‘BIJLMERBAJES’. I slowly approached the help-desk. A woman in bright colours, something that highly contrasted with the environment sat there, she looked somewhat jovial and dull at the same time.
“Excuse me ma’am? I’m Sofie Van De Kamp and I’m here to visit Eleanor Van De Kamp”, I told her.
She looked up at me with her bright blue eyes and gave me a mischievous smile, something I found really irritating.
” Eleanor didn’t have any visitors for the past fifteen years and moreover, visiting hours are over so may I ask you to…Oh! I am so sorry ma’am, you’re the mayor’s niece, right? Yes, of course you can see your mother, the guard will take you to her room”, she said and looked somewhat scared as if I’m going to bite her or something.
My mother’s room was dark and she lay on the bed, there were no windows and the absence of wind or sunlight made it cold and damp. I approached her.
“Mother..”, I began.
“Hsshh”, she said before I could say anything more. I saw her scribbling something on a piece of paper. She kept murmuring to herself and kept scribbling something, and for some reason that got me really angry. It was me who visited her after years, even after everything that she’d done to me and yet she pretends that I don’t exist. But before my anger was about to burst…
“Take this, and go”, she said with a strange refined warmth in her voice, and handed me the note. And for some reason I obeyed her and walked out of the prison complex. I went to a park over-looking Van Gogh Museum, sat on a swing and unfolded the dirty chit of paper in my hand. The handwriting was nearly illegible as if the she wrote it with great difficulty.
I know why you’d come after all these years, you want answers. I know what they told you about me but I want you to know that whatever I did, it was all for you. I just need you to think hard, really hard this time, my child. Everything that I did, I DID IT ALL FOR YOU.
The note didn’t make any sense to me. She was speaking rubbish, no wonder people call her crazy, that’s all I thought. And without wasting anymore time, I went back home and crawled over my bed. That night I had a very strange dream.
……….I was pushed hard against the wall. And soon after a hand came up to my throat and choked me hard. I felt myself fading. And then someone slapped me and forced me on the floor. What came next were a series of kicks, the remembrance of the memory made me feel the pain again. And then I heard a woman screaming and then a gun shot, it was the exact same memory that always played in my mind but there was something different about it this time. And then I knew what it was………
I woke up in the middle of the night and dialled the number of Bijlmerbajes. No! This cannot happen. This is not possible! I kept thinking myself. After three trials, a man picked it up.
“Bijlmerbajes detention centre”, he said.
“Hello, can I please speak to Eleanor Van De Kamp?” I asked in a hurry.
“Eleanor Van De Kamp you said, is it? i’m very sorry ma’am but she was strangely murdered tonight”, he said with no sign of sympathy in his voice.
“Excuse you? I beg you pardon? What did you just say? There must be some sort of a mistake, I just met her hours back today”, I retaliated in raised voice.
“I’m sorry ma’am”, he said abruptly and disconnected the line.
I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, when I finally remembered what had happened that day. And all the other days before.
……..I was sitting at the dining table. Mother had just made my favourite dish, it was steamed turkey in garlic sauce. We were eating together, everything seemed perfect, mother was humming a famous Mozart tune to herself and all seemed fine. Perfect. Flawless. Until father barged in with a loud bang on the door. His mouth reeked of whisky and gin, and he came towards us.
” WHAT IS IT THAT YOU F**KING BITCHES ARE DOING OUT HERE?” he asked. It seemed more of a statement than a question to me honestly.
“Paul, please don’t do this. What’s wrong with you Paul? You’ve been so different for the past year”, mother pleaded.
” Shut up b**ch! You don’t get to talk to me like that! I am the man of the house here!” he exclaimed in a commanding tone.
And without any sign of warning, he went ahead and punched mother on the face. She fell on the floor with her nose bleeding and the blood poured out on the marble floor, making a thousand figures of an artist’s drawing. I didn’t what to do and childishly threw the teddy bear in my hand at father. It hit him.
“B**ch, you hit you papa? B**ch, I’ll teach you your place”, he roared at me.
“No, not my darling Sofie!” mother screamed on the floor.
He pulled me by my hair and took me to his bedroom. He tore my clothes and sodomised me. After he was done with it, he pushed me against the wall and choked me. I thought I’d be dead and after that, he threw me on the floor and kicked me hard on the stomach. And then there was a sound of gun shot, and all of it stopped. I turned and saw my father lying beside me, blood pouring out of his chest and mother standing with a gun in her hand.
She ran towards me with open arms and screamed. She hugged me tight……….
That was the last bit that I could remember, I don’t know what to make of it. I felt a strange tingling in my bones. Everything that I knew about my mother was a lie. It wasn’t she who tortured that monster, it was the other way round. My father got away being the victim out here as he was a powerful politician, and his brother, the man I live with right now testified against my mother. I went out of house for a walk and strangely enough it seemed that someone came and whispered near my ears “I did it for you”.