I opened my eyes to a blinding sunlight and immediately squeezed them shut. My head was throbbing and my body ached due to the abnormal posture that I had slept in. The concrete bench under me was cold in spite of the sun. I squinted and slowly sat up. I held my head with both my hands, cradling it.
As if this will make your headache go away! Drink more! My inner self scolded me.
‘Shut up!’ I said out aloud. A few joggers looked at me quizzically.
I looked at myself and laughed. Really laughed. My three piece suit was haywire with the tie gone; I don’t know where it went. There were some lipstick marks on my white shirt; I cannot remember who I made out with. My coat was crumpled and a paper with a phone number fell down from its pocket. I don’t remember who gave it to me. Hell, I don’t even remember how I got to this damn bench and passed out! Thank heavens no one recognized me, for they would wonder why a millionaire was sleeping on a bench in a jogger’s park?
I wanted to smoke, badly. And I wouldn’t mind if someone gave me a drink too.
‘Ah!’ I groaned. I tried to get up, but sat down again as my legs were too wobbly. I searched my pockets and grinned when I found what I was looking for. After taking a long drag, I closed my eyes and leaned back on the bench.
I opened my eyes to find a little girl about 6 years old with pigtails staring at me.
“Uncle, don’t smoke. You’ll die early,” she said.
I burst out laughing. I laughed till there were tears in my eyes. Of all the people in the park, how likely was it that a little girl, practically a stranger would tell me not to smoke?
The little girl did not flinch. She stared me down. Stubborn little thing. I sighed and crushed the cigarette under my feet. She smiled. She reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“My daddy used to drink and smoke and then hit my mother. She left him when I was yet to be born. If you drink and smoke, you will also hit other people. Don’t do that. Mommy still has a mark on her face, you know.” And then she went away.
I felt as if she had just slapped me. But I couldn’t hit anyone anymore, as I had no family left.
I got up and slowly walked towards the exit. There, I saw the little girl with her mother. I freezed. My ex-wife looked at me in pity before getting into her car and driving off.
That was my epiphany. I knew I had to stop this. Then I would redeem myself and ask for forgiveness. I would be a father that my daughter would be proud of.
Yes, I would do that.
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